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Turkey vs Beef - Nutrition comparison: Protein, Cholesterol & more

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Article author photo Ani Harutyunyan by Ani Harutyunyan | Last updated on December 10, 2021
Education: General Medicine at YSMU
Turkey meat
vs
Beef

SUMMARY

Beef and turkey are generally similar in protein and cholesterol content. However, beef contains approximately two times more fats. They both are rich sources of different vitamins and minerals.

Neither turkey nor beef is healthier than the other, but skin-free turkey is beneficial for decreasing cardiovascular, diabetes, and cancer risks.

INTRODUCTION

Turkey or beef? It is often hard to decide what to eat and what is healthier. The first one is the world's second most popular poultry meat, but the second one is more traditional. Here we will explore the two from a scientific perspective focusing on nutrition and health.

Beef is classified as red meat due to its high content of myoglobin and therefore iron. Turkey is considered white meat and is lighter in color, so it has a lower content of myoglobin and iron bound to it. The main difference between these two kinds of meat is noticeable to the blind eye.

MEAT CUTS

Meat characteristics can vary depending on the conditions they kept the animal in, the age or weight, and other aspects.

The turkey can be divided into three main parts: the breast, the wings, and the legs. The breast and wing meat tend to be lighter, while the leg meat is darker. It is so because the turkey is a flightless bird, and its leg muscles are better developed.

Depending on its location, beef is also divided into some parts: the chuck (shoulder), the brisket and shank (breast), the rib, the sirloin (hip), the short loin, the short plate, the flake, and the round (2). All the types of meat mentioned have different qualities and differ by preparation methods.

NUTRITION

Here we will compare the nutritional values of a roasted whole turkey with meat and skin and a broiled ground beef, consisting of 85% of lean meat and 15% of fat. It's important to remember that the nutritional values of the meats specified here may differ from those of other varieties.

Turkey meat is richer in proteins, while beef contains more calories. Both of them do not contain a significant number of carbohydrates.

Beef contains less cholesterol than turkey. They both are rich in vitamins of group B.

Now we will have a closer look at every kind of nutrient present in these types of meat.

Protein

Animal protein usually contains all nine essential amino acids needed for the growth of the body. Both beef and turkey meat are good sources of protein.

Turkey contains 28.5g of protein in a 100g serving (3), while beef provides 25.9g of it (4). Sirloin is the beef cut with the highest protein content. For health-conscious steak eaters, it's one of the best options.

When beef is processed, its proteins suffer a great deal of damage.

Beef sausages and steaks, on average, offer two times less protein than broiled, ground beef. The protein composition of the turkey does not usually change during processing.

As a source of essential amino acids, turkey meat is rich in lysine, leucine, and tryptophan (5). Beef contains a notable amount of lysine, leucine, and valine (6). The protein found in both of these meats has significantly high quality.

Fats

Compared to turkey meat, beef is almost two times higher in fats. The 100g serving of beef provides 15.4g of fats, while the same amount of turkey contains 7.39g of lipids. There is a direct proportion in the processing of meat and fat content. Processed turkey items, such as sausages and bacon, have about 2-3 times the fat content of unprocessed turkey products. Beef also follows this trend.

Despite being higher in fats, beef is lower in cholesterol. The Cholesterol amount in 100g of beef is 90mg, while the same portion of turkey contains 109g of it. You should know that the fat of turkey is primarily located in its skin; therefore, removing the skin means reducing the fat intake. The fattiest section of the beef is the rib. For this reason, it has the highest content of calories and saturated fats. It should be broiled under high temperatures for fats to be cooked.

Vitamins

Turkey meat is an excellent source of B complex vitamins. It is higher in vitamins B2, B3, B5, B6. Turkey is especially rich in vitamin B3 (niacin) and provides nearly two times more of it per serving. 9.573mg of niacin is found in a 0g of turkey, while the same amount of beef contains 5.378mg of it.

On the other hand, beef covers approximately 60% of vitamin B12 daily needs. So, when you enjoy burgers or steaks, your favorite cut of beef offers lots of vitamin B12.

