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Blog Nutrition Is Chicken Better Than Beef: Upping Your Protein Intake The Healthy Way

Is Chicken Better Than Beef: Upping Your Protein Intake The Healthy Way

is chicken better than beef

How many times have you heard people compare chicken with beef? Let’s leave other people out of this. How many times have you argued about this? This is one of the biggest arguments as both sides believe what they stand for is better than the other. The question that we want to pose is, can’t they both be good? Or can’t they both be bad? In this article, we will try to answer the question, is chicken better than beef? So that we can finally put an end to this long-term argument once and for all.

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Chicken

Who doesn’t love a nice piece of fried chicken from Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) or any other food joint that sells those crispy fried chicken? Chicken are domestic fowls that humans mostly keep for their eggs and meat. Chickens that are mainly kept for their meat are known as broilers, while those kept for their eggs are known as layers. 

Chicken meat is one of the most delicious meats known to man, and that is among the reasons why people eat it. Apart from being delicious, eating chicken is said to be beneficial, especially in matters concerning your health. Chicken is classified as white meat and has been seen as the healthier meat option for the longest of time. That is why you will find more people reaching for a piece of chicken than a piece of steak. 

Chicken Nutrition Facts

When it comes to the chicken’s nutrition facts, the different parts and how they are prepared will be a factor in the calories you are likely to get from the chicken meal. The darker cuts of the bird-like thighs and the drumsticks have a higher calorie content compared to the lighter cuts like the breast. The chicken breast is actually the leanest part of the bird. Frying the chicken will add more calories to your meal compared to baking or boiling it. If you cook your chicken with the skin, you will also be adding more calories and more saturated fats, which is why most people skin their chicken before they prepare it.

Read More: Lean Meats For Weight Loss: Healthy Entrées For Healthy Weight Loss

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Nutrition Facts Per Serving

 One raw, boneless, skinless chicken breast fillet contains (4): 

  • Calories: 120
  •  Protein: 26 grams
  •  Fat: 2 grams
  •  Carbohydrates: 0 grams
  •  Fiber: 0 grams
  • Sugar: 0 grams

Chicken also contains the following micronutrients:

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is an essential vitamin (4). What this means is that the body needs vitamin B12 so that it can work properly. This vitamin helps with the development of the brain and its proper functioning. It also helps with the development of the nerves, blood cells, and other parts of the body. 

Choline

This is yet another essential nutrient that can be found in chicken (4). It helps the nerves and the cells to work normally. It also helps promote overall good health.

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Zinc

Zinc is an essential trace element (4). What that means is that it is needed in small quantities for better health. The human body cannot store zinc, and therefore, you have to regularly take it as part of your diet. Zinc is needed for immune function, healing of an injury, blood clotting, and thyroid function. When you don’t have enough zinc, you are likely to experience zinc deficiency which symptoms include: stunted growth, low levels of insulin, loss of appetite, hair loss, irritability, slow wound healing, rough and scaly skin, nausea, and diarrhea. Zinc is also important in men as it helps regulate their testosterone levels and is useful in the production of sperm.

Iron

Iron is yet another mineral that can be found in chicken (4). It is a crucial component of hemoglobin. Hemoglobin helps transport oxygen from your lungs to all parts of your body. Thus, iron is required for the formation of hemoglobin. If you don’t have the required amount of iron, you wouldn’t be able to make enough oxygen-carrying red blood cells. Iron is also used to maintain healthy skin, hair, cells, and nails.

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Copper

Copper is necessary for the formation of red blood cells, helping keep the nerve cells healthy, supporting the immune system, and forming collagen, a protein that helps make bones and tissues, protecting the body’s cells from damage, absorbing iron, and turning sugar into energy. It also helps manage health conditions like anemia and osteoporosis (4).

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Phosphorus

Phosphorous is yet another reason you should eat chicken (4). It is an essential mineral that helps keep your bones and teeth strong, helps your muscles to contract, aids in muscle recovery after a workout, helps filter and remove waste from your kidneys, helps promote healthy conditioning of the nerves through your entire body, helps in the making of your DNA and RNA, and helps the body manage its energy use and energy storage. As if all that was not enough, it also helps the processing of carbohydrates and the regulation of your heartbeat. 

Tryptophan

The body cannot produce this essential amino acid, and hence it needs to be obtained from your diet, and chicken happens to be a good source of it. Tryptophan has many benefits, especially to your mood, cognition, and behavior (4). It has a beneficial impact on overall mood, depression, learning, memory skills, and visual and aggression cognition. It is also quite effective when it comes to treating various sleeping disorders like insomnia, seasonal affective disorder, premenstrual discomfort, and the anxiety that comes when a smoker tries to quit smoking. 

