Foodstruct Nutrition Search | Diet Analysis | Food Comparison | Glycemic Index Chart | Insulin Index Chart | Blog | Subscribe | Sign Up

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

Compare
Article author photo Ani Harutyunyan by Ani Harutyunyan | Last updated on July 19, 2023
Medically reviewed by Igor Bussel Article author photo Igor Bussel
Turkey meat
vs
Beef broiled

Summary

Beef and turkey are generally similar in protein and cholesterol content. However, beef contains approximately two times more fats

Beef is higher in calories, iron, potassium, selenium, Vitamin A, Vitamin D, and Vitamin B12. Also, it contains less sodium than turkey meat.

On the other hand, turkey meat provides more protein, magnesium, and phosphorus. In addition, it has less saturated fat than beef.

Introduction 

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

Beef is classified as red meat due to its high myoglobin and, therefore, iron content. Some think of turkey as red meat due to its darker color than other poultry, but is it red meat? Turkey is considered white meat and is lighter in color than beef, 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 is 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 in 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% lean meat and 15% 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.

Now we will have a closer look at every 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 (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 fat. The 100g serving of beef provides 15.4g of fats, while the same amount of turkey contains 7.39g of lipids. 

Turkey meat has less saturated fat and more polyunsaturated fat, while beef provides more monounsaturated fat.

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 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.

Fat Type Comparison

Fat type breakdown side-by-side comparison
Contains less Saturated Fat -63.4%
Contains more Polyunsaturated fat +337.8%
Contains more Monounsaturated Fat +151.9%
31% 38% 31%
Saturated Fat: 2.155 g
Monounsaturated Fat: 2.647 g
Polyunsaturated fat: 2.119 g
45% 51% 4%
Saturated Fat: 5.895 g
Monounsaturated Fat: 6.668 g
Polyunsaturated fat: 0.484 g
Contains less Saturated Fat -63.4%
Contains more Polyunsaturated fat +337.8%
Contains more Monounsaturated Fat +151.9%

Vitamins

Turkey meat is an excellent source of B complex vitamins. It is higher in vitamins B2, B3, B5, and B6. Turkey is especially rich in vitamin B3 (niacin) and provides nearly two times more per serving. 9.573mg of niacin is found in 100g of turkey, while the same amount of beef contains 5.378mg of it.

On the other hand, beef covers approximately 60% of vitamin B12's 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" charts below show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food.
:
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
Equal in Choline - 82.4
Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin C Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Folate Vitamin B12 Choline Vitamin K 3% 2% 12% 0% 12% 65% 180% 57% 143% 7% 128% 48% 0%
Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin C Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Folate Vitamin B12 Choline Vitamin K 1% 3% 0% 0% 12% 41% 101% 40% 89% 7% 331% 45% 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
Equal in Choline - 82.4

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 turkey is richer in magnesium and phosphorus.

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. 

Mineral Comparison

Mineral comparison score is based on the number of minerals by which one or the other food is richer. The "coverage" charts 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 Manganese +16.7%
Contains more Selenium +38.6%
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 Manganese Selenium 5% 41% 22% 96% 22% 14% 68% 31% 2% 163%
Calcium Iron Magnesium Phosphorus Potassium Sodium Zinc Copper Manganese Selenium 6% 98% 15% 85% 29% 10% 173% 29% 2% 118%
Contains more Magnesium +42.9%
Contains more Phosphorus +12.6%
Contains more Manganese +16.7%
Contains more Selenium +38.6%
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. 

Some studies show that lean beef contains peptides that may decrease the concentration of total cholesterol and LDL (bad cholesterol) levels (7). Lean beef may also increase vascular flexibility (8).

It should be noted the American Health Association recommends limiting the amount of red meat in the everyday diet. A likely contributor is the saturated fat content in red meat. 

Furthermore, fats are not the only cause of heart disease 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 (9).

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 (10).

The risk of diabetes mellitus type two is also connected to the preparation method of meat. The risk increases when cooked at a high temperature - grilled, roasted, or barbequed (11). 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 (12).

