8 Types of Meat and Their Benefits (and Which is the Healthiest?)

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Picture Showing Different Cuts and Types of MeatThere are many different types of meat, and all have been part of the human diet for millennia.

Generally speaking, meat is good for you and provides a huge range of essential nutrients.

This article reviews the nutritional profile, health benefits and concerns of eight common varieties of meat.

What kind of meat is the healthiest?

1. Pork

Picture of Pork - Most Popular Types of Meat

Pork is one of the most popular forms of meat in the world.

Despite some confusion on the issue, pork is classed as red meat. This is because it contains a large amount of myoglobin, a protein responsible for the red color of meat.

In fact, there are so many different cuts of pork, and a variety of meat products use it such as;

  • Bacon
  • Ham
  • Hot dogs
  • Jamon
  • Prosciutto
  • Salami
  • Sausages
  • Spam

Nutrition Facts

Here is the typical nutritional profile for ground pork meat per 100g (1).

(Note: Different cuts of meat will vary in their nutrient content, but this provides a general idea of each meat, and the cuts are as close a match as possible.)

Nutrient  Amount 
Calories 263 Kcals
Carbohydrate 0 g
Protein 16.9 g
Fat 21 g
   – Saturated 7.9 g
   – Monounsaturated 9.4 g
   – Polyunsaturated 1.9 g
        – Omega-3 70 mg
        – Omega-6 1670 mg
Omega 6 to 3 Ratio 23.8 : 1
Vitamin A 0
Vitamin C 1% RDA
Vitamin D
Vitamin E
Vitamin K
Thiamin 49% RDA
Riboflavin 14% RDA
Niacin 22% RDA
Vitamin B6 19% RDA
Folate 1% RDA
Vitamin B12 12% RDA
Pantothenic Acid 7% RDA
Calcium 1% RDA
Iron 5% RDA
Magnesium 5% RDA
Phosphorus 18% RDA
Potassium 8% RDA
Sodium 2% RDA
Zinc 15% RDA
Copper 2% RDA
Manganese 1% RDA
Selenium 35% RDA

Benefits

  • Pork is a particularly significant source of thiamin (vitamin B1). The content of this important vitamin is much higher than in other meat and plays an essential role in glucose metabolism and protecting cardiac health (2, 3).
  • Much cheaper than most other meats.
  • Pork contains decent amounts of selenium and zinc, which are responsible for boosting the immune system, defending against oxidative stress, and optimal hormone production (4, 5).

Concerns

  • Compared to other meats, pork contains extremely high levels of omega-6 fatty acids. Despite being essential for health, an unbalanced ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 can be pro-inflammatory in nature (6).
  • Pork is more susceptible to bacterial contamination and food-borne illnesses than other meat; ensuring pork is thoroughly cooked is essential (7, 8).

Extras

For some easy and delicious pork recipes, see here.

2. Beef

Picture of Beef - Common Types of Meat

When most people think of red meat, they probably imagine beef.

There are many different beef products and cuts of beef, ranging from hamburgers to rib eye steaks.

While mainstream health advice often dictates selecting the leanest cuts of red meat, fatty cuts of beef are perfectly healthy.

Nutrition Facts

Here are the nutrient values for ground beef meat per 100g (9).

Nutrient  Amount 
Calories 254 Kcals
Carbohydrate 0 g
Protein 17.2 g
Fat 20 g
   – Saturated 7.7 g
   – Monounsaturated 8.8 g
   – Polyunsaturated 0.5 g
        – Omega-3 48 mg
        – Omega-6 435 mg
Omega 6 to 3 Ratio 9 : 1
Vitamin A 0% RDA
Vitamin C 0% RDA
Vitamin D
Vitamin E 2%
Vitamin K 2%
Thiamin 3% RDA
Riboflavin 9% RDA
Niacin 21% RDA
Vitamin B6 16% RDA
Folate 2% RDA
Vitamin B12 36% RDA
Pantothenic Acid 5% RDA
Calcium 2% RDA
Iron 11% RDA
Magnesium 4% RDA
Phosphorus 16% RDA
Potassium 8% RDA
Sodium 3% RDA
Zinc 28% RDA
Copper 3% RDA
Manganese 1% RDA
Selenium 21% RDA

Benefits

  • Despite fearmongering over the fat content of beef, the main fatty acid in beef is none other than oleic acid. If you haven’t heard of it before, then it’s the main fat in olive oil (and known as “heart healthy”) (10, 11).
  • Beef contains a wide variety of beneficial compounds that include creatine, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), and glutathione (12, 13, 14).

