Chicken or Beef: Which One is Better For Your Health?

Written by Sue Mosebar

chicken or beef

The question, Chicken or beef, can be a relatively polarizing. During the low-fat craze—which peaked in the 80s, spread into the 90s, and is shockingly still advocated by some (particularly folks from the Baby Boomer generation) to this day—chicken reigned supreme. However, after being properly educated (fat is not inherently “bad” nor does it make you fat), being told enough times that “it’s what’s for dinner,” and being asked often enough, “Where’s the beef?” beef has made a comeback in a serious way.

Now that protein has become a very prominent topic of discussion, people are becoming more and more aware of its importance in their nutrition plans. Protein is used by our bodies to build and repair tissues, and it provides the building blocks for our muscles, bones, skin, cartilage, enzymes, blood, certain hormones, and more.

When we eat enough protein, it helps keep energy and blood sugar levels stable as it helps support metabolic function. Eating protein-rich foods can also help improve satiety (our feelings of fullness and satisfaction), improve appetite control, reduce cravings, and help us control calorie intake. Over the long haul, eating a high-protein diet can help accelerate fat loss, preserve calorie-burning muscle, prevent weight regain, and preserve metabolic rate.

All this becomes even more crucial as we age, when protein can help preserve strength, muscle mass, function, and mobility. Of course, for those of us who are active (which is hopefully everyone), protein helps promote recovery and how we look, feel, and perform.

So, what makes one food a better source of protein than another? On the most basic level, we have to look at “protein quality,” which refers to the balance of amino acids, the digestibility of the protein, and the capacity of the food to provide essential amino acids.

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Our bodies are able to create a number of amino acids on their own from other amino acids. There are others (called “essential”), which our bodies are unable to produce. So it’s essential for our survival to ensure we consume them. Unlike most plant proteins, animal products, such as chicken or beef, which contain all the important amino acids (and are thus referred to as complete proteins), rank highest in terms of protein quality.

Chicken or Beef Comes Down to the Source

Before going any further, it’s important to look at where your meat comes from. How an animal is raised and cared for can have a significant impact not only on the quality of life for the animal itself but on the nutritional profile of the meat, dairy, or eggs it produces. After all, you are what you eat, right? The same is true for animals.

For example, pasture-raised animals with plenty of access to fresh grass and sunlight yield food products with significantly higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids than animals that are crowded together living in “factory” conditions. In fact, meat (and dairy) from pasture-raised animals contains about 50% more omega-3 fatty acids than animals from a feedlot (which are fed a mixture of grains, including omega-6 rich soy and corn).

Foods from pasture-raised animals also provide more CLA (or conjugated linoleic acid), which has been shown to improve body composition, enhance immunity, and promote a healthy inflammatory response. In addition, pastured chickens are less likely to carry unhealthy bacteria (though it’s still very important that you follow proper preparation methods with any animal products and ensure your meat is cooked to appropriate temperatures).

Animals that live with less stress have also been found to provide higher levels of nutrition. There are additional quality concerns when it comes to food products from feedlot animals, which are likely to be fed GMO crops, pumped full of chemicals to avoid sickness, and crammed together with no room to even walk, will produce a lower quality product.

Quite simply, quality matters. Seek out chicken or beef from animals that have been raised as humanely as possible and purchase organic meat whenever possible. Even better, purchase from a local farmer who truly cares for his or her animals and provides them with plenty of access to grass, sunlight, and room to roam.

The Benefits of Chicken

Chicken is a very popular protein source, especially among the fitness crowd. Why? Because it’s versatile, lean, economical, high in protein, lower in calories than beef, and easy to prepare. All in all, chicken is an efficient, concentrated source of protein, providing up to 35 grams per 4-ounce (cooked) portion.

Chicken is a complete source of protein, providing all the amino acids, including more than 2 ½ grams of the all-important amino acid leucine, which is important for improving body composition, recovery, and performance. Chicken is also a good source of several vitamins and minerals such as vitamins B3, B6, and B12, pantothenic acid, phosphorus, selenium, zinc, copper, magnesium, and iron. Finally, it’s a quality source of choline, which plays an important role in brain health and cognitive function.

Benefits of Beef

Beef has been enjoying a resurgence since we’ve discovered that fat is not, in fact, evil. Formerly looked down upon because even the leaner cuts contain more fat than chicken, we’re now rediscovering that beef fat may provide more benefits than originally believed.

Beef, it turns out, provides both saturated and monounsaturated fats and an interesting saturated fat known as stearic acid, which may actually help prevent arterial clotting. It’s also a very healthy source of CLA and omega-3’s. (Remember to choose organic, pasture-raised, grass-fed, etc., for the highest levels of these healthy fats.)