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
:
4
Beef
Contains more Vitamin A +333.3%
Contains more Vitamin D +∞%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +59.7%
Contains more Vitamin B3 +78%
Contains more Vitamin B5 +44.1%
Contains more Vitamin B6 +61.3%
Contains more Vitamin E +71.4%
Contains more Vitamin B12 +158.8%
Contains more Vitamin K +∞%
Equal in Vitamin B1 - 0.046
Equal in Folate - 9
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%
Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin C Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Folate Vitamin B12 Vitamin K 1% 3% 0% 0% 12% 41% 101% 40% 89% 7% 331% 3%
Contains more Vitamin A +333.3%
Contains more Vitamin D +∞%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +59.7%
Contains more Vitamin B3 +78%
Contains more Vitamin B5 +44.1%
Contains more Vitamin B6 +61.3%
Contains more Vitamin E +71.4%
Contains more Vitamin B12 +158.8%
Contains more Vitamin K +∞%
Equal in Vitamin B1 - 0.046
Equal in Folate - 9

Minerals

Turkey and beef provide nearly all the essential minerals, each of them at different levels. Beef has a considerably high amount of Iron, Zinc, Calcium, and Potassium, but the turkey is richer in Magnesium, Phosphorus, and Sodium.

Before being prepared, some turkey products, such as bacon, are cured with sodium nitrate. Therefore, turkey bacon has a higher salt content. Processed beef's sodium content is also high. It can result in cardiovascular problems. As a result, you should pay attention to the salt content of processed meat products.

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 Magnesium +42.9%
Contains more Phosphorus +12.6%
Contains more Calcium +28.6%
Contains more Iron +138.5%
Contains more Potassium +33.1%
Contains less Sodium -30.1%
Contains more Zinc +154.4%
Equal in Copper - 0.085
Calcium Iron Magnesium Phosphorus Potassium Sodium Zinc Copper 5% 41% 22% 96% 22% 14% 68% 31%
Calcium Iron Magnesium Phosphorus Potassium Sodium Zinc Copper 6% 98% 15% 85% 29% 10% 173% 29%
Contains more Magnesium +42.9%
Contains more Phosphorus +12.6%
Contains more Calcium +28.6%
Contains more Iron +138.5%
Contains more Potassium +33.1%
Contains less Sodium -30.1%
Contains more Zinc +154.4%
Equal in Copper - 0.085

HEALTH IMPACT

Cardiovascular health

It is debatable how red meat, such as beef, contributes to cardiovascular disease. A likely contributor is the saturated fat content in red meat. The American Health Association recommends limiting the amount of red meat in the everyday diet.

Furthermore, fats are not the only cause of heart diseases present in red meat. Beef contains carnitine and choline, and when being processed in the human gut, these compounds produce a chemical called trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO). High levels of TMAO in the blood increase the risk of heart attack, stroke, and hardened arteries (7).

In contrast, poultry meat, such as turkey, decreases cardiovascular risk (8). It may be explained by the lower fats, heme iron, and sodium in white meat. Turkey meat is the winner of this category.

Diabetes

Most studies show that red meat and poultry increase the risk of developing diabetes. People who use meat have a higher probability of developing diabetes than those who do not consume meat at all.

People with diabetes should avoid high fat and processed meat products. They should not use prime cuts of beef, such as ribs. Lean turkey breast meat without the skin is better (9).

The risk of diabetes mellitus type two is also connected to the preparation method of meat. When cooked at a high temperature, the risk increases - grilled, roasted, or barbequed (10). Hence, cooking methods at moderate temperatures, like boiling, steaming, or stir-frying, are recommended.

Cancer

There is a negative link between red and processed meat consumption and cancer. The American Cancer Society claims that colorectal cancer is the primary reason for limiting these products in everyday diet (11).

Conversely, poultry meat tends to decrease the risk of esophagus, liver, colorectal, lung, and breast cancer. Substitution of red meat with white meat is beneficial from a cancer-preventing perspective.

