Turkey meat vs. Chicken meat — Health Impact and Nutrition Comparison
Chicken is higher in calories and fats, both saturated and polyunsaturated, while turkey is richer in protein and cholesterol.
Turkey is also richer in vitamins and minerals, such as magnesium, copper, vitamin B12, and folate. However, chicken has more vitamin A, vitamin E, and less sodium.
Table of contents
- Types of Meat
- Weight Loss & Diets
- Health Impact
Turkey and chicken meat have many things in common: white meat and poultry. However, these two kinds of meat have numerous differences as well. So, which is the right choice, and under which circumstances?
In this article, we will be comparing turkey meat with chicken meat, focusing on nutrition and health impact.
Poultry meat is the meat of domesticated birds, such as turkey and chicken. Poultry meat is considered to be white meat, while the meat of mammals is classified as red meat.
White meat is naturally lighter in color due to a lower content of myoglobin and, therefore, a lower content of iron bound to it.
Based on appearance, a whole turkey tends to be larger and the meat darker in color compared to chicken.
The leg meat of turkey and chicken tend to be darker, while the breast and wing meat is lighter. This is because both of these birds are flightless and walk instead; therefore, the muscles of the legs are better developed.
Taste and Use
While these two foods are usually said to have similar tastes, the turkey flavor is often described as more intense. However, surprisingly, one study found turkey meat to taste more like pork than chicken, describing the taste of both pork and turkey as fatty, salty, sweet, and umami (1).
Due to its larger size, turkey meat needs more seasoning and a longer cooking time.
The USDA recommends that all poultry, including turkey and chicken meat, be cooked at a minimum internal temperature of 165ºF or 74ºC (2).
Chicken is much more commonly consumed throughout the year, while turkey meat is often considered festive and is cooked on special occasions, such as Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Types of Meat
Many characteristics of the meat can vary depending on the age or sex of the animal, the conditions it was kept in, and other aspects.
Turkey and chicken meat can be used in their fresh or processed forms. However, processed chicken is much more popular compared to processed turkey.
They can be domesticated or wild based on the method of raising the chicken or the turkey.
Based on the cut of the meat, both turkey and chicken can be divided into three main parts: the breast, the wing, and the leg.
According to the USDA classification, based on the animal's age and weight, chickens can be classified into four groups: Cornish game hen, broiler-fryer, roaster, and capon.
Similarly, four classes of turkey have been defined based on the age and extent of breastbone calcification: fryer-roaster, young, yearling, and mature or old turkey, hen, or tom (3).
Based on many aspects, such as the cut, the animal's age, and the cooking method, the nutritional values of these two kinds of meat can vary.
The nutritional values below are presented for a roasted whole turkey with meat and skin and a roasted chicken broiler or fryer with meat and skin.
Macronutrients and Calories
Chicken meat is overall denser in nutrients, containing nearly 60% water and 40% nutrients, while turkey meat consists of 64% water and 36% nutrients.
As stated by the FDA's Reference Amounts Customarily Consumed, the average serving sizes for these two types of meat per person are as follows: one cup of chopped or diced chicken, weighing 140g and 3oz of turkey, equal to 85g.
As you can see, while being less dense in nutrients, the average serving size of turkey is much smaller when compared to that of chicken.
Both turkey and chicken are high-calorie foods; however, chicken contains notably more calories. Per a 100g serving, chicken has 50 more calories.
In an equal 100g serving of these foods, chicken provides 239 calories, while turkey meat contains 189 calories.
That being said, different parts of poultry contain different amounts of calories. The most calories can be found in the wing meat, followed by the legs. Consequently, the breast meat of chicken and turkey contains the least calories.
Chicken breast and wings provide more calories. However, turkey legs are higher in calories compared to chicken legs.
The calorie content found in 100g of chicken breast equals 197, while turkey breast contains 189 calories (4, 5). The same serving size of chicken legs provides 184 calories, whereas turkey legs contain 208 calories (6, 7). And lastly, the same 100g serving size of chicken and turkey wings contains 254 and 229 calories, respectively (8, 9).
