Which Types Of Meat Are The Healthiest To Eat?

Types of Meat

Meat has been a consistent part of the diet for many generations – and remains a healthy source of energy and nutrients.

There are also multiple types of meat to choose from, each with their own flavor and nutrient profile.

So then, which meat is the best to eat for health benefits?

This article looks at 8 of the most common types of meat, along with their nutrients, health impacts and any ongoing concerns.

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Chicken

Roast Chicken

Chicken is the go-to choice for many families. It is simple to cook and is typically inexpensive. The relatively mild flavor means that it works in countless recipes, making it versatile as well.

The most common cuts for chicken include breasts, thighs, drumsticks and wings. However, many people simply buy the whole chicken and divide it up themselves.

In general, chicken is considered a white meat and is also a type of poultry.

Nutrition Profile

Chicken tends to be a lean meat, often chosen by people trying to lose weight. Ground chicken contains the following nutrients per 100 grams (1). As a side note, nutrition data should be used as a rough guide only. The composition will vary between cuts of meat.

Nutrition Facts: Ground Chicken (100 grams)

Amount

Calories

143

Total Fat

8.1 g

Saturated Fat

2.3 g

Monounsaturated Fat

3.6 g 

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

96 mg

Omega-6 Fatty Acids

1327 mg

Carbs

0 g

Protein

17.4 g

Omega-3: Omega-6 Ratio

1 : 13.8

Niacin

5.6 mg (28% DV)

Vitamin B6

0.5 mg (26% DV)

Phosphorus

178 mg (18% DV)

Selenium

10.2 mcg (15% DV)

Potassium

522 mg (15% DV)

Iron

0.8 mg (5% DV)

Advantages of Chicken

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    One of the least expensive options and often on sale
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    Relatively low in fat and calories for the protein content
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    Easy to find and to use, with countless recipes available

Concerns and Issues

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    Chicken must be cooked thoroughly to avoid food poisoning
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    Extra care needs to be taken with raw meat as well, including where the meat is stored in the fridge
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    Many chicken products are heavily processed (like chicken nuggets). This means that pre-prepared chicken may not be as healthy as it seems

Recipes and Guides

Turkey

Great Paleo Holiday Recipes

Turkey is most common around Thanksgiving or Christmas, although some people eat it throughout the year as well. Compared to chicken, turkey has a more intense flavor.

Unlike chicken, turkey is mostly sold and cooked as a whole bird, rather than in segments. However, ground turkey is also common. This is often used as an alternative to ground beef for people trying to lower fat intake.

Nutrition Profile

As another white meat, turkey is similar to chicken. Per 100 grams, ground turkey has the following profile (2): 

Nutrition Facts: Ground Turkey (100 grams)

Amount

Calories

149

Total Fat

8.3 g

Saturated Fat

2.3 g

Monounsaturated Fat

3.1 g 

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

110 mg

Omega-6 Fatty Acids

1800 mg

Carbs

0 g

Protein

17.5 g

Omega-3: Omega-6 Ratio

1 : 16.4

Selenium

18.9 mcg (27% DV)

Vitamin B6

0.4 mg (18% DV)

Niacin

3.5 mg (17% DV)

Phosphorus

156 mg (16% DV)

Zinc

1.9 mg (13% DV)

Iron

1.3 mg (7% DV)

Advantages of Turkey

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    The meat is low in calories, which is partly why ground turkey is so popular
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    Turkey is relatively inexpensive and is protein-dense

Concerns and Issues

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    Like chicken, turkey needs to be fully cooked and you need to take care with raw meat
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    Turkey can be hard to find if you just want specific cuts

Recipes and Guides

Duck

Roast duck

Duck is a much less common type of white meat in the United States, but it does have an audience. It can be a good choice if you want something a little unusual, although there are fewer places that sell duck.

A key difference is that duck tends to be a darker meat. It is often fattier and more greasy than other types of white meat, and it can take time to learn to cook with it.

Once again, the most common way to buy duck is as a whole. There are some places that will sell individual portions, such as duck breast.

