Red Meat, White Meat, and Seafood: Which Protein Is Best For You?

Protein is one of the most important parts of our diet and is critical to maintaining a healthful lifestyle. This is the case because there are about 9 amino acids that our body is not capable of producing on it’s own and therefore we can only receive them from an outside source. Proteins themselves are made up of a long chain of amino acids, which is why we must incorporate them into our diet in some way. Whether you are following an omnivore, vegetarian, pescatarian, paleo, or vegan lifestyle, you still must find a way to have a sufficient amount of protein. In this article we are primarily going to focus on the complete proteins that we can receive from seafood, white meat, and red meat. If you are not a fish or meat eater, you will receive most of the required protein nutrients from supplements, beans, and nuts. For those of us that do eat meat, it can get a little tricky.

Over time more and more discoveries have been made leading us to steer away from consuming red meat. Each and every person has a different tolerance to each category of food and as technology has improved and we now have many chemically altered ingredients, different allergies have also developed. Due to the wide variety of options we have when it comes to meats and the ways that they are raised, processed, and distributed, there is a lot of grey area as far as what is considered healthy or not. Ultimately, you know your body and what you can handle. That being said, we want to clarify some basic discoveries to help to guide you in the right direction when it comes to picking your protein.
Often times fish such as salmon is said to be better for you than a cut of steak from a cow. Steak from a cow as well as any other types of beef, pork, lamb, etc. are referred to as red meats. These cuts of meat tend to be higher in calories, saturated fats, and cholesterol than white meat or fish. White meat refers to poultry, veal, and rabbit. Chicken is most commonly compared to steak when claims are made about white meat being better than red meat for you. White meat animals tend to be lean yet still high in protein. Fish is similar to white meat in that it is much lower in fat than red meat and still is a significant source of protein. In fact, fish contain omega-3 fatty acids which are really good for heart and muscle health which often times makes for your best option. Let’s take a closer look at red meats, white meats, and fish and gather a better understanding of what all of the hype is about.

Red Meat

Let’s face it, for some of us there is no stopping that overwhelming craving for a nice hamburger or steak from time to time. Ultimately, if your body is receptive to it then it should not cause much harm. Red meats should most definitely be eaten with caution and moderation. One thing to keep in mind though is the type of meat you are consuming. The first question should be whether the meat is grain fed or grass-fed. Grass-fed meats are easier on our bodies. Not only are grass-fed cuts of meat lower in fat but they also contain more omega-3’s which help to burn fat and create muscle. Once differentiating between the two the fat content will be based upon what kind of cut it is. The leanest red meat cut would be the eye round roast and steak. The lower the fat content and cholesterol, the leaner the cut of meat. Red meat is a great source of iron so if you are anemic or iron deficient in any way, consuming red meats more often can be very beneficial. Your best bet when choosing red meats, as your protein rich food is to remember that it does contain certain relatively risky amounts of cholesterol and saturated fats.

White Meat

White meat comes in as a little less hazardous than red meats. The leanest cuts of white meat would include both skinless turkey, or chicken. Most of the fats are found in the skin so be sure to remove that when consuming white meat. While white meat is lower in fat content, it is not as nutrient rich as red meat which is one point that has us skeptical as to why it is arguably “better for you” than red meats.


Lastly, fish is the least of your concerns when it comes to these three options and taking fats into consideration. However, this does not mean that you should commit to a pescatarian lifestyle right off the bat, as actress Olivia Wilde has done. Fish falls short in that it contains toxins, mercury in particular. A general rule of thumb is that the larger the fish, the more mercury contains. The smaller fish such as sardines at the bottom of the food chain tend to contain lower amounts of this harmful toxin. Seafood has a wide variety of options so there is bound to be one that you enjoy. Salmon is commonly recognized as a super food for it’s large amounts of omega-3’s that are great for cognitive function and many other benefits. Raw or cooked this source of protein may be your favorite when trying to lose body fat!

All in all, no matter how much better one category seems over the other, they all fall short in way or another. We hope that by educating you a little further on the claims about each protein and their risks and benefits, you will be able to decipher which works best in your personal diet. Often times all you have to do is try out each food and your body will call the shots. Get to know your digestive system and what it can handle as well as being aware of what you are putting into it when eating red meat, white meat, or seafood. Once you have an understanding of the nutrients (or lack of for that matter) that you are consuming, you should be well on your way to having the proper nutrients and energy you need to feel your very best.

  1. “Eat More Chicken, Fish and Beans.” Eat More Chicken, Fish and Beans. 2 Dec. 2014. Web.
  2. “Is Beef, Chicken, Or Fish Best For Building Muscle? – BuiltLean.” BuiltLean. 19 Feb. 2016. Web.
  3. “Is Eating Red Meat Bad for Your Health?” WebMD. WebMD. Web.
  4. “White Meat vs. Red Meat / Nutrition / Healthy Eating.” White Meat vs. Red Meat / Nutrition / Healthy Eating. Web.
  • Rachel Fiske started Madrona Wellness Holistic Nutrition in 2010, after discovering her passion for healing and preventing illness through a real, whole foods diet and lifestyle. This passion now encompasses working with her clients to find the underlying cause of symptoms, and achieving optimal health in the short and long term.Rachel specializes in the following conditions: digestive issues, food allergies/sensitivities, blood sugar regulation, detox, fatigue, insomnia, hormonal imbalances, depression, stress, weight loss, and more. She wants her clients to understand the importance of starting with whole foods, and then proceeding to herbs and supplementation when necessary.

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