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In addition to being a high-quality source of protein, beef also supplies high levels of iron (in its most absorbable form), selenium, zinc, potassium, vitamin B12 (which supports energy levels and brain health and helps clear out potentially toxic compounds), niacin, vitamin B6, riboflavin, and choline. Oh yeah, and while individual differences apply, most people with taste buds would agree that beef is pretty darn tasty too.

Who wins? Chicken or Beef

At the end of the day, it’s a matter of taste. Yeah, I know…it’s a bit anticlimactic. But both beef and chicken are high-quality sources of protein and a variety of nutrients.

What’s really important (instead of deciding between chicken or beef) is that you enjoy a variety of proteins, including chicken and beef, dairy products (such as whey), and quality plant proteins (like spirulina, nuts, and seeds). And perhaps what’s really MOST important is that when it comes to protein, quality really does matter.

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  • Jmanjo

    Why state that we should never ever eat these types of fish if you never ever name them in the article?

    • Cristina

      Hello Jmanjo. I want to personally thank you for taking the time to provide your feedback.

      It would appear the information you are seeking is pertaining to one of our presentations. I would be more than happy to provide you with the 4 fish we recommend never eating.

      They are as follows:

      1. Red snapper
      2. Wild salmon
      3. Grouper
      4. Atlantic cod

      If you are interested in diving deeper into the reasons behind these suggestions, we have put together a free report which you may access here:

      4 Fish to Never Eat

      • Joshua

        You miss the point. You advertised a presentation offering information, don’t provide it, and link to a sales presentation instead. It is about your credibility, not about offering to provide the information ina separate report. If you ahd integrity you would have provided the information on the intitial presentation.

        • Cristina

          Hi Joshua. First allow me to apologize on behalf of everyone here. We are constantly refining the way we do business and that is only possible thanks to candid feedback like yours. Please know that we are listening.

          By taking ownership we hope to earn your trust and patronage. In the interim, know that we value your feedback as a key tool to help us learn ways to improve our business.

  • Soorya Townley

    Humans don’t need this amount of protein to live. Broccoli (for instance) has as much protein as chicken and even competes with beef. There is protein in almost every food. Besides why not get the vegetables First-Hand, instead of after all is digested into an animal that has to be slaughtered to extract it? The article spoke NOTHING of the destruction that the production of beef is doing to our pitiful planet earth in general. Watch “Cowspiracy,” off Netflix to get a real grip on how, if each human gave up eating beef, ecologically we might be able to save our planet. Beef is the biggest reason our world is being destroyed ecologically and no one wants to address this issue or talk about it because the lust for beef is so strong.

    • Cristina

      Hi Soorya. We respect and appreciate your perspective.

      Obviously, we preach a high-protein diet because of the vast benefits that the scientific research suggests, from acute increases in feelings of fullness to long-term improvements in body composition and metabolic rate.

      Coach Tim discussed his recommendations for adequate protein in a previous “Ask the Coaches” segment which is a great resource to check out:

      How Much Protein Is Too Much?

      In general, the vast majority of the population could certainly stand to eat more plants. This is not to say that a plant-based diet is mandatory, but eating more plant-based foods can go a long way to improve health. Nearly 70% of Americans suffer from ailments associated with dietary intake, which can be improved when following a nutrition plan rich in plant foods.

      Plant-based food provide higher amounts of certain vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, antioxidants, essential fatty acids, and more. Most importantly, by eating more plant-based foods, people end up displacing foods high in processed sugar and inflammatory fats from the diet.

      Bottom line, a good nutrition plan is flexible and takes into consideration your personal preferences. Since there is not a one size fits all diet that works for everyone, it is important to discover what allows you, as an individual, to achieve optimal health, body composition, and performance.

  • Cristina

    Hi James. We appreciate you taking the time to provide us with your feedback. It is thanks to feedback like yours that we can tackle issues that may impact our most valuable asset; our customers.

    You are certainly not the first person to offer constructive criticism with regards to our presentations, and we can understand how the
    videos may seem long, but our mission is to ensure you are well educated on our products and their benefits. Allow me to point out some of the video’s strong points:

    • Explains the benefit of the product
    • Informs our customers how the ingredients work when taken as instructed
    • Explains how and why other supplements don’t work to achieve the goals you are trying to achieve
    • Provides scientific data supporting our research

    So as you can see, we try very hard to ensure you are well informed about the product(s) before making your final decision.

    You are more than welcome to click on the red “X” at the top right hand corner of any presentation, and you will be directed to a text only version of the presentation.

    With that being said, we offer various methods for folks to access the information we provide such as e-mails, free reports, blog articles, and video presentations. You are more than welcome to use any or all of these in your efforts to gain knowledge on how to improve your health and wellness.

    Thank you again for your honest feedback, James.

  • roxysmom87

    I prefer chicken in most of my meals. I do like a real hamburger occasionally. I also wonder why you don’t name the fish in the article.