Nutrition Profile

Even though it is white meat too, duck does have some key nutritional differences. Per 100 grams, duck breast has the following profile (3): 

Nutrition Facts: Duck Breast (100 grams)

Amount

Calories

123

Total Fat

4.3 g

Saturated Fat

1.3 g

Monounsaturated Fat

1.2 g 

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

70 mg

Omega-6 Fatty Acids

510 mg

Carbs

0 g

Protein

19.8 g

Omega-3: Omega-6 Ratio

1 : 7.3

Vitamin B6

0.6 mg (31​​​​% DV)

Thiamin

0.4 mg (28% DV)

Iron

4.5 mg (25% DV)

Selenium

13.9 mcg (20% DV)

Phosphorus

186 mg (19% DV)

Niacin

3.4 mg (17% DV)

Copper

0.3 mg (17% DV)

Vitamin B12

0.8 mcg (13% DV)

Advantages of Duck

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    Good source of nutrients
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    Appealing for people who find chicken and turkey boring or unappealing

Concerns and Issues

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    The taste and texture of duck don't appeal to everyone
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    Cooking duck can involve a learning curve

Recipes and Guides

Beef

Steak

Beef is one of the most popular red meat types out there - for good reason. Common cuts and preparations include:

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    Steak (including ribeye, flank, T-bone and porterhouse)
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    Roast beef (including rump)
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    Short ribs
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    Prime ribs
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    Brisket
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    Shank and foreshank
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    Ground beef

Nutrition Profile

Nutritional values vary depending on the cut of beef and also the source. Grass-fed beef tends to have less total fat, more antioxidants and extra omega-3 fatty acids (4). This makes grass-fed a better choice if it is feasible. Per 100 grams, the nutrient profile of ground beef is (5):   

Nutrition Facts: Ground beef (70:30) (100 grams)

Amount

Calories

332

Total Fat

30.0 g

Saturated Fat

11.3 g

Monounsaturated Fat

12.2 g 

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

62 mg

Omega-6 Fatty Acids

596 mg

Carbs

0 g

Protein

14.3 g

Omega-3: Omega-6 Ratio

1 : 9.6

Vitamin B12

2.1 mcg (34% DV)

Zinc

3.6 mg (24% DV)

Selenium

13.5 mcg (19% DV)

Niacin

3.4 mg (17% DV)

Vitamin B6

0.3 mg (14% DV)

Phosphorus

132 mg (13% DV)

Iron

1.6 mg (9% DV)

Recommended Grass Fed Beef
Recommended Grass Fed Beef

Advantages of Beef

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    Tends to be easy to cook, especially as beef can be eaten rare
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    Many cuts to choose from. The site Chef Steps highlights how you can choose between them and know which cuts are tough or tender.  
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    Tougher and inexpensive cuts can be made more tender, as the site Food Hacks Daily highlights. 
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    Much of the fat in beef is monounsaturated and includes oleic acid (the same healthy fat in olive oil)
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    Powerful source of iron
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    Beef is affordable, offering significant nutrients for the money you spend

Concerns and Issues

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    Can contribute to excessively high iron in some people (6). However, this mostly occurs with extreme levels of consumption

Recipes and Guides

Pork

Raw pork

Pork is an incredibly popular type of meat and is also very controversial. For many people, pork is a tasty addition to the dinner table. It’s also a nice alternative to the more intense flavors of meats like beef and lamb.

Despite the appearance, pork is considered red meat. This is partly because it comes from livestock and also due to the levels of myoglobin (7). Myoglobin is an oxygen-carrying compound and is present in higher concentrations in red meat. 

There are many different cuts of pork, along with more processed meats that rely on pork (such as sausages and bacon). Many people argue that you should stick to options like pork chops only. But, as Nutrition Advance points out, there are many reasons why bacon can be good for you as well. 

Aside from bacon, some of the most common cuts and choices include:

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    Pork chops (shoulder, loin, ribs, sirloin or top loin)
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    Pork belly
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    Pork cutlets (sometimes called boneless chops)
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    Pork loin
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    Pork shoulder (also called pork butt)
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    Ham
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    Pork roasts (including blade, tenderloin and sirloin roasts)

Nutrition Profile

The nutrition data per 100 grams of ground pork can be found below (8). As with other meats, the composition will vary between cuts - but this is a good general starting point. 

Nutrition Facts: Ground Pork (100 grams)

Amount

Calories

263

Total Fat

21.2 g

Saturated Fat

7.9 g

Monounsaturated Fat

9.4 g 

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

70 mg

Omega-6 Fatty Acids

1670 mg

Carbs

0 g

Protein

16.9 g

Omega-3: Omega-6 Ratio

1 : 23.9

Thiamin

0.7 mg (49% DV)

Selenium

24.6 mcg (35% DV)

Niacin

4.3 mg (22% DV)

Vitamin B6

0.4 mg (19% DV)

Phosphorus

175 mg (18% DV)

Zinc

2.2 mg (15% DV)

Vitamin B12

0.7 mcg (12% DV)

Advantages of Pork

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    Most cuts of pork are lean, making them perfect for people on a low-fat diet. Many people find pork tenderloin a tastier alternative to chicken breast, with a similar nutritional profile
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    Pork is relatively inexpensive
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    Good source of nutrients, including thiamin, vitamin B6 and iron