Concerns

  • Excessive beef consumption can increase circulating iron to unhealthy levels in some individuals. These high levels can increase the risk of various cancers and cardiovascular disease. This risk is especially the case in those with a genetic mutation called hemochromatosis, which causes over-absorption of heme iron (15, 16).
  • Overcooking beef (burning) can lead to the formation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and heterocyclic amines (HCAs). Both of these compounds are carcinogens, but we can minimize their risks by sensibly cooking meat (17, 18).

3. Lamb and Mutton

Picture of Lamb Chops Ready For Cooking

Both lamb and mutton are very similar types of meat, with one fundamental difference;

  • Lamb is from a sheep less than one-year-old
  • Mutton is the meat of an adult sheep

Just like beef and pork, there are a variety of popular lamb cuts — perhaps lamb chops are the most popular.

Nutrition Facts

Per 100g, the nutritional profile of ground lamb meat looks something like this (19);

Nutrient  Amount 
Calories 282 Kcals
Carbohydrate 0 g
Protein 16.6 g
Fat 23.4 g
   – Saturated 10.2 g
   – Monounsaturated 9.6 g
   – Polyunsaturated 1.9 g
        – Omega-3 420 mg
        – Omega-6 1360 mg
Omega 6 to 3 Ratio 3.2 : 1
Vitamin A 0% RDA
Vitamin C 0% RDA
Vitamin D
Vitamin E 1% RDA
Vitamin K 4% RDA
Thiamin 7% RDA
Riboflavin 12% RDA
Niacin 30% RDA
Vitamin B6 6% RDA
Folate 5% RDA
Vitamin B12 39% RDA
Pantothenic Acid 7% RDA
Calcium 2% RDA
Iron 9% RDA
Magnesium 5% RDA
Phosphorus 16% RDA
Potassium 6% RDA
Sodium 2% RDA
Zinc 23% RDA
Copper 5% RDA
Manganese 1% RDA
Selenium 27% RDA

Benefits

Generally speaking, both lamb and mutton is very healthy.

  • Because sheep graze on pasture all day, the omega 6 to 3 ratio is very low—and optimal—compared to other meats (20).
  • Lamb contains a broad range of health-protective nutrients, especially zinc, selenium and B vitamins.

Concerns

  • Lamb is very expensive in comparison to different kinds of meat.

4. Chicken

Picture of Chicken - a Popular Type of Meat

Alongside beef and pork, chicken is one of the ‘big three’ popularity-wise.

However, chicken is a different classification of meat and comes under the poultry category.

People commonly refer to as ‘white meat’ rather than red.

As one of the most popular foods in the world, there are all sorts of chicken-based foods. These range from fried and roasted chicken to chicken soup and even chicken popcorn.

For health purposes, it is better to avoid the more processed of these options.

Nutrition Facts

Ground chicken meat provides the following nutrients per 100g (21);

Nutrient  Amount 
Calories 143 Kcals
Carbohydrate 0 g
Protein 17.4 g
Fat 8.1 g
   – Saturated 2.3 g
   – Monounsaturated 3.6 g
   – Polyunsaturated 1.5 g
        – Omega-3 96 mg
        – Omega-6 1327 mg
Omega 6 to 3 Ratio 13.8 : 1
Vitamin A 0% RDA
Vitamin C 0% RDA
Vitamin D
Vitamin E 1% RDA
Vitamin K 1% RDA
Thiamin 7% RDA
Riboflavin 14% RDA
Niacin 22% RDA
Vitamin B6 19% RDA
Folate 1% RDA
Vitamin B12 14% RDA
Pantothenic Acid 11% RDA
Calcium 1% RDA
Iron 5% RDA
Magnesium 5% RDA
Phosphorus 18% RDA
Potassium 15% RDA
Sodium 3% RDA
Zinc 10% RDA
Copper 3% RDA
Manganese 1% RDA
Selenium 15% RDA

Benefits

  • Chicken is very cheap and easily affordable.
  • For those who are trying to consume less fat/calories, chicken offers a smaller amount than other meats but with the same protein content.
  • Chicken stock/broth offers a significant source of gelatin. As chicken bones have a lower density than other meats, the collagen and gelatin are far easier to extract.
  • Chicken provides a decent source of necessary vitamins and minerals, particularly selenium, potassium, phosphorus and B vitamins.

Concerns

  • Due to commercial chicken feed—and similar to pork—chicken contains an excessive amount of omega-6. Whether this is problematic or not likely depends on the overall diet.
  • Bacterial contamination with strains such as E. coli and salmonella is too common in chicken. As a result, strict hygiene procedures are necessary when handling the raw meat (22, 23).