Poultry meat, such as chicken or turkey, is one of the best protein sources.
While both of these types of meat are incredibly rich in protein, turkey provides more of it per serving. Turkey falls in the top 6% of foods as a source of protein. At the same time, chicken meat falls in the top 8% of foods as a source of protein.
In a 100g serving, turkey contains 28.5g of protein, while chicken provides 27.3g.
Turkey and chicken are exceptionally high in tryptophan, lysine, and histidine. The protein founds in both of these meats is of very high quality, containing large amounts of all essential amino acids. A 100g serving of these foods provides more than the needed daily intake value of these amino acids.
Chicken meat has notably lower levels of isoleucine and valine than turkey.
Of these two types of meat, turkey is the better choice as a source of protein.
Chicken is significantly higher in fats when compared to turkey, unlike protein. 13.6g of fats can be found in a 100g serving of chicken, while the same serving size of turkey meat contains only 7.39g of fats.
While significantly higher in fats overall, chicken meat is only slightly richer when comparing polyunsaturated fatty acid content. Chicken meat provides more than two times more monounsaturated fatty acids.
As expected, turkey meat is lower in saturated fat content.
Both chicken and turkey are high in cholesterol. However, despite being higher in fats, chicken is lower in cholesterol. The same 100g serving of turkey provides 109g of cholesterol, while chicken contains 88g of cholesterol.
It is important to note that removing the skin before eating chicken or turkey reduces fat content intake significantly. However, according to the Harvard School of Public Health, most of the fat found in chicken skin is healthy, unsaturated fat (10).
Like most meat, turkey and chicken do not contain notable amounts of carbohydrates.
Chicken contains 0.06g of carbohydrates, while turkey has no carbohydrates.
Meat is an excellent source of many vitamins, especially the B complex vitamins.
Both turkey and chicken meat are rich in vitamins B3, B5, and B6. However, turkey meat is notably richer in vitamin B3 and vitamin B6, while chicken meat is only slightly higher in vitamin B5.
Turkey provides almost 2.5 times more vitamin B12. Turkey meat is also richer in vitamin B2 and folate. Turkey contains a decent amount of vitamin D, which chicken lacks.
On the other hand, chicken contains vitamin K, which is not found in turkey meat. Chicken meat is also almost 3 times richer in vitamin A and vitamin E.
Both turkey and chicken meat lack vitamin C entirely.
Overall, turkey is richer in a more significant number of vitamins than chicken.
Turkey and chicken meat contain decent levels of all principal minerals.
Turkey is also richer in minerals, containing larger amounts of magnesium, copper, zinc, phosphorus, selenium, and choline. Turkey is also somewhat higher in potassium.
On the other hand, chicken is slightly richer in iron, calcium, and manganese. Chicken is lower in sodium.
Due to the lack of carbohydrates, chicken and turkey meat are considered to have a glycemic index value equal to 0.
Visit our glycemic index chart page to learn more about the GI values of different foods.
You can visit this page to read more about the glycemic index of foods with no carbohydrates.
The pH value of fresh chicken meat falls from 5.8 to 6.3 (11). Turkey meat has been researched to have a very similar pH value in the range of 5.8 to 6.5 (12). Thus, the pH values of both chicken and turkey meat are slightly acidic.
Poultry meat has a pH value closer to neutral when fresh and gets more acidic over time (12).
When looking at these foods' Potential Renal Acid Load or PRAL values, turkey meat appears more acid-forming. The PRAL values for turkey and chicken are 16.3 and 14.6, respectively. The higher the positive PRAL value, the more acid the food produces.
Weight Loss & Diets
Chicken and turkey meat can be considered to be high-calorie foods. However, between the two, turkey is the better option for low-calorie and low-fat diets.
Both turkey and chicken meat fit well into low-carb and low glycemic indeed diets, as these foods contain an insignificant amount of carbohydrates.