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Is Chicken Better Than Beef: Benefits Of Eating Chicken

The chicken comes with a wide array of benefits that makes it more superior to other proteins. Here are some of these benefits: 

Promotes Better Mood And Relieves Stress

Eating chicken promotes a better mood from the fact that it contains tryptophan. Tryptophan has been associated with high levels of serotonin which is also referred to as the feel-good hormone. Although chicken has this amino acid, it does not have it in large amounts that can instantly make you euphoric, but when combined with other factors, it will certainly improve your overall mood. 

Tryptophan and vitamin B5, which is also found in chicken, helps in reducing stress. Stress is part and parcel of our lives as there are so many things that can make you stressed, such as school, work, finances, relationships, and so much more. It can impact your health by enhancing certain health conditions. Stress is also a hindrance to weight loss as it promotes unhealthy eating habits like stress-eating. Both these nutrients have a calming effect that helps you manage stress. This makes chicken a good go-to meal when you have had a long day and are feeling a bit down.

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is chicken better than beef
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Helps With Weight Loss

There are different ways in which chicken helps in weight loss. One way is by helping manage stress which has been discussed above. Apart from stress management, chicken helps with weight loss because it promotes better sleep and has a high protein content.

  • How chicken promotes weight loss by promoting sleep?

Weight loss and getting enough sleep go hand in hand. If you sleep for less than 8 hours a day, you are likely to hinder weight loss. Lack of enough sleep encourages more intake of calories as you have more hours awake, and this translates to weight gain. Lack of sleep also promotes unhealthy eating habits like midnight snacking, which goes a long way in adding to your daily calorie count. Chicken contains tryptophan that is known to help deal with sleep disorders like insomnia. This prevents you from taking in more calories than you would likely do if you were awake. 

  • How chicken promotes weight loss from its protein content?

If you want to lose weight, you need to up your protein intake, and chicken just happens to be a good source of it. Proteins promote satiety from the fact that they take longer to get digested compared to carbohydrates (6). What this means is that you’ll feel fuller faster and longer hence reducing your daily calorie intake. Proteins also burn more calories when being digested compared to carbohydrates, and this also helps in your weight loss journey. Proteins also help build muscles (1). Muscles help make working out easier, which leads to weight loss. Apart from making workouts and generally all daily activities easier, it also has a higher resting metabolism compared to fat mass. This is to say that lean muscles burn more calories at rest than fat mass, which helps you lose weight. 

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Helps Build Stronger Bones

Chicken helps with overall bone health, from helping build stronger bones to increasing the bone mineral density. All this is made possible by the numerous nutrients in chicken. Chicken contains calcium and phosphorus, which are good for making your bones strong. That is not all! Chicken also has selenium which helps reduce the risk of arthritis (1). 

Helps Reduce Premenstrual Symptoms

Menstruation comes with very many symptoms, although it depends on the individual. Some people experience very painful symptoms, and chicken can help aid that. It contains a significant amount of magnesium that helps make the premenstrual symptoms manageable and helps with the various mood changes that women are likely to experience during their periods (1). 

Helps Boost Testosterone Levels And Sperm Production

Yes, chicken practically does something for everyone. The presence of zinc in chicken helps regulate a man’s testosterone levels, as well as promote the production of sperm (1).

Helps Boost Immunity

How many times have you ever been sick and see your mother prepare chicken soup for you? Do you think that is just by mere coincidence? Well, it is not. Chicken soup helps relieve you from a cold, flu, and other respiratory complications (1). The hot steam from the soup helps clear the throat and nasal congestion. The soup itself helps coat the throat, preventing the respiratory linings from being attacked by microbes that cause infections (1). 

Promotes Heart Health

Cardiovascular diseases have been on the rise in the recent past, and this is not only for older people but also for young people. They are mostly influenced by lifestyle choices, among other factors. Chicken contains vitamin B6, which helps reduce the risk of getting a heart attack. How vitamin B6 does this is by lowering the levels of homocysteine (1). Homocysteine is a key component that is associated with increased heart attack risk. Chicken also contains niacin, which reduces cholesterol levels; hence reducing the risk of developing various cardiovascular conditions (1). 

Those are some of the reasons why you should eat chicken more. Just like everything in this world, chicken also comes with risks, and that is why even though you are eating chicken, you should eat it in moderation. Too much of everything is bad for you. With that said, here are some risks associated with eating too much chicken.

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Risks Associated With Eating Too Much Chicken

Weight Gain

Eating too much chicken can trigger weight gain. Although proteins are good, especially when it comes to weight loss, when you eat too many proteins by eating too much chicken, the extra proteins are stored as fat hence triggering weight gain (6). 

