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Turkey meat vs Pork - Health impact and Nutrition Comparison

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Turkey meat
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Pork

Introduction

The safety, the value and, more importantly, the quality of the foods are what make people hesitate between choosing one or another food. Both turkey meat and pork are commonly used meats and in this article, we’ll talk about their differences and what they have in common, as well as discuss their impact on health.

Classification

 The main difference between pork and turkey is based upon their myoglobin content. Pork, being high in myoglobin, 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 that were 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 colour, 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 6 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 more dense in nutrients, containing 58% water, than turkey meat that 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 gram serving of pork contains 242 calories, meanwhile, turkey meat contains 189 calories.

Protein and carbohydrates 

Both of these foods contain almost the same amount of protein. The difference between the amounts of essential amino acids is also very little. That being said, pork contains a little more essential amino acids compared to turkey meat.

Just like other meats, they both contain no notable amount of carbohydrates.

Fats and cholesterol 

Pork contains 2 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 contains slightly fewer vitamins overall, but it is richer in most B complex vitamins - 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, compared to turkey meat. 

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

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 is also higher in sodium.

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

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. Acids present in foods release these hydrogen ions, which give acid foods their distinct sour flavour. 

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, turkey’s 5.7 - 6.8 (3). According to the numbers, both turkey meat and pork are slightly acidic or close to a 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 down to 70g (4).

 Turkey meat and pork are high calorie foods. Pork contains 53 more calories per every hundred grams serving compared to turkey meat.

For a low calorie and a low fats diet, turkey meat is more preferable. 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).

   Both of these meats are part of the Paleo diet too (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 this one to make new protein. Arginine is also the raw material for making nitric oxide, a substance that relaxes and opens arteries (9).

Regular inclusion of lean fresh pork in the diet in place of other meats may improve body composition without adversely affecting risk factors for diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Improvements in body composition can be achieved 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. Prevention of type II diabetes might be aided by consumption of certain foods (for example green vegetables, fruit and berries, oil and margarine, and poultry) that are 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, but significant research gaps exist, preventing the drawing of definite conclusions (12). 

Cancer

Turkey contains anti-cancer properties. It is a very good source of the trace mineral selenium, which is an essential component required for thyroid hormone metabolism, antioxidant defence systems, and immune function. Scientific studies have suggested that selenium intake can bring down cancer incidence. It contains tryptophan which plays an important role in strengthening the immune system, as suggested by scientific evidence (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 attacks and strokes

Diabetes

Meats cooked at high temperatures increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes or worsening the disease. Those who have or are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes who eat meat regularly may choose cooking methods that use lower temperatures, or brief periods of high heat, such as with slow cookers, baking, sous-vide, boiling, steaming, stewing, and stir-frying while avoiding high-heat and open-flame methods like grilling, barbecuing, broiling, and roasting. 

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

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

Summary

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

Even though both of the meats contain similar amounts of vitamins, turkey meat is richer in vitamin A and most of the B complex, as well as iron and copper. Pork is richer in vitamins D, E and B1, calcium, potassium and phosphorus.

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

Sources.

  1. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/221837180
  2. https://www.ams.usda.gov/sites/default/files/PoultryGradingManual.pdf
  3. http://pods.dasnr.okstate.edu/docushare/dsweb/Get/Rendition-3801/FAPC-118web.pdf
  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. https://www.heartfoundation.org.au/getmedia/d5b9c4a2-8ccb-4fe9-87a2-d4a34541c272/Nutrition_Position_Statement_-_MEAT.pdf
  15. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/2018/03/23/how-meat-is-cooked-may-affect-risk-of-type-2-diabetes/
  16. https://www.cancercouncil.com.au/1in3cancers/lifestyle-choices-and-cancer/red-meat-processed-meat-and-cancer/
  17. https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/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
Profession: Yerevan State Medical University
Last updated: May 24, 2021

Infographic

Turkey meat vs Pork infographic
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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 Iron +25.3%
Contains more Copper +27.4%
Contains more Calcium +35.7%
Contains more Potassium +77%
Contains more Phosphorus +10.3%
Contains less Sodium -39.8%
Equal in Magnesium - 28
Equal in Zinc - 2.39
Iron Calcium Potassium Magnesium Copper Zinc Phosphorus Sodium 41% 5% 22% 22% 31% 68% 96% 14%
Iron Calcium Potassium Magnesium Copper Zinc Phosphorus Sodium 33% 6% 38% 20% 25% 66% 106% 9%
Contains more Iron +25.3%
Contains more Copper +27.4%
Contains more Calcium +35.7%
Contains more Potassium +77%
Contains more Phosphorus +10.3%
Contains less Sodium -39.8%
Equal in Magnesium - 28
Equal in Zinc - 2.39

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
:
5
Pork
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 Vitamin B12 +45.7%
Contains more Folate +80%
Contains more Vitamin C +∞%
Contains more Vitamin E +314.3%
Contains more Vitamin D +225%
Contains more Vitamin B1 +1848.9%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +14.2%
Vitamin C Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Vitamin B12 Vitamin K Folate 0% 3% 2% 12% 12% 65% 180% 57% 143% 128% 0% 7%
Vitamin C Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Vitamin B12 Vitamin K Folate 2% 1% 6% 39% 220% 75% 95% 42% 108% 88% 0% 4%
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 Vitamin B12 +45.7%
Contains more Folate +80%
Contains more Vitamin C +∞%
Contains more Vitamin E +314.3%
Contains more Vitamin D +225%
Contains more Vitamin B1 +1848.9%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +14.2%

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
56
Pork
Mineral Summary Score
37
Turkey meat
37
Pork

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
164%
Pork
Carbohydrates
0%
Turkey meat
0%
Pork
Fats
34%
Turkey meat
64%
Pork

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 Pork
Lower in Saturated Fat ok
Lower in Cholesterol ok
Lower in Sodium ok
Lower in price ok
Lower in Sugar Equal
Lower in glycemic index Equal
Rich in minerals Equal
Rich in vitamins Equal

Which food is preferable for your diet?

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

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Comparison summary

Which food is lower in Saturated Fat?
Turkey meat
Turkey meat is lower in Saturated Fat (difference - 3.075g)
Which food is lower in Cholesterol?
Pork
Pork is lower in Cholesterol (difference - 29mg)
Which food contains less Sodium?
Pork
Pork contains less Sodium (difference - 41mg)
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.

All nutrients comparison - raw data values

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

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. Pork - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/167820/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.