Concerns and Issues

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    Lean cuts of pork are easy to overcook, creating a dry and unappealing meal
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    The lean nature of pork isn’t appealing for anyone on a low-carb diet – although some cuts of pork have more fat than others
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    Pork is often considered a ‘dirty meat’, with countless posts talking about how it should be avoided entirely. An article by Dr. Axe highlights some points about this topic. However, an interesting piece at Food Renegade talks about one research study that found unmarinated pork may cause an inflammatory response in the blood but every other preparation does not (including uncured bacon). This suggests that as long as pork is cured or marinated, it doesn’t cause significant harm
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    Pork can’t be eaten for some groups of people based on religious beliefs

Recipes and Guides

Lamb (and Mutton)

Lamb on a plate

For the most part, lamb and mutton are the same type of meat. They’re also similar nutritionally. The largest difference is the source. As the name suggests, lamb comes from a young sheep (1-year-old or less), while mutton is sourced from an adult.

The cuts are similar for both types. These include: 

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    Lamb chop
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    Lamb shank
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    Shoulder
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    Rack
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    Leg

Nutrition Profile

The nutrition data for ground lamb can be seen below (9):

Nutrition Facts: Ground Lamb (100 grams)

Amount

Calories

282

Total Fat

23.4 g

Saturated Fat

10.2 g

Monounsaturated Fat

9.6 g 

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

420 mg

Omega-6 Fatty Acids

1360 mg

Carbs

0 g

Protein

16.6 g

Omega-3: Omega-6 Ratio

1 : 3.2

Vitamin B12

2.6 mcg (44% DV)

Selenium

21.2 mcg (30% DV)

Niacin

6.7 mg (34% DV)

Zinc

3.9 mg (26% DV)

Phosphorus

177 mg (18% DV)

Advantages of Lamb

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    Offers a good ratio of omega-3 to omega-6
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    Especially good source of vitamin B12

Concerns and Issues

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    Lamb is often expensive and is frequently imported
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    Lamb has a distinctive taste. Some people love it, others hate it. 

Recipes and Guides

Venison

Venison on a plank

The flavor of venison is often considered rich, earthy and gamey. Some people love this flavor profile, preferring it to steak and lamb. Others hate it and find it extremely unappealing. 

Taste aside, venison has been becoming increasingly popular. The key reason is the nutritional profile, which is impressive.

Because venison is still relatively difficult to source it is often simply sold as ground venison or as venison steaks.

Nutrition Profile

The nutritional details below are for 100 grams of ground venison (10):

Nutrition Facts: Ground Venison (100 grams)

Amount

Calories

157

Total Fat

7.1 g

Saturated Fat

3.4 g

Monounsaturated Fat

1.3 g 

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

104 mg

Omega-6 Fatty Acids

225 mg

Carbs

0 g

Protein

21.8 g

Omega-3: Omega-6 Ratio

1 : 2.2

Thiamin

0.5 mg (36% DV)

Iron

2.9 mg (16% DV)

Niacin

5.7 mg (28% DV)

Vitamin B6

0.5 mg (23% DV)

Phosphorus

201 mg (20% DV)

Zinc

4.2 mg (28% DV)

Vitamin B12

1.9 mcg (31% DV)

Advantages of Venison

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    Venison is very nutrient-dense, more so than beef. Because it is lean, you’re getting more nutrients for your calories
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    Venison tends to have an appealing omega-3 to omega-6 ratio, better than most other options

Concerns and Issues

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    The flavor of venison is fairly intense and many people won’t like it
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    Venison is lean for red meat, meaning you need extra care when cooking it
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    Venison tends to be fairly expensive

Recipes and Guides

Bison

Grass fed bison burger

Bison has been increasing in popularity recently and offers an interesting alternative. The flavor is similar to beef, although it is often considered a little sweeter or more delicate. Texture-wise, bison is coarser than beef but can still be used in many of the same dishes.

As with venison, the most common options for bison are simply bison steaks and ground bison.

Nutrition Profile

The nutrition data below is for 100 grams of ground bison (11). 

Nutrition Facts: Ground Bison (100 grams)

Amount

Calories

146

Total Fat

7.2 g

Saturated Fat

2.9 g

Monounsaturated Fat

2.8 g 

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

38 mg

Omega-6 Fatty Acids

261 mg

Carbs

0 g

Protein

20.2 g

Omega-3: Omega-6 Ratio

1 : 6.9

Vitamin B12

1.9 mcg (32% DV)

Zinc

4.6 mg (31% DV)

Selenium

20 mcg (29% DV)

Niacin

5.3 mg (27% DV)

Phosphorus

194 mg (19% DV)

Vitamin B6

0.4 mg (19% DV)

Iron

2.8 mg (15% DV)

Advantages of Bison

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    The flavor and texture are different than other meats. This makes bison perfect if you want variation in your meals
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    Bison is thought to be non-allergenic and has a better omega-3 to omega-6 ratio than beef (see Civilized Caveman Cooking for more details)

Concerns and Issues

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    Bison cuts tend to be lower in fat than beef. This is appealing for anyone on a low-fat diet – but means you need to take extra care with cooking
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    Bison is still relatively obscure. This makes it harder to find and more expensive. But, you can always turn to specialized companies and places like Vital Choice to buy it

Recipes and Guides

Because bison is a little different, it’s best to start out with recipes designed for the meat. Once you’re accustomed to it, you can start experimenting on your own.

