Is Chicken Less Inflammatory Than Beef?

You’ll find lots of articles in the popular press about the value of anti-inflammatory diets. But many of them perpetuate certain myths about food and inflammation–in particular, that red meat is inflammatory and chicken is anti-inflammatory. I think that’s because many people simply assume that all the foods that we’re used to thinking of as “healthy” are anti-inflammatory and foods that we have been trained to view as “unhealthy” are inflammatory. In reality, the research on foods and inflammation challenges some of these assumptions.

A boneless, skinless chicken breast–that Holy Grail of diet food–is low in total fat and saturated fat, it’s true. But that’s not the whole story. Chicken is also relatively high in omega-6 fats, including arachidonic acid, a fatty acid that directly feeds cellular production of inflammatory chemicals. Beef tenderloin, on the other hand, is slightly higher in fat than a chicken breast but contains only half as much arachidonic acid and higher levels of anti-inflammatory nutrients such as monounsaturated fat, selenium, and zinc. When you look at all the facts, I don’t know how you could conclude that beef (per se) belongs on the inflammatory list and chicken on the anti-inflammatory one!

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27 thoughts on “Is Chicken Less Inflammatory Than Beef?

  1. I thought you were done blogging for good! I’m extremely happy to see that you will be continuing to tackle these subjects with a level head on your shoulders. Will definitely be picking up a copy of your book in a couple weeks!

  2. I came to
    The conclusion that chicken is inflammatory because of the way I feel the day after I hve it, achey… beef does not have the same effect

    1. I am somewhat relieved to read that. I am suffering with osteoarthritis and I have auto immune Hashimotos. I try to eat a fairly healthy diet and include chicken breast every few days but always feel worse some days. Today I could barely get out of bed and so puzzled still and I thought surely it cannot be the chicken i ate last night and now I believe it was.

      1. Me too! 2-3 days after I eliminated eggs & chicken, had previously eliminated red meat, I can actually get out of bed flexible again. I’ve significantly cut back refined sugars & sweets also. Replaced teas for coffee & increased my hydration. Did a $30 hair follicle test to see my food allergens as well
        We are all individually created, maybe one doesn’t want to eliminate foods, I choose to try it for myself and see, the results were fast, almost instant!!
        I suggest elimination of animal protein & try to eliminate refined sugars (good luck with that) then slowly add back in small amounts, to see how much (if any) YOUR individual body can tolerate!

    2. Grass fed Chicken and Turkey are for me. My SLE is between Mild-Massive pain stricken— I can do Poultry, Seafood(Scales/Shells) well. I love Potatoes and Pasta— however, too much Potatoes makes me nauseous/puke and I eat Whole Grains pasta and rice. I can eat Beef and Pork, but I’ll suffer days of miserable: migraines, hiccups, heartburns, ruined tastebuds and vision issues from the migraines— if I was to eat it on the regular.

      1. *I’ve found Plantbased, Goats and Sheeps Dairy to be easier on my stomach. Beef and Dairy are like laxatives— warm Apples/Apple Juice as well.

    3. I’ve been dealing with extreme inflammation and have been trying my best to see what I’m consuming might be contributing. So many resources have said chicken has no relation. I’ve had beef protein for the last four days and have been feeling consistently better last night I had three bites of chicken in a curry and my stomach started cramping and this morning I am puffy and aching and swollen. I’m glad to know I’m not the only one my husband does not believe me when I’m telling him. But he’s also the one that had to get me tea and take care of me afterwards…

  3. Ralizing that moderation iskey, if you had to choose, which would eliminate from (or severly reduce in) the diet, from an inflammatory perspective — chicken, beef, pork, dairy …..?

    There is just too much confusing info out there. Sometimes I feel like I should just be eating lettuce and drinking water!

    Thank you,

    1. No need to eliminate anything from the diet. But if managing inflammation is your goal, focus on limiting added sugars, refined flour, and fried foods. Moderate your intake of saturated fats (from tropical oils and higher fat meat and dairy) and omega-6 (from vegetable oils). Meanwhile, emphasize vegetables, fish, olive oil, and anti-inflammatory spices like ginger, turmeric, garlic, and chili.

        1. There’s nothing inherently inflammatory about processing. It would depend on how the specific processing affected the nutritional composition of the food.

  4. ok but if you had to pick between them, is the higher saturated fat and higher AGEs in beef MORE inflammatory than the omega-6s in chicken?

  5. I think something to consider with ALL of this is wherer did you get your chicken/beef from… Local grass fed free roaming chickens/cows that have healthy diets or antibiotic ridden mass produced ones….

  6. This was super helpful – thank you! I’ve suddenly been experiencing inflammation and was getting suspicious about chicken. I was a healthy vegetarian for over 20 years but reintroduced chicken. After almost 6 months now of having it ‘almost’ nightly (mainly over a salad)… I’m having my first run with extreme inflammation. Funny that some still mentioned here that ‘organic’ chicken will make it all ok… considering that you clearly pointed out “Chicken is also relatively high in omega-6 fats, including arachidonic acid, a fatty acid that directly feeds cellular production of inflammatory chemicals.” But it’s human nature to often overlook an inconvenient truth. I’ve started cutting out sugar, salt, and a number of other no-nos along with introducing only natural anti-inflammatory foods and beverages and I’m already feeling the difference after 2 days. Thank you again for such an important insight!

  7. Very educative information. Through experience I’ve learned to avoid eating chicken and my joint pains are gone

  8. U all are most certainly right. I ate chicken yesterday and the day before. I felt tingling and numbness in my hand this morning and could not believe it until I read this on your website. Thanks so much for this important info.

  9. Reading this validated my suspicion that chicken triggers pain on my knees I think I have osteoarthritis and was wondering why at times I get sudden attack of knee pains so I watched everything I eat.
    Sugar doesn’t affect me that much, pork lean meat is okay while Msg and preservatives are triggers so a big No!!

  10. Today has been my worst day in 3 months I was diagnosed with lupus approximately 3 months ago I believe I probably have myositis waiting on tests to be done. The pain in my shoulder is intense. I do eat a lot of chicken I’m just not sure what to eat anymore I hadn’t noticed it chicken might have caused it but the last 2 days that’s what I’ve had I’ve got a hamburger patty made in there and I’m afraid to even go look at it but I’m hungry

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