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

Article author photo Ani Harutyunyan
Education: General Medicine at YSMU
Last updated: July 19, 2023
Medically reviewed by Igor Bussel

Infographic

Turkey meat vs Beef broiled infographic
Infographic link

Macronutrient Comparison

Macronutrient breakdown side-by-side comparison
Contains more Protein +10.1%
Contains more Carbs +∞%
Contains more Fats +108.5%
Contains more Other +41.7%
Equal in Protein - 25.93
Equal in Water - 57.98
29% 7% 64%
Protein: 28.55 g
Fats: 7.39 g
Carbs: 0.06 g
Water: 63.52 g
Other: 0.48 g
26% 15% 58%
Protein: 25.93 g
Fats: 15.41 g
Carbs: 0 g
Water: 57.98 g
Other: 0.68 g
Contains more Protein +10.1%
Contains more Carbs +∞%
Contains more Fats +108.5%
Contains more Other +41.7%
Equal in Protein - 25.93
Equal in Water - 57.98

Comparison summary table

Pay attention to the rightmost column. It displays the amounts side by side, giving a clearer understanding of the difference.
Turkey meat Beef broiled
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 broiled Opinion
Net carbs 0.06g 0g Turkey meat
Protein 28.55g 25.93g Turkey meat
Fats 7.39g 15.41g Beef broiled
Carbs 0.06g 0g Turkey meat
Calories 189kcal 250kcal Beef broiled
Calcium 14mg 18mg Beef broiled
Iron 1.09mg 2.6mg Beef broiled
Magnesium 30mg 21mg Turkey meat
Phosphorus 223mg 198mg Turkey meat
Potassium 239mg 318mg Beef broiled
Sodium 103mg 72mg Beef broiled
Zinc 2.48mg 6.31mg Beef broiled
Copper 0.093mg 0.085mg Turkey meat
Manganese 0.014mg 0.012mg Turkey meat
Selenium 29.8µg 21.5µg Turkey meat
Vitamin A 39IU 9IU Turkey meat
Vitamin A RAE 12µg 3µg Turkey meat
Vitamin E 0.07mg 0.12mg Beef broiled
Vitamin D 15IU 2IU Turkey meat
Vitamin D 0.4µg 0µg Turkey meat
Vitamin B1 0.045mg 0.046mg Beef broiled
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 broiled
Choline 87.4mg 82.4mg Turkey meat
Vitamin K 0µg 1.2µg Beef broiled
Tryptophan 0.291mg 0.094mg Turkey meat
Threonine 1.004mg 0.72mg Turkey meat
Isoleucine 0.796mg 0.822mg Beef broiled
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 broiled
Histidine 0.749mg 0.604mg Turkey meat
Cholesterol 109mg 88mg Beef broiled
Trans Fat 0.101g 0.572g Turkey meat
Saturated Fat 2.155g 5.895g Turkey meat
Omega-3 - DHA 0.005g 0.001g Turkey meat
Omega-3 - EPA 0.008g 0.003g Turkey meat
Omega-3 - DPA 0.008g 0.016g Beef broiled
Monounsaturated Fat 2.647g 6.668g Beef broiled
Polyunsaturated fat 2.119g 0.484g Turkey meat
Omega-6 - Eicosadienoic acid 0.014g 0g Turkey meat
Omega-6 - Linoleic acid 1.841g Turkey meat
Omega-6 - Gamma-linoleic acid 0.003g 0.012g Beef broiled
Omega-3 - ALA 0.105g 0.044g Turkey meat
Omega-3 - Eicosatrienoic acid 0.001g Turkey meat
Omega-6 - Dihomo-gamma-linoleic acid 0.01g Turkey meat

Which food is preferable for your diet?

ok
ok
is better in case of low diet
Turkey meat Beef broiled
Low Fats diet ok
Low Carbs diet ok
Low Calories diet ok
Low Glycemic Index diet Equal

Vitamins & Minerals Daily Need Coverage Score

The summary scores indicate the extent to which this food can fulfill your daily vitamin and mineral requirements if you consume 3 servings, consisting of 100 grams of each (an approximation of 3 serving sizes).
Vitamins Daily Need Coverage Score
50%
Turkey meat
51%
Beef broiled
Minerals Daily Need Coverage Score
46%
Turkey meat
56%
Beef broiled

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 broiled
Beef broiled contains less Sodium (difference - 31mg)
Which food is lower in Cholesterol?
Beef broiled
Beef broiled 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

All the values for which the sources are not specified explicitly are taken from FDA’s Food Central. The exact link to the food 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 broiled - 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.