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Pork vs Turkey meat - Health impact and Nutrition Comparison

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Article author photo Arpi Gasparyan by Arpi Gasparyan | Last updated on May 24, 2021
Education: General Medicine at YSMU
Pork
vs
Turkey meat

Summary

Turkey meat and pork contain similar amounts of protein, minerals, and no carbohydrates. Pork contains almost twice as much fats as turkey meat.

Even though both meats contain similar amounts of vitamins, turkey meat is 5.6 richer in vitamin A, almost two times richer in vitamin B3. It is also richer in vitamins B5, B6, folate or B9, and B12, iron, and copper. Pork is 19.5 times richer in vitamin B1, 3.5 times richer in vitamin D and vitamin E, as well as vitamin B2, calcium, potassium, and phosphorus.

The darker the meat is, the more saturated fats it contains, leading to mostly adverse impacts on health. So, turkey meat has a less negative impact on health than pork.

Introduction

The safety, the value, and, more importantly, the quality of the food makes people hesitate to choose one or another food. Both turkey meat and pork are commonly consumed meats. This article demonstrates their differences and what they have in common and discusses their impact on health.

Classification

The main difference between pork and turkey is based upon their myoglobin content. As pork is high in myoglobin, it is classified as red meat, while turkey as poultry is white meat.

Taste and Use

Surprisingly, one study has found that turkey tastes more like pork than chicken. The attributes closely related to each other are its brothy, fatty, salty, sweet, and umami taste (1).

The best pork to look for can be described as greyish pink in color, firm and fine-grained, well-marbled, and covered with an outer layer of firm white fat.

Varieties

Both turkey meat and pork can be produced as processed or fresh meat. Processed meat has a significantly different impact on health when compared to fresh meat.

The different varieties of turkeys are based on their age and are as follows.

  • Fryer-Roaster Turkey: a young, immature turkey, usually less than 12 weeks of age.
  • Young Turkey: a turkey usually less than six months of age.
  • Yearling Turkey: a fully matured turkey, usually less than 15 months of age.
  • Mature or Old (Hen or Tom) Turkey: an adult turkey, usually more than 15 months of age (2).

Pork’s varieties are based on the cut. There are four primal cuts of pork: the shoulder, the leg or ham, the loin, and the belly or the side.

Nutrition

The nutritional values are described for whole, roasted turkey meat and whole, broiled pork loin.

Macronutrients and Calories

Pork is denser in nutrients, containing 58% water than turkey meat which contains 63.5% water.

Both turkey meat and pork have the same average serving size of 85g.

Calories

Both of the meats are high-calorie foods. A hundred grams serving of pork provides 242 calories; meanwhile, turkey meat provides 189 calories.

Protein and carbohydrates

Both of these foods contain a very similar level of protein. The difference between the amounts of essential amino acids is also minimal. That being said, pork contains slightly more essential amino acids than turkey meat.

Just like other meats, they both contain no carbohydrates.

Fats and cholesterol

Pork contains two times more fats than turkey meat. Pork is much richer in monounsaturated and saturated fats, while turkey meat contains almost two times more polyunsaturated fats.

Pork is lower in cholesterol.

Vitamins

Turkey meat is richer in most B complex vitamins - B3, B5, B6, B9 or folate and B12. However, this doesn’t apply to vitamin B2 and especially vitamin B1, which are higher in pork.

Pork is three times richer in fat-soluble vitamin D and vitamin E but contains less vitamin A than turkey meat.

Turkey meat is absent in vitamins K, and C. Pork is absent only in vitamin K.

