Ground Turkey vs. Ground Beef: Who Wins the Battle?

There is an age-old battle between ground turkey and ground beef. Though ground turkey is often believed to be healthier for you, this can be deceptive. Ground turkey might not always have less calories or fat than good old-fashioned ground beef. Making up your mind on the choice between ground turkey and ground beef requires some serious research.

Ground Turkey vs. Ground Beef: Calorie

Interestingly, ground turkey might actually contain just as many calories as ground beef does; it all depends on the variety you choose. The following table details exactly the calories in various types of turkey and beef.

Ground Turkey

Calorie

Ground Beef

Calorie

Ground Turkey (Generic)

235

Ground Beef (Generic)

278

Ground Turkey 93/7 

170

Ground Beef 93/7 (Cub Foods)

170

Ground Turkey 85/15 

220

Ground Beef 85/15 (Generic)

215

Ground Turkey 99/1

120

Ground Beef 90/10 (Generic)

176

Ground Turkey (Cooked, Generic)

235

Ground Beef 80/20 (Generic)

254

Ground Turkey vs. Ground Beef: Certain Problematic Nutrients

Besides calories, people are also concerned with the amount of problematic nutrients in turkey and beef. Cholesterol is a special problem with both turkey and beef; high levels of cholesterol are known to lead to problems with the heart, so it is important to limit cholesterol in the daily diet. In addition, bad fat and excess sodium have negative effects on health.

1.   Cholesterol

Experts say that 300 milligrams is the maximum intake of cholesterol in order to maintain a healthy heart. Both ground turkey and ground beef contain cholesterol, but perhaps surprisingly, turkey has more. A 3 ½ ounce patty made of 85-percent lean turkey has 105 milligrams of cholesterol, but a ground beef patty of the same type has 95 milligrams. If you go with even leaner turkey, the cholesterol doesn’t change; but if you go with leaner beef, the cholesterol drops even further.

2.   Saturated Fat

You should only have 10 percent of your calorie intake from saturated fat; for a 2,000 calorie diet, that’s 200 calories or less – or 22 grams. In the ground turkey vs. ground beef challenge, turkey is the clear winner. A 3 ½ ounce patty made of 85-percent lean turkey has a bit more than 4 grams of fat, while a ground beef patty of the same size has just over 6 grams. Switching to 93-percent-lean turkey brings it down to 3 grams, which is about the same as what you get from 95-percent-lean ground beef.

3.   Sodium

You can have up to 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day. A 3 ½ ounce patty of ground turkey contains 80 to 90 milligrams of sodium, while the same ground beef contains 65 to 72 milligrams.

Comparison of 93/7 Ground Turkey and Ground Beef

A detailed comparison of the same type of ground turkey and ground beef may give you a deeper understanding of the two meats.

Ground Turkey

Ground Beef

Nutrients

Amount

Daily Value

Nutrients

Amount

Daily Value

Calories

176

9%

Calories

162

8%

Cholesterol

90 mg

30%

Cholesterol

68 mg

23%

Protein

22 g

44%

Protein

22.3 g

45%

Fat

9.7 g

15%

Fat

7.5 g

11%

Saturated Fat

2.5 g

13%

Saturated Fat

3.1 g

16%

Zinc

3.2 mg

21%

Zinc

5.5 mg

36%

Iron

1.5 mg

8%

Iron

2.4 mg

13%

Vitamin B6

0.4 mg

20%

Vitamin B6

0.3 mg

17%

Vitamin B12

1.5 mcg

26%

Vitamin B12

2.1 mcg

36%

Selenium

N/A

N/A

Selenium

18.4 mcg

26%

As you can see, the turkey has more calories, more fat and more cholesterol than the ground beef. This is because many turkey options include dark meat and skin which drive up the cholesterol numbers. Turkey breast has much lower levels of fat.

When choosing turkey breasts, look for those that are boneless and skinless; then grind it yourself with a food processor or meat grinder. This eliminates the dark meat and can save a great deal in fat and calories.

Ground Turkey vs. Ground Beef: Flavor and Texture

Turkey has a much milder flavor than most beef products, and might often taste bland and dry. Besides that, turkey has a much less robust texture than ground beef, making it less juicy. This isn’t an issue when using turkey for stews or chili, but when using it for patties and similar recipes, the difference can stand out and really ruin a recipe if you don’t take the proper steps.

  • First, adjust the turkey flavor with herbs and spices. When adding in the usual herbs and spices you would use for beef, add in an extra ½ that amount for turkey. For instance, one tablespoon of garlic for beef would equal 1 ½ tbsp. for turkey.
  • Second, add moisture by using ingredients that will provide moisture during cooking. These include parsley, dill, cilantro, onions, celery, bell peppers and the like.

The Bottom Line

To sum up, the question of ground turkey vs. ground beef comes down to preference – but if you are health-conscious, read the labels! You can use both in your diet if you are smart about what you’re really putting on the plate.

Ground Turkey and Ground Beef Recipes

1.   Turkey and Rice Vegetable Soup

Ingredients

  • ½ cup bacon, diced
  • 1 lb. turkey
  • 1 minced garlic clove
  • 1 chopped red onion
  • ½ cup chopped carrots (or to taste)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 chopped bell pepper
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • ¼ cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup cooked rice
  • 1 cup chopped parsley

Directions

  • Brown the bacon in a pot until crispy; transfer bacon to a paper towel. Get 1 tbsp of the rendered bacon fat.
  • On medium-high heat, brown the turkey in the fat. Stir in the garlic, carrots, onion, salt and pepper; sauté for one minute.
  • Add the stock, wine and bell pepper. Simmer the mixture for about five minutes.
  • Stir in the parsley and cooked rice. Allow it to simmer until heated through. Pour into bowls and garnish with the crispy bacon.

2.   Cheeseburger Flatbread Pizza

Ingredients

  • ½ lb. lean ground beef
  • 2 tbsp. ketchup
  • 1 tbsp. Worcestershire
  • 2 tsp. whole grain mustard
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 4 pita breads
  • ½ cup pizza sauce (jarred or homemade)
  • ½ small red onion, sliced
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in halves or fourths
  • ¾ cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup baby arugula, torn into pieces

Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
  • Over medium heat, brown the ground beef, breaking it up with a spoon as it cooks.
  • When the beef is cooked, remove from the heat and add Worcestershire, ketchup, ¼ tsp. pepper and mustard. Add more pepper if you like things spicy.
  • Place the pita breads on cooking sheets. Spread the pizza sauce evenly across the breads. Leave a border of about ½ inch.
  • Top with ground beef, onions, tomatoes and cheese.
  • Bake at 450 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes, or until breads are crisp. Top with arugula and serve.
 
 
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