Is Meat Healthy?

estions concept or diet nutrition decisions

There are also debates about meat itself. Some people claim that meat, particularly red meat can cause significant harm. This includes contributing to cancer risk and leading to excessive protein consumption.

And yes, there is some indication that burning meat produces polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and heterocyclic amines (HCAs), which may increase cancer risk (12,13,14). But, most of the research has been conducted in lab rats, not humans and the amount of evidence is minimal (15). 

Even if the association does exist, the size of the effect is likely to be very small.

More than anything, this problem suggests a problem with cooking methods, not with meat itself. So, if you want to lower your risk, be sensible with how you cook meat and avoid barbecues as much as possible.

But, as for meat itself, there is no significant evidence for negative impacts on health. Instead, it is a powerful source of nutrients and a good addition to a balanced diet. The site Nutrition Advance offers more details about these benefits and why meat is worth eating regularly.

Omega-3 and Omega-6

One other consideration is omega-3 versus omega-6. Omega-3 is a powerful fatty acid, which is often found in fish and in fish oil. A key advantage is that omega-3 helps decrease levels of inflammation.

Omega-6 fatty acids don’t do this. Instead, they can increase inflammation and put people at risk. This is a topic that the site Healthline covers in detail. Most people are consuming too much omega-6 and not enough omega-3.

Improving this balance is critical for overall health and wellbeing – and choosing the right meat can help in this area. The top three options for omega-3 to omega-6 ratio are:

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    Venison: 1 : 2.2
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    Lamb: 1 : 3.2
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    Bison: 1 : 6.9

Another choice is beef. The ratio here is 1:9.6 for ground beef - so it's not as good as the previous three choices. But, grass-fed beef tends to have more omega-3 than grain-fed. Beef is also relatively inexpensive and is often more accessible than options like venison. 

This doesn't make meat like pork unhealthy. You can still have it in a balanced diet. It's just important to be aware of your omega-6 intake and try to reduce it wherever possible. 

Recommended Grass Fed Beef
Recommended Grass Fed Beef

What Kind of Meat is the Healthiest to Eat?

Chicken and broccoli

Nutritionally, there is no single ideal type of meat. They all have different advantages.

The best choice also depends on what you’re looking for. So, if you’re on a keto diet, you might focus on fatty cuts of meat, while other approaches may prefer lean cuts. Your budget and preferences will play a role in your choice too. After all, the benefits of a specific meat aren’t going to matter if you won’t eat it.

Nutritionally, venison is a powerful choice, as is bison. But, on a day-to-day basis, beef will be more practical for most people. 

Because each meat has a different balance of compounds, the absolute best choice is to vary your intake. That may include having duck and pork sometimes, while relying on beef and chicken on other occasions. 

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Want to Improve Your Health?

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Better health starts in the kitchen, with the food that you eat and the meals you prepare. Getting the best outcomes involves making good choices about the food and the ingredients that you use. 

Check out my recommended products to see where you can get started. 

Best Meat Choices

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6 thoughts on “Which Types Of Meat Are The Healthiest To Eat?”

  1. I have been wondering what kind of meat is the best kind of meat to eat. Thank you for all the information about all the different kinds of meat. I’m glad that beef is very affordable and is a great source of iron. I will have to try to eat more beef.

    Reply
  2. I like how you say that grass-fed beef will tend to have less fat and more omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants. Recently, I’ve decided that I’d like to start eating better, but I still want to eat meat. So I think that I’ll need to find somewhere to get organic, grass-fed beef to start eating healthier.

    Reply
    • Meat is highly nutritious, particularly beef. We’re often taught that we need to cut meat down or out entirely to improve our health. But, that isn’t the case.

      Reply
  3. I am a very fussy eater, and it is important for me to have good quality meat for my future restaurant. I love that you talked about how venison meat is a better option since it has omega-3 to 6. I’ll keep this in mind so that I can provide the best meals to my future customers. Thanks!

    Reply
    • Venison is immensely popular as well. I love the different flavor profile and I know that many people feel the same. Besides, it’s nice to have something different than steak from time-to-time.

      Reply

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