5. Turkey

Picture of Roast Turkey - a Christmas Favorite

Turkey is another type of white meat, probably best known for its appearance at the Christmas table!

It has both a deeper yet drier taste than chicken and is a less prevalent form of poultry.

As mentioned above, the most popular kind is probably roast turkey, but you can find a variety of processed and unprocessed turkey products.

Nutrition Facts

Turkey’s nutritional composition is very similar to chicken and looks like this (24);

Nutrient  Amount 
Calories 149 Kcals
Carbohydrate 0 g
Protein 17.5 g
Fat 8.3 g
   – Saturated 2.3 g
   – Monounsaturated 3.1 g
   – Polyunsaturated 2.0 g
        – Omega-3 110 mg
        – Omega-6 1800 mg
Omega 6 to 3 Ratio 16.3 : 1
Vitamin A 0% RDA
Vitamin C 0% RDA
Vitamin D
Vitamin E 2% RDA
Vitamin K 1% RDA
Thiamin 4% RDA
Riboflavin 8% RDA
Niacin 17% RDA
Vitamin B6 18% RDA
Folate 2% RDA
Vitamin B12 6% RDA
Pantothenic Acid 7% RDA
Calcium 1% RDA
Iron 7% RDA
Magnesium 5% RDA
Phosphorus 16% RDA
Potassium 7% RDA
Sodium 4% RDA
Zinc 13% RDA
Copper 4% RDA
Manganese 1% RDA
Selenium 27% RDA

Benefits

  • Turkey is among the most protein-dense of all meats, offering 17.5 grams of protein in only 149 calories.
  • Similar to chicken, turkey also provides a significant amount of B vitamins, potassium, selenium and phosphorus.
  • Turkey provides an inexpensive source of high-quality protein.

Concerns

  • Similar to other forms of poultry, turkey is more likely to harbor foodborne bacteria than red meat (25).

6. Venison

Picture of Venison Meat - a Meat Growing in Popularity.

Venison refers to the flesh of a deer, and it is a traditionally rarer type of meat.

In recent years, sales of venison have been soaring as a result of its healthy reputation among consumers.

But is that reputation justified?

Nutrition Facts

Despite it being a red meat, venison is very lean. In terms of nutrition, it looks more like white meat.

Here are the nutritional details per 100g of ground venison (26);

Nutrient  Amount 
Calories 157 Kcals
Carbohydrate 0 g
Protein 21.8 g
Fat 7.1 g
   – Saturated 3.4 g
   – Monounsaturated 1.3 g
   – Polyunsaturated 0.4 g
        – Omega-3 104 mg
        – Omega-6 225 mg
Omega 6 to 3 Ratio 2 : 1
Vitamin A 0% RDA
Vitamin C 0% RDA
Vitamin D
Vitamin E 2% RDA
Vitamin K 1% RDA
Thiamin 36% RDA
Riboflavin 17% RDA
Niacin 28% RDA
Vitamin B6 23% RDA
Folate 1% RDA
Vitamin B12 31% RDA
Pantothenic Acid 7% RDA
Calcium 1% RDA
Iron 16% RDA
Magnesium 5% RDA
Phosphorus 20% RDA
Potassium 9% RDA
Sodium 3% RDA
Zinc 28% RDA
Copper 7% RDA
Manganese 1% RDA
Selenium 14% RDA

Benefits

  • As deer live and feed in the wild, venison is one of the healthiest and most natural varieties of meat. The excellent omega 6 to 3 ratio (2:1) shows the benefits of an animal living on a natural diet.
  • Venison has more vitamins and minerals than beef despite having significantly fewer calories. In short, venison is possibly the most nutrient-dense meat out there.

Concerns

  • While there are no major health concerns, one obstacle could be the price; venison costs a lot. Expect to pay around $30 for one pound of venison steak.

7. Duck

Picture of a Cooked Duck Dish

Duck is one of the less popular types of meat.

However, it has immense popularity in Chinese populations, where ‘Peking duck’ is a showpiece dish.

Like chicken and turkey, we can consider duck as a kind of white meat.

