Both beef and chicken are widely consumed, and both have negative associations with diabetes, cardiovascular health, and other health conditions.
As a carnivore devotee, I eat a lot of beef and chicken. I talked with a nutritionist and spent countless hours going over the research on these types of meat and their potential health risks.
Here’s everything you should know to choose the healthier option.
- Beef isn’t necessarily healthier than chicken because it has more calories than chicken.
- Chicken is richer in protein and vitamins, while beef has more minerals.
- The healthiest meat options to eat are lean cuts of beef and chicken breasts that are low in saturated fat.
Chicken vs. Beef Nutrition
Let’s see how the nutritional profiles of these two compare.
Both chicken and beef are high in calories.
100g of cooked beef has 276 calories . 100g of cooked chicken has 165 calories . This means beef has over 40% more calories than chicken.
Chicken meat and ground beef aren’t high in carbohydrates. Chicken has a higher amount of polyunsaturated fat and a lower amount of saturated fats. Beef has more monounsaturated fat, which is slightly healthier than polyunsaturated.
Overall, beef is higher in fats, while chicken is higher in protein. That means chicken meat is the better option for meat consumption in terms of calories.
Both red meat and chicken meat are high in protein, but chicken meat is a better option if you want lean protein with less saturated fat. Chicken is a better choice if you’re trying to get rid of body fat and achieve a healthy weight or grow muscles.
Chicken breasts are a popular meat for losing weight and can also help build bone density and prevent bone loss because they have a lot of protein. This is especially helpful for elders worried about arthritis and osteoporosis.
“U.S. consumption of poultry meat (broilers, other chicken, and turkey) is considerably higher than beef or pork, but less than total red meat consumption.”
- The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)
However, red meat is also a good source of protein. In fact, if measured by weight, beef has more protein than chicken. Beef also has a lot of creatine, which helps build lean muscle fast.
In terms of protein, chicken is a slightly better option, but you won’t go wrong with red meat. Make sure to avoid processed meats, as unprocessed cuts are richer in protein.
Here’s which and how many vitamins you can get by eating chicken and red meat:
- Vitamin A - Beef and chicken have similar amounts of Vitamin A, with chicken having a slightly higher amount.
- Vitamin D - Both beef and chicken have similar amounts of Vitamin D.
- Vitamin E - Beef has 133 μg/ of vitamin E per 100 g on average, and chicken breast has 0.4 mg of Vitamin E per 100 g  .
- Vitamin K - Beef has 0.85ug of Vitamin K per ounce, while chicken has 2.1μg.
- B Vitamins - Beef has more vitamin B12, and chicken has more vitamins B1, B3, and B5 .
Here’s how red meat and chicken meat differ in the number of minerals:
- Iron - Red meat is a great source of iron. Beef has 2.3 mg of iron per 100 g, and chicken has 0.72 mg of iron  .
- Calcium - Beef has 30 mg of calcium per serving, while chicken has 11 mg.
- Potassium - Beef and chicken meat have similar amounts of potassium. Beef has 287 mg of potassium, while chicken has 255.
- Omega-3 and omega-6 - Chicken has more linoleic acid than red meat.
Overall, beef wins the mineral competition. Beef consumption will give you more minerals than eating chicken meat.
Beef vs. Chicken Health Impact
Here are three health aspects of beef and chicken you should consider before opting for one or the other.
1. Heart Health
The American Heart Association says eating chicken meat instead of red meat is better . Beef has more saturated fatty acids and trans fats, which can raise cholesterol and worsen already existing issues.
Moreover, processed red meats have sodium, nitrates, and other byproducts, which can lead to adverse health effects. This is why you should learn about beef production when getting red meat cuts.
Finally, researchers found that heme iron, which is found in beef in large quantities, is another risk for heart health . On the other hand, eating poultry has a smaller risk of cardiovascular diseases .
This means chicken poses a risk to heart health, but significantly less than beef consumption.
Both red and white meat pose a risk of developing diabetes. Some studies say that people who love eating meat, especially red meats and poultry, are twice as likely to get diabetes compared to people who don’t eat meat .
This is mostly because of heme iron, which is especially high in beef.
One way to lower this risk is to choose lean beef and chicken, substitute meat with fish and shellfish, and cook meat at lower temperatures.
Also Read: Does Meat Cause Diabetes?
3. Cancer Risk
Eating processed meat, especially red, leads to a higher chance of developing cancer . Processed meat especially increases the risk of stomach and esophagus cancer.
On the other hand, poultry leads to a lower risk of cancer. However, one study found that chicken can lead to prostate cancer, especially during high-heat cooking methods .
Also Read: What Is the Healthiest Meat to Eat?
Which Meat Is the Healthiest?
Chicken breast, thigh, turkey, bison, salmon, sirloin steak, and pork chop are the healthiest meat. They have less saturated fat compared to other meat cuts.
Which Meat Is the Leanest?
Poultry (chicken and turkey) and fish are the leanest meats.
What Meat Should I Eat Everyday?
You should eat turkey and chicken every day. These cuts have less saturated fat than red meats.
Should You Eat Beef or Chicken?
Beef and chicken are among the most widely consumed meat. Chicken has more protein, vitamins, and fewer calories, while beef has more minerals.
If you’re trying to regulate blood cholesterol, lose weight, or build muscle, chicken is a better choice. You can also choose lean cuts, such as lean beef if you’re watching your meat consumption.
No matter which cut you prefer, make sure you find a reliable supplier. Over the past two years, I’ve been ordering meat from ButcherBox, a meat delivery service that has a huge variety of grass-fed beef, chicken, and turkey.
They only sell sustainably sourced meat, and you can choose between lean beef cuts. They sell unprocessed meats, so you don’t have to worry it’ll negatively affect your health.