Vitamin Comparison

Vitamin comparison score is based on the number of vitamins by which one or the other food is richer. The "coverage" chart below show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food
Pork
5
:
Contains more Vitamin E +314.3%
Contains more Vitamin D +225%
Contains more Vitamin C +∞%
Contains more Vitamin B1 +1848.9%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +14.2%
Contains more Vitamin A +457.1%
Contains more Vitamin B3 +90.1%
Contains more Vitamin B5 +35.8%
Contains more Vitamin B6 +32.8%
Contains more Folate +80%
Contains more Vitamin B12 +45.7%
Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin C Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Folate Vitamin B12 Vitamin K 1% 6% 39% 2% 220% 75% 95% 42% 108% 4% 88% 0%
Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin C Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Folate Vitamin B12 Vitamin K 3% 2% 12% 0% 12% 65% 180% 57% 143% 7% 128% 0%
Contains more Vitamin E +314.3%
Contains more Vitamin D +225%
Contains more Vitamin C +∞%
Contains more Vitamin B1 +1848.9%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +14.2%
Contains more Vitamin A +457.1%
Contains more Vitamin B3 +90.1%
Contains more Vitamin B5 +35.8%
Contains more Vitamin B6 +32.8%
Contains more Folate +80%
Contains more Vitamin B12 +45.7%

Minerals

These foods contain similar amounts of minerals.

Pork is significantly higher in potassium, as well as calcium, and phosphorus compared to turkey meat.

Turkey meat is richer in iron and copper. Turkey also has a high level of sodium.

Both of these meats contain almost equal amounts of magnesium and zinc.

Mineral Comparison

Mineral comparison score is based on the number of minerals by which one or the other food is richer. The "coverage" chart below show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food
Contains more Calcium +35.7%
Contains more Phosphorus +10.3%
Contains more Potassium +77%
Contains less Sodium -39.8%
Contains more Iron +25.3%
Contains more Copper +27.4%
Equal in Magnesium - 30
Equal in Phosphorus - 223
Equal in Zinc - 2.48
Calcium Iron Magnesium Phosphorus Potassium Sodium Zinc Copper 6% 33% 20% 106% 38% 9% 66% 25%
Calcium Iron Magnesium Phosphorus Potassium Sodium Zinc Copper 5% 41% 22% 96% 22% 14% 68% 31%
Contains more Calcium +35.7%
Contains more Phosphorus +10.3%
Contains more Potassium +77%
Contains less Sodium -39.8%
Contains more Iron +25.3%
Contains more Copper +27.4%
Equal in Magnesium - 30
Equal in Phosphorus - 223
Equal in Zinc - 2.48

Glycemic Index

Both turkey meat and pork contain no carbohydrates, so their glycemic index is considered to be 0. To read more about the glycemic index of foods with no carbohydrates, you can visit this page.

Acidity

The pH value of a food is a direct function of the free hydrogen ions present in that food. Food acids release hydrogen ions, giving acidic foods their distinct sour flavor.

Thus, the pH may be defined as a measure of free acidity. More precisely, pH is defined as the negative log of the hydrogen ion concentration (3).

Pork’s pH range is between 5.3 to 6.9, whereas turkey meat’s is 5.7 - 6.8 (3). According to the numbers, both turkey meat and pork have a slightly acidic or close to neutral pH of 7.

Weight Loss & Diets

Meat is a good source of protein, vitamins, and minerals in your diet. However, if you currently eat more than 90g (cooked weight) of red and processed meat a day, the Department of Health advises that you cut it down to 70g (4).

Turkey meat and pork are high-calorie foods. Pork provides 53 more calories per every hundred grams serving than turkey meat.

For a low-calorie and low-fat diet, turkey meat is a better choice. Both pork and turkey contain no notable amount of carbohydrates and fit well into a low-carb diet.

A diet moderate to low in red meat, unprocessed and lean, and prepared at moderate temperatures is probably the best choice from the public health point of view (5).

Atkins and keto diets are low-carb diets, and when the body is starved of carbs, the liver produces ketones as an alternate fuel from stored fat; therefore, these meats are great for these diets (6).

These meats are consumed during the Paleo diet as well (7).

Health Impact

This section will show the benefits and risks of meat consumption on health using scientifically proven or researched information.

Health Benefits

Cardiovascular Health

Eating turkey meat doesn’t increase or decrease the risk of heart disease. While there’s no maximum limit for how much poultry you should eat, it is not directly beneficial to heart health (8).

Turkey meat is a good source of arginine. As with other amino acids, the body uses arginine to make new proteins. Arginine is also the raw material for making nitric oxide, which relaxes and opens arteries (9).

