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Which Is Better for Your Heart: Beef or Chicken?

author image Tara Carson
Based in Richmond, Va., Tara Carson has written articles for editorial and corporate online and print publications for more than 10 years. She has experience as an adjunct professor of nutrition at Northwest Christian University and holds a Bachelor of Science in journalism and nutrition from Virginia Commonwealth University.
Which Is Better for Your Heart: Beef or Chicken?
Beef provides more saturated fat compared with chicken. Photo Credit: Eising/Photodisc/Getty Images

The average American diet includes 8 oz. of meat each day, twice the world's average, according to "The New York Times." If you have concerns about heart disease, the number one health problem in the U.S., restricting your consumption of meat is important. Each time you make a choice between chicken or beef, ensuring you choose the right one may make an impact over time. Several nutrients in both meat types identify the healthiest one for heart health.

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Fat and Cholesterol

Perhaps the most well-known nutritional qualities linked to cardiovascular health are saturated fat and cholesterol. The reason is that cholesterol and saturated fat clog arteries, which causes high blood pressure and cardiac arrest. A 3-oz. serving of beef provides 76 mg of cholesterol and 2.9 g of saturated fat. A 3-oz. serving of chicken provides 73 mg of cholesterol and 0.9 mg of saturated fat. Chicken provides a lower level of artery-clogging nutritional factors.


Calories contribute to weight gain, a risk factor for heart disease. A serving of chicken provides 142 calories, and a serving of beef provides 173 calories. Chicken is a more appropriate choice for a calorie-restrictive diet, but the difference is not significant. Monitoring the total daily caloric intake may offset including beef in the day's dietary choices.


Potassium supports the heart-pumping mechanism that pushes blood through the arteries. Without an adequate supply of potassium, the heart may skip or beat abnormally, also called an arrhythmia. A serving of chicken provides 220 mg of potassium. A serving of beef provides 214 mg. The amounts are similar and constitute approximately 6 percent of the 3,500-mg Food and Drug Administration daily value.


Sodium is a mineral that regulates blood pressure. A diet that includes excessive sodium increases blood volume and elevates blood pressure abnormally, which can cause heart stress because the heart works harder to pump the extra fluid through the body. A serving of chicken provides 64 mg of sodium. A serving of beef provides 35 mg of sodium. Both amounts are low compared with the 2,400-mg total upper intake the FDA recommends.

Chicken for Heart Health

Both chicken and beef provide nutrients that support cardiovascular health. If you have to choose one, choose chicken because it provides fewer grams of saturated fat and cholesterol, and similar levels of other nutrients compared to beef.

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