Is Chicken Healthier Than Beef? The Great Debate

by Millie

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Is chicken healthier than beef? This debate has raged on for year. While there are many factors to consider, such as the fat content and calorie count, there are also many other variables to take into account. 

For years many of us have been trying to reduce our red meat intake because we believe that it is not as healthy. But recently there have been two competing diet trends. The first is a high-protein diet with more red meat and chicken or low carb diet. The second is a plant-based diet with only plant proteins.  So now it’s even more important you are making an informed decision about your animal protein.

So, which is really the healthier choice – chicken or beef? Let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons of both chicken and beef to see which one comes out on top.

The Pros and Cons of Chicken 

chicken on a plate with vegetables

The consumption of chicken meat has been a controversial topic for many years. Some people believe that chicken meat is unhealthy and unethical, while others believe that it is a healthy and delicious option. So what are the pros and cons of chicken meat?

The Advantages of Chicken

Lean Protein

One of the biggest pros of chicken meat is that it is a lean protein source. This means that chicken is lower in fat and calories than other types of meat, such as beef or pork. 

This is an important consideration if you are attempting to reduce your consumption of saturated fat or lower the total fat content in your diet.  Chicken is better for your heart health and reduces your risk of cardiovascular disease. 

Lower Risk of Cancer

There is growing evidence that consuming chicken may help to lower your risk of cancer. A recent study found that women who ate chicken regularly had a 15% lower risk of developing breast cancer than those who did not eat chicken. Another study found a link between chicken consumption and a lower risk of colorectal cancer.

More of Some Vitamins

Chicken meat is richer than beef in most vitamins. It is a good source of vitamin A, vitamin E, and vitamin K as well as vitamins B1, B3, and B5. Additionally, chicken meat is relatively inexpensive, making it a budget-friendly option.

The Disadvantages of Chicken

However, there are also some drawbacks to chicken meat. It has fewer vitamin B12 and folate than beef. Chicken is also lower in iron, zinc, and potassium. 

Increase Bad Cholesterol

Contrary to popular opinion and dietary guidelines, one recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that both chicken and red meat increased levels of LDL cholesterol or bad cholesterol when compared to a plant-based diet — leading many to recommend a plant-based diet or suggest that we reduce our consumption of chicken and beef.

The Nutritional Value of Chicken

chicken on a tray

The leanest part of a chicken is the breast. While there is some fat present in the chicken breast meat, it is much leaner than other parts of the chicken, such as the chicken thigh and drumstick or dark meat. However, the higher fat content is what makes the thighs and legs of the chicken more moist and tender.

One 3-ounce portion of chicken breast has about 140 calories,  27 grams of protein, 3 grams of fat, and 1 gram of saturated fat. On the other hand, the same size dark meat without skin and bones has 170 calories, 9 grams of fat, and 3 grams of saturated fat. 

The differences might seem small, but remember that most people eat more than the recommended portion of three ounces, so in reality, the differences are bigger.

Best and Worst Cooking Methods

And of course, in addition to the part of the chicken, your cooking method will affect the nutritional value. There are many different ways to cook chicken, but some methods are healthier than others. 

One of the healthiest ways to cook chicken is to bake or stir-fry it. Cook your chicken with little or no added oils or fats, which can help to keep it healthy and low in calories. 

Deep-frying chicken is one of the most unhealthy cooking methods available. The high temperatures involved in deep-frying cause the chicken to lose many of its nutritional properties, and the resulting greasy food is high in fat and calories. 

There is some new evidence linking both chicken and beef to type 2 diabetes when they are cooked on an open flame or high heat such as grilling, barbequing, roasting, or broiling. According to the study, people who ate red meat or chicken cooked by these methods were more likely to develop diabetes than those who did not eat these animal proteins. The study also found that any level of chicken or beef consumption cooked at high heat increased your risk of type 2 diabetes.

The Pros and Cons of Beef 

sliced beef on a chopping board

The ongoing debate about beef continues with health experts.  Some believe that beef is a healthy and nutritious food, while others believe that it is one of the worse foods for the human body. So, what are the pros and cons of beef?

Advantages of Beef

Good Source of Protein

Beef is an excellent source of protein. In fact, it is considered a full protein providing all the essential amino acids your body needs, It is also a good source of iron and can aid in your blood health. 

Iron Rich

Iron helps your body produce hemoglobin, a protein that helps your blood carry oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body. You get 12% of the recommended daily dose of iron in one serving of beef. 

High in Some Vitamins and Minerals

Beef is also a great source of Vitamin B12 which is needed to form red blood cells and DNA. it is also important for the development and function of brain and nerve cells.

Beef is also high in zinc, which helps to support your immune system and heals damaged tissue. It is also important for children and adolescents’ growth. Additionally beef is a good source of niacin which is important for a properly functioning nervous system and digestive system as well as healthy skin. 