References

  1. https://national4hpoultry.ca.uky.edu/marketpoultry/partsID
  2. https://ediblekentucky.ediblecommunities.com/recipes/locavores-guide-beef
  3. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/171479/nutrients
  4. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/174032/nutrients
  5. https://foodstruct.com/food/turkey-meat
  6. https://www.rjpbcs.com/pdf/2016_7(4)/%5B161%5D.pdf
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6213249/
  8. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/322959346
  9. https://uamshealth.com/nutrition/diabetic-diet-meat-choices/
  10. How Meat Is Cooked May Affect Risk of Type 2 Diabetes
  11. http://pressroom.cancer.org/index.php?s=20296&item=29968
Article author photo Ani Harutyunyan
Education: General Medicine at YSMU
Last updated: December 10, 2021

Infographic

Turkey meat vs Beef 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.
Turkey meat Beef
Lower in Saturated Fat ok
Lower in Sodium ok
Lower in Cholesterol ok
Lower in Sugar Equal
Lower in glycemic index Equal
Lower in price Equal
Rich in minerals Equal
Rich in vitamins Equal

All nutrients comparison - raw data values

Nutrient Turkey meat Beef Opinion
Net carbs 0.06g 0g Turkey meat
Protein 28.55g 25.93g Turkey meat
Fats 7.39g 15.41g Beef
Carbs 0.06g 0g Turkey meat
Calories 189kcal 250kcal Beef
Starch g g
Fructose g g
Sugar 0g 0g
Fiber 0g 0g
Calcium 14mg 18mg Beef
Iron 1.09mg 2.6mg Beef
Magnesium 30mg 21mg Turkey meat
Phosphorus 223mg 198mg Turkey meat
Potassium 239mg 318mg Beef
Sodium 103mg 72mg Beef
Zinc 2.48mg 6.31mg Beef
Copper 0.093mg 0.085mg Turkey meat
Vitamin A 39IU 9IU Turkey meat
Vitamin E 0.07mg 0.12mg Beef
Vitamin D 15IU 2IU Turkey meat
Vitamin D 0.4µg 0µg Turkey meat
Vitamin C 0mg 0mg
Vitamin B1 0.045mg 0.046mg Beef
Vitamin B2 0.281mg 0.176mg Turkey meat
Vitamin B3 9.573mg 5.378mg Turkey meat
Vitamin B5 0.948mg 0.658mg Turkey meat
Vitamin B6 0.616mg 0.382mg Turkey meat
Folate 9µg 9µg
Vitamin B12 1.02µg 2.64µg Beef
Vitamin K 0µg 1.2µg Beef
Tryptophan 0.291mg 0.094mg Turkey meat
Threonine 1.004mg 0.72mg Turkey meat
Isoleucine 0.796mg 0.822mg Beef
Leucine 1.925mg 1.45mg Turkey meat
Lysine 2.282mg 1.54mg Turkey meat
Methionine 0.724mg 0.478mg Turkey meat
Phenylalanine 0.903mg 0.725mg Turkey meat
Valine 0.902mg 0.914mg Beef
Histidine 0.749mg 0.604mg Turkey meat
Cholesterol 109mg 88mg Beef
Trans Fat 0.101g 0.572g Turkey meat
Saturated Fat 2.155g 5.895g Turkey meat
Monounsaturated Fat 2.647g 6.668g Beef
Polyunsaturated fat 2.119g 0.484g Turkey meat

Which food is preferable for your diet?

ok
ok
is better in case of low diet
Turkey meat Beef
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
50
Turkey meat
52
Beef
Mineral Summary Score
37
Turkey meat
55
Beef

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
171%
Turkey meat
156%
Beef
Carbohydrates
0%
Turkey meat
0%
Beef
Fats
34%
Turkey meat
71%
Beef

Comparison summary

Which food is lower in Saturated Fat?
Turkey meat
Turkey meat is lower in Saturated Fat (difference - 3.74g)
Which food contains less Sodium?
Beef
Beef contains less Sodium (difference - 31mg)
Which food is lower in Cholesterol?
Beef
Beef is lower in Cholesterol (difference - 21mg)
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 cheaper?
?
The foods are relatively equal in price ($2)
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. Turkey meat - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/171479/nutrients
  2. Beef - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/174032/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.