The amount of cholesterol and saturated fat in chicken and beef may depend on the type of cut and the preparation.

High saturated fat intake can increase levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol in the blood. High LDL levels can increase the risk of serious health issues, such as heart disease and stroke.

Animal products, such as meat and poultry, contain saturated fats. This article discusses the saturated fat in chicken and beef and its potential effects on a person’s cholesterol levels.

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Whether chicken or beef is better for lowering cholesterol may depend on the cut. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), levels of saturated fat in meat can differ depending on the cut and preparation.

For beef, choosing lean cuts with minimal visible fat can help reduce saturated fat intake. Lean cuts of beef include:

  • sirloin
  • loin
  • round
  • chuck

Other options for beef with lower saturated fat content include “choice” or “select” grades, as opposed to “prime,” and choosing lean or extra lean ground beef.

For chicken, it is best to choose the white meat more often and remove the skin before cooking or eating.

A small-scale 2019 study suggests there may not be significant differences between chicken and red meat on cholesterol.

Researchers found that diets with a high intake of red or white meat resulted in higher levels of LDL cholesterol compared to diets with non-meat protein sources. Both white and red meat had similar effects on cholesterol.

The following table compares the cholesterol in different cuts of chicken and beef per 100 grams (g):

Chicken cutsBeef cuts
chicken wings, skinless: 85 milligrams (mg)top sirloin steak: 92 mg
chicken breast, skinless: 85 mgrib steak: 85 mg
chicken thighs, skinless: 133 mgbrisket: 62 mg
chicken drumstick, skin on: 92 mgflank steak, fat trimmed: 79 mg
round steak, fat trimmed: 77 mg
chuck eye steak, fat trimmed: 87 mg

The AHA recommends the following tips for healthier ways of preparing meat to reduce saturated fat:

  • Trimming off any visible fat from the meat before cooking.
  • Choosing broiling instead of frying in a pan, and use broiling to brown the meat.
  • Using a rack to drain the fat when broiling, roasting, or baking meat.
  • Using wine, fruit juices, or plant-based oil marinades to moisten the meat rather than basting it with drippings.
  • Cooking any liquid-based meat dishes, such as stews, a day ahead of time and refrigerate. Then, removing the top layer of hardened fat.
  • Removing the skin from any poultry before cooking or eating, and choosing the white meat more often.

The National Council on Aging recommends people limit foods high in saturated fat and cholesterol, such as steak. This means eating small portion sizes no bigger than 3 ounces (oz), and only once a week.

It is best to limit or avoid processed meats, as these can be high in saturated fats, as well as calories and sodium. Examples of processed meats include:

  • salami
  • hot dogs
  • sausage
  • bologna

The AHA recommends limiting saturated fat intake to no more than 13 g per day. If people eat around 2,000 calories a day, a maximum of 120 of those should be from saturated fat.

Read more about daily saturated fat intake.

Plant-based protein may be a better option for lowering cholesterol and saturated fat intake than chicken or beef. Plant-based protein sources include:

People can also opt for fish instead of chicken or beef. Fish is low in saturated fat, and oily fish, such as salmon, herring, or trout, is high in omega-3 fatty acids. Shellfish, such as crab, shrimp, and lobster, are also low in saturated fat.

People can eat at least 8 oz of fish each week. Avoid frying, and instead, try broiling, grilling, baking, or boiling.

Learn about 15 foods that help lower cholesterol.

This section answers common questions about foods and cholesterol.

What is the best meat to eat to lower cholesterol?

The best meat to help reduce cholesterol is lean cuts of meat with little to no visible fat.

Poultry, such as chicken or turkey, without the skin, is also leaner than poultry with the skin on and may contain less fat than duck or goose.

Broiling rather than frying, removing excess fat in the cooking process, and using vegetable oils rather than animal-based fats can also help.

What are the 3 best foods for lowering cholesterol?

Three of the top foods for lowering cholesterol are:

Read about natural ways to lower cholesterol.

The amount of cholesterol and saturated fat in chicken and beef can depend on the type of cut and how people prepare the food.

To help lower cholesterol levels, people can choose lean cuts of meat, remove excess fat, and try broiling instead of frying. People may also wish to use meat alternatives, such as plant-based proteins or fish.