Along with a diet rich in vegetables, intake of poultry meat, such as chicken and turkey, has been correlated with a lower risk of developing extra fat and obesity (13).
Meat, especially poultry, is a great option for healthy protein and fats on a keto diet.
Poultry meat is also recommended as part of the Mediterranean and Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, or DASH diets (14).
As part of a vegetable-rich diet, poultry meat is associated with a risk reduction of developing overweight and obesity, cardiovascular diseases, and type 2 diabetes mellitus. Also, white meat, particularly poultry, is considered moderately protective or neutral on cancer risk (13).
In this section, we will further discuss the reasons behind these beneficial effects of white meat.
While red or processed meat intake has been researched to be significantly associated with cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality, poultry intake is not (15). Substituting one daily serving of red meat with a daily serving of poultry reduces cardiovascular risk by 19% (16).
Reducing sodium, heme iron, and saturated fat may explain these differences between red meat and poultry. While turkey is lower than chicken in heme iron and saturated fat content, chicken has lower levels of sodium and cholesterol and more polyunsaturated fat.
Recent studies have confirmed the existence of a link between hyperinsulinemia and insulin resistance and the intake of saturated fat of animal origin (13). Although chicken meat is higher in saturated fat content, it is also richer in healthy polyunsaturated fat.
Specific data concerning the consumption of poultry have confirmed the absence of a statistically significant relationship between an increasing weekly chicken and turkey intake and the disease's development (13).
Regarding the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, it's not only the type of product that matters but also the preparation method. Cooking meat at high temperatures, such as grilling and barbecuing, increases the risk of type 2 diabetes compared to cooking at moderate temperatures, such as boiling, steaming, and stir-frying (17).
If you'd like to read more about the effects of chicken meat intake on blood glucose levels, you can visit the link. Learn about the connection between turkey meat consumption and diabetes here.
White meat consumption is said to have a protective or neutral effect on the risk of various cancers.
A literature review confirms the inverse association between the number of weekly poultry servings and the risk of esophageal carcinoma (13).
The substitution of red meat with white meat is recommended to decrease the risk of the esophagus, liver, colon, rectum, anus, lung, pleura, and breast cancer (18, 13).
Downsides and Risks
Even though the consumption of poultry is healthier than red meat when it comes to cardiovascular health, fish and vegetables may be the better options. Eating fish or vegetables instead of poultry has been studied to decrease cardiovascular incidence risk (19).
While fresh, cooked poultry may protect tumors, the same cannot be said about processed chicken and turkey.
Processed meat intake can increase the risk of nasopharyngeal, esophageal, lung, stomach, and pancreatic cancer incidence (20).
Poultry consumption has also been positively associated with the risk of malignant melanoma, prostate cancer, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma (21).
- Cooking Meat? Check the New Recommended Temperatures
- Ask the Expert: Healthy Fats
- How Meat Is Cooked May Affect Risk of Type 2 Diabetes
Fat Type Comparison
Comparison summary table
|Rich in minerals|
|Lower in Saturated Fat|
|Lower in Sodium|
|Lower in Cholesterol|
|Lower in price|
|Lower in Sugar||Equal|
|Lower in Glycemic Index||Equal|
|Rich in vitamins||Equal|
All nutrients comparison - raw data values
|Vitamin A RAE||12µg||48µg|
|Omega-3 - DHA||0.005g||0.04g|
|Omega-3 - EPA||0.008g||0.01g|
|Omega-3 - DPA||0.008g||0.02g|
|Omega-6 - Eicosadienoic acid||0.014g|
|Omega-6 - Linoleic acid||1.841g|
|Omega-6 - Gamma-linoleic acid||0.003g|
|Omega-3 - ALA||0.105g|
|Omega-3 - Eicosatrienoic acid||0.001g|
|Omega-6 - Dihomo-gamma-linoleic acid||0.01g|
Which food is preferable for your diet?
|Low Fats diet|
|Low Carbs diet|
|Low Calories diet|
|Low Glycemic Index diet||Equal|