Another essential nutrient in beef is choline. Choline has many functions including a healthy nervous system, memory, fat metabolism, and fat transportation.

Disadvantages of Beef

High in Saturated Fat

While red meat, which includes beef, pork, and lamb, has long been a staple of the human diet, there is growing evidence that it may be harmful to our health. Red meat is high in saturated fat, which has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, and other chronic health conditions. 

High in Dietary Cholesterol

Furthermore, red meat is a major source of dietary cholesterol, which can also contribute to heart disease. Not surprisingly,  The American Heart Association recommends that we avoid red meat because it more saturated fat than skinless chicken, fish, and plant proteins.

Increase Risk of Cancer

There is also a growing body of evidence linking red meat consumption to an increased risk of cancer.  It contains high levels of heme iron, which has been linked to cancer growth.

Studies have shown that people who consume large amounts of red meat have a higher risk of developing colorectal cancer, pancreatic cancer, and endometrial cancer. The risk is even higher for processed meats, such as bacon, sausage, and deli meats.

The Nutritional Value of Beef

beef slices on chopping board

There are 220 calories in one 3-ounce serving of beef, with 127 of those calories from fat and 5.8 grams of saturated fat. However, if you switch to lean beef to minimize the saturated fat and calories, the calories are reduced to 196 with 92 calories from fat and 4 grams of saturated fat.

Lean Cuts of Beef

The leanest cuts of beef have a fat content of less than 10%. They include top sirloin steak, top round roast and steak, sirloin tip side steak, bottom round roast and steak, and eye of round roast and steak.

Choose lean cuts of beef that are graded choice or select rather than prime. Also, look for cuts that have the least amount of marbling or visual fat. When buying ground beef, get the leanest one. 

Finally, choose grass-fed beef since it has less fat and fewer calories than grain-fed beef. It also has five times more omega three fatty acids than regular grain-fed beef.

Best and Worst Cooking Methods

Like chicken, there are many different ways to cook beef, but some methods are healthier than others. One of the healthiest methods is to cook beef using the sous-vide method.

Sous-vide is a French cooking method that involves cooking food in a vacuum-sealed bag. This method allows for beef to retain its nutritional value while still being cooked to perfection.

Another healthier way to cook beef is roasting. It uses indirect heat, which is much safer for your health. You can also try stir-frying and sauteing your beef.

On the other hand, some experts feel that grilling beef is the most unhealthy way to prepare this meat. Grilling involves using direct heat to cook the beef, and this can cause the formation of harmful chemicals. These chemicals have been linked to an increased risk of cancer and other diseases. However, others believe that you can reduce the risk of cancer by using a gas grill instead of a charcoal barbeque.

And as you have read previously, cooking beef and chicken with high heat increases your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. This risk was highest among those who ate processed meats, such as hot dogs and bacon.

So, is chicken healthier than beef? 

beef and chicken on brown background

The debate between chicken and beef has been going on for years. Some people swear by chicken, while others are adamant that beef is the better option. So, what is the right answer? 

The truth is, both chicken and beef have their pros and cons when it comes to health. Chicken is a leaner meat and is lower in calories, while beef is a good source of protein and iron. 

After reading this article, you might conclude that the answer to “is chicken healthier than beef?’’ is complicated. Or perhaps it depends on your health goals. 

Chicken is Healthier?

Are you interested in weight loss or weight management and therefore calories and lean meat are more important to you? If so, for you chicken is healthier. Chicken is also a good source of lean protein, which is important for maintaining a healthy weight. It also has fewer calories and fewer calories from fat. 

If you are more concerned with reducing your risk for heart disease, strokes high cholesterol, cancer, and other chronic diseases. Then, once again, chicken is healthier than beef. Choose chicken breast that is baked or stir-fried.

Beef is Healthier?

Beef, on the other hand, is a good source of iron, vitamin B12, and other nutrients. If you are concerned with your iron or hemoglobin levels or worried about anemia perhaps beef can be part of your healthy diet. 

Although several recent studies confirm the negative effects of red meat, you may be able to minimize your risk by choosing lean grass-fed beef and preparing it in a healthier way such as sous vide, stir fry or saute. 

Given the link between high-heat cooking methods and both cancer and type 2 diabetes, it’s best to choose a safer cooking method.

What’s Your Decision?

Ultimately, the decision of whether or not to eat beef is a personal one. Some people may feel that the pros outweigh the cons, while others may decide that the cons are simply too significant to ignore.

Maybe the best way to decide which meat is right for you or even if you should switch to plant-based protein sources is to consult with your doctor or a dietitian. They will be able to assess your individual needs and make a recommendation based on your health goals.

Which will you choose?

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