Both ground turkey and beef contain important vitamins and minerals. However, turkey has lower levels of saturated fat, making it a better choice for heart health. For weight loss, choose lower-calorie, fat-free turkey.

Whether you’re making meatloaf, hamburgers, a casserole, or chili, both ground turkey and beef are versatile sources of protein that can help you meet your nutritional needs.

This article reviews the main differences between ground turkey and ground beef.

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Ground turkey and ground beef containing the same percentage of fat offer similar nutritional profiles.

However, when they contain different fat percentages, there are differences worth discussing.

Below is a nutritional comparison of different types of ground turkey and beef per 3 ounces (85 grams) (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6):

93/7 Beef93/7 Turkey85/15 Beef85/15 Turkey95/5 Beef99% Fat-Free Turkey
Calories178181218219164 117
Protein25 grams23 grams24 grams21 grams25 grams25 grams
Fat8 grams9.9 grams13 grams15 grams6.4 grams2 grams
Saturated fat3.3 grams2.5 grams4.9 grams3.9 grams2.8 grams0.57 grams
Sodium73 mg77 mg76 mg72 mg72 mg50 mg
Iron2.7 mg1.3 mg2.5 mg1.7 mg2.7 mg0.67 mg
Zinc5.9 mg3.2 mg5.6 mg3 mg6 mg1.9 mg
Vitamin B122.4 mg1.6 mg2.4 mg1.4 mg2.4 mg0.57 mg

Side by side, both 93% and 85% lean ground beef have slightly more protein than turkey of the same fat percentages for about the same number of calories. Beef also has less total fat, but turkey contains less saturated fat than beef.

The leanest available ground beef comprises 95% lean meat and 5% fat, while 99% fat-free turkey is available. Unsurprisingly, fat-free turkey has over 45 fewer calories and much less fat and saturated fat than 95% lean beef per serving.

When it comes to micronutrients, all cuts of ground turkey and beef have comparable amounts of sodium. While they’re not high in sodium, they’re often seasoned with salt. Thus, they may provide more of it after cooking.

Beef has more iron, zinc, and vitamin B12, which are nutrients that promote healthy blood, immunity, and nervous system health, than turkey. On the other hand, turkey contains higher amounts of some B vitamins needed for energy metabolism (7, 8, 9, 10).


Ground turkey and beef of the same fat percentage are very similar in their calorie and protein contents. However, ground turkey is lower in saturated fat.

Ground beef and ground turkey are both nutritious. On the surface, it may not seem like one is healthier than the other when comparing the protein and calorie contents of cuts of similar fat percentages.

However, in some situations, one may outshine the other as the best option.

Weight loss

Decreasing your overall calorie intake and increasing your protein intake are two tactics often used to lose weight.

One of the possible benefits of high protein foods is that they increase feelings of fullness and may help reduce your daily calorie intake, thus promoting weight loss (11).

Ground beef and turkey are both rich in protein, but fat-free turkey has the fewest calories and most protein, compared with higher fat cuts of turkey (6).

It also has equal or greater amounts of protein than any type of ground beef (1, 3, 5).

Therefore, when trying to lose weight, fat-free ground turkey may be the best choice.

Heart health

Studies have found that eating foods high in saturated fat, such as beef, increase risk factors for heart disease (12).

The American Heart Association currently recommends limiting saturated fat intake to 5–6% of your total daily calories, which equates to about 13 grams per day on a 2,000-calorie diet (13).

If you have heart disease or are at high risk of developing it, ground turkey may be healthier for you than ground beef. Turkey has approximately one gram less of saturated fat, compared with beef of the same fat percentage (1, 2).

Additionally, choose lean cuts of either meat, such as 93% lean and 7% fat ground turkey or beef. Although, 99% fat-free turkey is the leanest option of all, with less than 1 gram of saturated fat per 3 ounces (85 grams) (6).

However, it’s important to note that more recent review studies suggest that saturated fat intake is not strongly associated with heart disease, even if it may increase some of its risk factors (13, 14).

Either way, it’s important to be aware of how fat contents differ between meats. Plus, remember that other aspects of your diet also play a role in preventing heart disease.

Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, choosing heart-healthy unsaturated fats like nuts and olive oil, and watching your sodium intake may all help promote heart health (15).

While ground beef and turkey are both low in sodium, be mindful of how much salt you add when preparing them.

In the kitchen

Beef and turkey may be nutritionally similar, but their flavor profiles are slightly different.

Most people consider the flavor of beef stronger than turkey. However, using turkey in place of beef in tacos, casseroles, or other dishes with a lot of ingredients and seasonings isn’t that noticeable.

This is especially true if you use turkey with the same fat content as the beef called for in the recipe. Once ground meats are smothered in seasonings, it can be hard to tell the difference.

Still, some cooks want the distinct taste or aroma of beef fat. Ground turkey, even if it has a similar amount of fat as beef, may still taste blander.

For dishes that rely on fat for some flavor, such as beef meatballs, sticking to ground beef and choosing a higher fat percentage is better than substituting turkey from a culinary perspective.


Neither ground beef nor turkey is distinctly healthier than the other. Still, fat-free turkey may be the best choice for weight loss and heart disease, while fattier cuts of beef may offer more in a culinary setting.

Ground beef and turkey are both nutritious meats that provide protein, fat, and a variety of vitamins and minerals.

Turkey is generally lower in saturated fat than beef. As such, it may be a better choice for heart health. Fat-free turkey is also the lowest calorie option if you’re interested in weight loss.

However, if your main goal is flavor, ground beef may outshine turkey in some dishes.