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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17 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.

  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!

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