Too Much Sodium Intake

Chicken contains a high amount of sodium, and for this reason, you shouldn’t eat too much of it. Excessive sodium intake may affect your blood pressure (6). 

Constipation

Chicken does not have a high amount of fiber (6). Lack of fiber in your diet will cause constipation; hence, you should eat your chicken with foods containing fiber like spinach, kales, brown rice, etc.

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Is Chicken Better Than Beef For Cholesterol?

One of the main reasons people shifted from eating beef to chicken is the fact that beef has too much saturated fat compared to chicken, and this is likely to increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Back in 2019, a study was done, and the results went against the belief that beef has more effect on LDL cholesterol than chicken. 

The Study

The research was under the title, “Effects of red meat, white meat, and non-meat protein sources on atherogenic lipoprotein measures in the context of low compared with high saturated fat intake (3)”. The study’s main objective was to test whether the levels of atherogenic lipids and lipoproteins differed significantly following the consumption of diets with a high amount of red meat compared to diets with similar amounts of proteins but from different protein sources; in this case, white meat and non-meat sources. They also investigated whether the effects were modified by a high intake of saturated fatty acids compared to a low intake of saturated fatty acids. 

The research was done on individuals between the age of 21 to 65 years of both genders. The individuals were randomly assigned to two groups; one group was to consume saturated fatty acids in a high amount, and the other in a low amount. Individuals were divided into red meat takers, white meat takers, and non-meat protein takers from the two groups. The study took 4 weeks (3). 

The Results

The results showed that both white meat and red meat resulted in higher LDL cholesterol levels in the blood compared with the non-meat protein group. This was a result of an increase in large LDL particles (3,5). From the three protein sources, non-meat protein sources proved to be the healthiest in terms of effect on blood cholesterol (3). The results show that the common advice to restrict the intake of red meat and rush for white meat should not be based on the fact that red meat has more of an effect on blood lipids compared to white meat as they both have similar effects.

The fact that the researchers took into account the high intake of saturated fats while carrying out the study, shows nothing was left to chance (2). Hence, to reduce LDL cholesterol people should go for non-meat protein sources such as vegetables, legumes, and various dairy products. This does not mean you avoid meat altogether, as some plant proteins do not contain all the essential amino acids required by the body. Just like everything in life, the key is moderation.

Intermittent Fasting According To The Age 

The Bottom Line

Is chicken better than beef? The answer to this question depends mainly on an individual’s preference. According to them, an individual knows which tastes better as some people will always go for chicken and others with beef. On matters concerning your health, the chicken comes with a wide array of benefits if taken in small quantities. Chicken helps build muscles, improve your mood, reduce premenstrual symptoms in women, regulate testosterone levels, promote the production of sperms in men, boost immunity, and help in weight loss.

This is not to say that there are no benefits of eating beef as they are. What we are saying is that there is no clear-cut answer as to which is better than the other. Both can provide high amounts of saturated fat; hence in terms of LDL cholesterol, plant proteins take the trophy home (5). If you are concerned that eating any of these two types of meat (white meat and red meat) might affect your health, it would be best to visit a health practitioner as they have ways of examining you and advising you best.

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DISCLAIMER:

This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!

SOURCES:

  1. 7 reasons chicken is good for your health (2015, thehealthsite.com)
  2. Chicken No Better Than Beef for Your Cholesterol? (n.d., webmd.com)
  3. Effects of red meat, white meat, and nonmeat protein sources on atherogenic lipoprotein measures in the context of low compared with high saturated fat intake: a randomized controlled trial (2019, academic.oup.com)
  4. Health Benefits of Chicken (n.d., webmd.com)
  5. Is white meat really more healthful than red meat? (2019, medicalnewstoday.com)
  6. What happens to your body when you eat chicken daily? (2020, pinkvilla.com)
B. William
B. William

Ben is an experienced writer who is no stranger to fitness. His career goal is not only to educate people on proper exercising but also help them recognize the profound importance of healthy nutrition. As a writer, his top priority is to foster awareness about healthy lifestyle and encourage more people to transform their bodies and kick their deep-rooted habits. Ben strongly believes that anyone can achieve their fitness goals, as long as they work hard, stay on track and keep a positive mindset.

K. Fleming
K. Fleming

I am a U.S. educated and trained Registered Dietitian (MS, RD, CNSC) with clinical and international development experience. I have experience conducting systematic reviews and evaluating the scientific literature both as a graduate student and later to inform my own evidence-based practice as an RD. I am currently based in Lusaka, Zambia after my Peace Corps service was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic and looking for some meaningful work to do as I figure out next steps. This would be my first freelance project, but I am a diligent worker and quite used to independent and self-motivated work.

Kristen Fleming, MS, RD, CNSC

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