Regular inclusion of lean fresh pork in the diet in place of other meats may improve body composition without increasing the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Body composition can be improved without energy restriction or apparent changes in physical activity levels, total meat, or protein intakes (10).

Diabetes

Higher intakes of poultry were found to predict a reduced risk of type II diabetes. The prevention of type II diabetes might be aided by consuming certain foods (for example, green vegetables, fruits and berries, oil and margarine, and poultry) rich in nutrients with hypothesized health benefits (11).

The limited evidence suggests a possible negative impact of processed pork on glucose-insulin metabolism and a possible positive impact of pork intake on waist circumference and high-density lipoprotein or “good” cholesterol. Still, significant research gaps exist, preventing the drawing of definite conclusions (12).

Cancer

Turkey contains anti-cancer properties. It is a good source of the trace mineral selenium, an essential component required for thyroid hormone metabolism, antioxidant defense systems, and immune function. Scientific studies have suggested that selenium intake can bring down cancer incidence. Turkey meat also contains tryptophan, which plays an essential role in strengthening the immune system (13).

Downsides and Risks

Cardiovascular health

Unprocessed meat and poultry can be included in a heart-healthy eating pattern, but processed meat is not part of a heart-healthy eating pattern; it should be limited or avoided (14).

Red meat is high in cholesterol and saturated fats and, as a result, increases the risk for cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack and stroke.

Diabetes

Meats cooked at high temperatures increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes or worsening the disease. A healthier way to cook meats is avoiding high-heat or open flame methods (grilling, barbecuing, broiling, and roasting) or having brief periods of high heat. Some of the healthy cooking methods are baking, sous-vide, boiling, steaming, stewing, and stir-frying.

There was also an increased risk of weight gain and developing obesity in the frequent users of high-temperature cooking methods (caused by disturbance of fat metabolism), which may contribute to the development of diabetes (15).

Cancer

Eating processed meat increases your risk of bowel, stomach, esophageal, colon cancers. The World Health Organization has classified processed meats, in this case, pork, as a Group 1 carcinogen (known to cause cancer). There is also evidence of links with pancreatic, prostate, nasopharyngeal, and lung cancers (16,17,18,19).

References

  1. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/221837180
  2. https://www.ams.usda.gov/sites/default/files/PoultryGradingManual.pdf
  3. The Importance of Food pH in Commercial Canning Operations
  4. https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/meat-nutrition/
  5. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11892-013-0365-0
  6. https://digitalcommons.andrews.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1848&context=luh-pubs
  7. https://paleofoundation.com/paleo-diet-food-list/
  8. https://www.heartfoundation.org.au/heart-health-education/protein-and-heart-health
  9. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/turkey-a-healthy-base-of-holiday-meals-201211195550
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3407990/
  11. https://www.nature.com/articles/1602094
  12. https://www.turkeyfed.com.au/about-turkey/health-benefits/
  13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3792009/
  14. Meat & Heart Healthy Eating
  15. How Meat Is Cooked May Affect Risk of Type 2 Diabetes
  16. Red meat, processed meat and cancer
  17. Cancer: Carcinogenicity of the consumption of red meat and processed meat
  18. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23467465/
  19. https://www.wcrf.org/dietandcancer/meat-fish-and-dairy/
Article author photo Arpi Gasparyan
Education: General Medicine at YSMU
Last updated: May 24, 2021

Infographic

Pork vs Turkey meat infographic
Infographic link

Comparison summary table

Pay attention to the most right column. It shows the amounts side by side, making it easier to realize the amount of difference.
Pork Turkey meat
Lower in Saturated Fat ok
Lower in Sodium ok
Lower in Cholesterol ok
Lower in price ok
Lower in Sugar Equal
Lower in glycemic index Equal
Rich in minerals Equal
Rich in vitamins Equal