Nutrition Facts

The typical duck meat provides the following nutrients (27);

Nutrient  Amount 
Calories 132 Kcals
Carbohydrate 0 g
Protein 18.3 g
Fat 5.9 g
   – Saturated 2.3 g
   – Monounsaturated 1.5 g
   – Polyunsaturated 0.7 g
        – Omega-3 80 mg
        – Omega-6 670 mg
Omega 6 to 3 Ratio 8.4 : 1
Vitamin A 2%
Vitamin C 10% RDA
Vitamin D
Vitamin E 4%
Vitamin K 3%
Thiamin 24% RDA
Riboflavin 0.5% RDA
Niacin 5.3% RDA
Vitamin B6 17% RDA
Folate 6% RDA
Vitamin B12 7% RDA
Pantothenic Acid 16% RDA
Calcium 1% RDA
Iron 13% RDA
Magnesium 5% RDA
Phosphorus 20% RDA
Potassium 8% RDA
Sodium 3% RDA
Zinc 13% RDA
Copper 13% RDA
Manganese 1% RDA
Selenium 20% RDA

Benefits

  • Duck provides a significant amount of selenium, phosphorus, and B vitamins. These vitamins are all important for optimal energy production and a well-functioning immune system (28, 29).

Concerns

  • Making duck at home—or having a roast duck—is perfectly healthy. However, be aware that in Chinese cuisine, duck often comes in sauces made from a variety of additives including sugars, oils, and monosodium glutamate (MSG).

8. Wild Boar

Picture of Wild Boar Meat.

Wild boar is a non-domesticated pig that lives in the wild.

The meat of this animal is also known as ‘wild boar.’

Generally speaking, wild boar contains a higher proportion of protein and a smaller amount of fat than regular pork.

Nutrition Facts

Wild boar has very different nutritional values to domestic pork, and per 100g it looks like this (30);

Nutrient  Amount 
Calories 160 Kcals
Carbohydrate 0 g
Protein 28.3 g
Fat 4.4 g
   – Saturated 1.3 g
   – Monounsaturated 1.7 g
   – Polyunsaturated 0.6 g
        – Omega-3 30 mg
        – Omega-6 500 mg
Omega 6 to 3 Ratio 16.7 : 1
Vitamin A 0% RDA
Vitamin C 0% RDA
Vitamin D
Vitamin E
Vitamin K 2% RDA
Thiamin 21% RDA
Riboflavin 8% RDA
Niacin 21% RDA
Vitamin B6 21% RDA
Folate 1% RDA
Vitamin B12 12% RDA
Pantothenic Acid 0% RDA
Calcium 2% RDA
Iron 6% RDA
Magnesium 7% RDA
Phosphorus 13% RDA
Potassium 11% RDA
Sodium 3% RDA
Zinc 20% RDA
Copper 3% RDA
Manganese 0% RDA
Selenium 19% RDA

Benefits

  • As it lives and feeds in its natural environment, wild boar contains a higher proportion of omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Wild boar contains an array of health-protective nutrients, in particularly B vitamins, selenium, and zinc.

Concerns

  • Despite containing a higher amount of omega-3, the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio is still very high.
  • Trichinella spiralis, a parasite sometimes found in pigs, occasionally contaminates wild boar meat. There have been several outbreaks of this in recent years, but it is very rare (31, 32, 33).

Omega-6 to Omega-3 Ratio By Variety of Meat

One of the biggest trends over the past decade is the focus on naturally raised, grass-fed beef and pastured animal products.

Perhaps the main reason why relates to the omega 6 to 3 ratio of the meat.

In the past, the traditional human diet was believed to be close to a ratio of 1:1 omega-6 to omega-3. However, modern-day estimates place this ratio up to a high of 25:1, which is pro-inflammatory (34).

For easy reference, here are the omega-6 to 3 ratios for all the meats in this article;

Type of Meat Omega-6 to Omega-3 Ratio
Beef 9 : 1
Chicken 13.8 : 1
Duck 8.4 : 1
Lamb and Mutton 3.2 : 1
Pork 23.8 : 1
Turkey 16.3 : 1
Venison 2 : 1
Wild Boar 16.7 : 1

Please note that these are for conventional meats and you can expect a better ratio for grass-fed meat.

The amount will also vary depending on what producers feed the animals.

Which Type of Meat is Healthiest?

Picture of a Girl Holding Some Meat in the Air

To be honest, there is no single meat that is the outright healthiest.

There are a variety of factors to consider which include the nutrient profile, taste, and price.

If the meat is prohibitively expensive, or you don’t like the taste, then you won’t be able to eat it well.

So, the first thing to remember is that any unprocessed meat is a whole lot better than industrially processed food.

However, although I enjoy fatty chicken and pork from time to time, I try to avoid eating too much of them due to the large amounts of omega-6 they contain.

If we look purely at the nutrient profile, then venison has a great case for being the healthiest meat.

The more realistic option for the majority of people would be beef.

2 COMMENTS

  1. What an outstanding article! I had no idea that pork had such an astronomical Omega 6: 3 ratio. Too bad it’s my favorite meat. I guess I’ll have to start eating more lamb and beef. Thank you so much for this valuable information.

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