Chicken and beef are both staples of the human diet, and they can be prepared and seasoned in thousands of different ways.

Unfortunately, these common animal proteins are also sources of the type of fat that can elevate your risk for high cholesterol, heart disease, and cardiovascular problems.

LDL cholesterol contributes to plaque that can clog and narrow your arteries, which can break off as clots. This narrowing and these clots can lead to a heart attack or stroke.

Since your body produces all of the LDL cholesterol it needs, eating foods that are high in saturated fats, like fatty meats, can increase the amount of LDL cholesterol that your body makes.

The "Other" White Meat? Nope.
Pork, too, is a cholesterol culprit. Don’t let the old ad campaign fool you: Pork isn’t “the other white meat.” It’s a red meat and higher in saturated fat than real white meats, such as chicken.

But that in no way means fried chicken with the skin on is a better choice than a grilled sirloin steak — at least if you’re talking about heart health.

Comparing Cuts

Everyone should keep their daily cholesterol intake under 300 mg, but people at risk for heart disease should keep it under 200 mg. However, in recent years the focus has shifted away from how much cholesterol a food contains and shifted to focusing on how much saturated fat that food has. As stated above, the more saturated fat you eat, the more LDL cholesterol your body makes, and this is considered more important to cholesterol management than the actual cholesterol content of foods.

While people assume that chicken is lower in cholesterol than beef, it doesn’t mean it’s necessarily healthier. Chicken and cows store fat differently, and in different parts of their bodies. For instance, chickens store fat primarily under the skin, and chicken thighs are higher in fat and cholesterol than breast meat.

See the cholesterol and saturated fat content of every 3.5-ounce cut of these meats:

chicken legChicken BreastSirloin Steak

Beef RibsBrisketBeef Flank

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that people watching their cholesterol lean towards lean proteins, like skinless poultry, tofu, fish, or beans. Fish like salmon, trout, and herring tend to be higher in omega-3 fatty acids. Grass-fed beef is also higher in omega-3 fatty acids, as compared to factory-farmed beef.

The AHA recommends limiting even lean cuts of beef or skinless chicken to less than 6 ounces a day, which is about the size of two decks of cards.

Cooking with Less Cholesterol

Even if you choose lean meats, you can easily add extra cholesterol to them during the cooking process. Deep-frying in lard? Wrapping it in bacon? That’ll undo what you’re trying to achieve.

Here are some ways that heart health experts at the AHA say you can reduce excess cholesterol in your diet.


Choose lean cuts of beef, like round, chuck, sirloin, or loin. When you’re eating chicken, eat the white meat only. Avoid processed meats like salami, hot dogs, or sausages. The most heart-healthy cuts of meat are usually labeled “choice” or “select.” Avoid labels like “prime.”


Before you even start to cook it, trim the fat off of your beef. Continue to skim off the fat if you’re making a stew or soup. Avoid frying your food; opt to grill it or broil it instead, and keep the meat moist while cooking it, with wine, fruit juice, or a low-calorie marinade.The kind of oil you use also makes an impact on your cholesterol intake. Butter, lard, and shortening should go out the window because they are high in cholesterol or saturated fat.

Read More: Safflower Oil, a Healthy Cooking Oil »

Oils based from vegetables, including canola, safflower, sunflower, soybean, or olive oil are significantly more heart-healthy.

Also make sure to include plenty of vegetables, as fiber can help reduce cholesterol absorption after a meal.