All nutrients comparison - raw data values

Nutrient Pork Turkey meat Opinion
Net carbs 0g 0.06g Turkey meat
Protein 27.32g 28.55g Turkey meat
Fats 13.92g 7.39g Pork
Carbs 0g 0.06g Turkey meat
Calories 242kcal 189kcal Pork
Starch g g
Fructose g g
Sugar 0g 0g
Fiber 0g 0g
Calcium 19mg 14mg Pork
Iron 0.87mg 1.09mg Turkey meat
Magnesium 28mg 30mg Turkey meat
Phosphorus 246mg 223mg Pork
Potassium 423mg 239mg Pork
Sodium 62mg 103mg Pork
Zinc 2.39mg 2.48mg Turkey meat
Copper 0.073mg 0.093mg Turkey meat
Vitamin A 7IU 39IU Turkey meat
Vitamin E 0.29mg 0.07mg Pork
Vitamin D 53IU 15IU Pork
Vitamin D 1.3µg 0.4µg Pork
Vitamin C 0.6mg 0mg Pork
Vitamin B1 0.877mg 0.045mg Pork
Vitamin B2 0.321mg 0.281mg Pork
Vitamin B3 5.037mg 9.573mg Turkey meat
Vitamin B5 0.698mg 0.948mg Turkey meat
Vitamin B6 0.464mg 0.616mg Turkey meat
Folate 5µg 9µg Turkey meat
Vitamin B12 0.7µg 1.02µg Turkey meat
Vitamin K 0µg 0µg
Tryptophan 0.338mg 0.291mg Pork
Threonine 1.234mg 1.004mg Pork
Isoleucine 1.26mg 0.796mg Pork
Leucine 2.177mg 1.925mg Pork
Lysine 2.446mg 2.282mg Pork
Methionine 0.712mg 0.724mg Turkey meat
Phenylalanine 1.086mg 0.903mg Pork
Valine 1.473mg 0.902mg Pork
Histidine 1.067mg 0.749mg Pork
Cholesterol 80mg 109mg Pork
Trans Fat g 0.101g Pork
Saturated Fat 5.23g 2.155g Turkey meat
Monounsaturated Fat 6.19g 2.647g Pork
Polyunsaturated fat 1.2g 2.119g Turkey meat

Which food is preferable for your diet?

ok
ok
is better in case of low diet
Pork Turkey meat
Low Fats diet ok
Low Carbs diet ok
Low Calories diet ok
Low glycemic index diet Equal

People also compare

Vitamin and Mineral Summary Scores

The summary score is calculated by summing up the daily values contained in 300 grams of the product. Obviously the more the food fulfills human daily needs, the more the summary score is.
Vitamin Summary Score
56
Pork
50
Turkey meat
Mineral Summary Score
37
Pork
37
Turkey meat

Macronutrients Comparison

Macronutrient comparison charts compare the amount of protein, total fats, and total carbohydrates in 300 grams of the food. The displayed values show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of food.
Protein
164%
Pork
171%
Turkey meat
Carbohydrates
0%
Pork
0%
Turkey meat
Fats
64%
Pork
34%
Turkey meat

Comparison summary

Which food is lower in Saturated Fat?
Turkey meat
Turkey meat is lower in Saturated Fat (difference - 3.075g)
Which food contains less Sodium?
Pork
Pork contains less Sodium (difference - 41mg)
Which food is lower in Cholesterol?
Pork
Pork is lower in Cholesterol (difference - 29mg)
Which food is cheaper?
Pork
Pork is cheaper (difference - $1.2)
Which food contains less Sugar?
?
The foods are relatively equal in Sugar (0 g)
Which food is lower in glycemic index?
?
The foods have equal glycemic indexes (0)
Which food is richer in minerals?
?
It cannot be stated which food is richer in vitamins. See the charts below for detailed information. See the charts below for detailed information. See the charts below for detailed information.
Which food is richer in vitamins?
?
It cannot be stated which food is richer in vitamins. See the charts below for detailed information. See the charts below for detailed information. See the charts below for detailed information.

References

The source of all the nutrient values on the page (excluding the main article the sources for which are presented separately if present) is the USDA's FoodCentral. The exact links to the foods presented on this page can be found below.

  1. Pork - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/167820/nutrients
  2. Turkey meat - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/171479/nutrients

All the Daily Values are presented for males aged 31-50, for 2000 calorie diets.

Data provided by FoodStruct.com should be considered and used as information only. Please consult your physician before beginning any diet.