You may know that turkey, especially white meat, is a better choice for people whose primary concern is cutting saturated fat and cholesterol. But if your doctor suggests you get more iron in your diet to counteract the fatigue and weakness associated with iron deficiency, "beefing up" your diet may be a smart choice. Keep your beef meal as heart-healthy as possible by keeping your portion size to 3 ounces, trimming visible fat and choosing the leanest cuts of beef possible.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's "Food Sources of Selected Nutrients" table for iron lists 30 of the foods highest in the mineral. Of that list, five of the foods are cuts of beef. Turkey does not make the USDA's list of top iron-rich foods. The top beef selections are 3-ounce portions of chuck roast, bottom round, rib roast, ground beef and top sirloin. These beef selections provide between 2 and 3 milligrams of iron per serving.
Ground and sirloin beef, the lowest in iron of the "top five" beef group on the USDA table, contain about 2.1 milligrams of iron in a 3-ounce serving, or about 12 percent of the recommended daily value of the mineral. The same amount of ground turkey contains 1.47 milligrams, or about 8 percent of the DV for iron.
Dark turkey meat is the best choice for iron among the poultry group of meats, notes the National Institutes of Health's Office of Dietary Supplements. A 3-ounce serving of dark turkey meat has just under 2 milligrams of iron, or 10 percent of the DV for iron. Roasted white and dark turkey meat, combined, contains an average of 1.4 milligrams of iron per 3-ounce serving. The portion represents 8 percent of the DV for iron.
Other Beef Benefits
Along with iron, beef is higher in zinc and vitamin B-12. As with iron, not getting enough vitamin B-12 in your diet can lead to vitamin deficiency anemia. Zinc helps bolster your immune system.
While beef offers more iron than turkey provides, poultry has some advantages over red meat. On average, turkey is significantly lower in cholesterol and saturated fat than beef, and generally lower in calories. Turkey is also a better source of niacin and selenium than beef. The cuts of meat you purchase determine the final cholesterol, fat and nutrient count; read labels carefully.
- USDA: Food Sources of Selected Nutrients
- Mayo Clinic; How Meat and Poultry Fit in Your Healthy Diet; June 2011
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Light and Dark Turkey Roast
- National Institutes of Health; Office of Dietary Supplements; Iron
- National Institutes of Health; Office of Dietary Supplements; Vitamin B12
- National Institutes of Health; Office of Dietary Supplements; Zinc