Cholesterol in Meat and Poultry Comparison Chart

Cholesterol in Meat and Poultry

The amount of cholesterol in meat has left it relatively off the table so to speak for those who are battling higher than desirable cholesterol numbers. However, recent studies have shown that not only are many of our preconceived notions about high cholesterol foods perhaps holding less water than once thought, but also that the way in which we choose to eat some of our favorite meats can have a big role in the way in which these notorious high cholesterol foods may impact our health.

Bad cholesterol levels can lead to an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes, according to The Mayo Clinic. Just how dreadful bad cholesterol levels get is influenced by many factors including family history, genetics, lifestyle and diet as well. It is exactly for this reason that the cholesterol in meat has gotten such as bad rap, as it is thought to negatively contribute to an unhealthy rise in these blood fat levels.

And, if you reference our chart below, it is easy to see why. Regardless of what type of meat is being discussed, a rather small and unimpressive portion is nearly enough to wipe out almost half the recommended daily intake of cholesterol in people that have elevated levels to begin with. The American Heart Association advises that those without elevated cholesterol consume no more than 300 milligrams daily, while those that are at higher risk with increased lipid levels consume less than 200 milligrams.


Beef Lamb Buffalo Goat Pork Venison Chicken Duck Turkey Quail
78 mg. 106 mg. 82 mg. 64 mg. 79 mg. 158 mg. 85 mg. 70 mg. 48 mg. 24 mg.
Sv. Size Sv. Size Sv. Size Sv. Size Sv. Size Sv. Size Sv. Size Sv. Size Sv. Size Sv. Size
3.5 oz. 3.5 oz. 3.5 oz. 3 oz. 3.5 oz. 3.5 oz. 3.5 oz. 3 oz. 3 oz. 1 oz.


While the cholesterol in meat products does not seem very impressive from the above referenced chart, understand that a three ounce to a three and a half ounce portion is the serving size most often indicated. For most people, this is half to a third of a regular serving size, which is where the problem comes in. When small servings of lean meat are included in a low cholesterol diet plan, they are likely to have much less impact. However, when seven to nine ounce servings of meat are included, they can have a much more dramatic effect on cholesterol levels over time. What is more interesting to note as well is that it is nearly impossible to determine just how much the cholesterol in meat is going to impact each individual, as The Mayo Clinic explains that the effect that ingested sources have can vary greatly from person to person.

The fundamentals surrounding the cholesterol in meat becomes further skewed because of the incredibly wide variety of kinds, types and processing techniques available. One of the most basic of these comparisons has to do with various poultry. For instance, turkey lovers will find that skinless white meat is far lower in cholesterol (by as much as a third) than the juicy dark meat of the bird. And, those who prefer chicken will benefit from skinless white meat options rather than dark meat selections with the skin on, as the cholesterol in chicken is much higher in both skin on and dark meat selections. How the meat is raised and produced can also have a dramatic impact on its nutritional value down the line according to Men’s Health, which cites a study that found that grass fed ground beef contains a far superior omega 3 to omega 6 ratio that could actually lower LDL cholesterol levels.

What is often forgotten about in diets to lower cholesterol is how much of a dramatic impact that saturated fats play in cholesterol elevation. While intake is important, how much of an impact that the cholesterol in meat holds for instance, may be less of a factor than overall dietary choices. One interesting example of this theory in action is a study cited by LiveScience that observed the diets of a group of Japanese people. Per person, the Japanese consume around 328 eggs each year on average, and eggs are well known to be high in cholesterol. However, surprisingly the study found that even though these high cholesterol foods were a part of the daily diet of Japanese people, they benefited from lower than average cholesterol levels. The study concluded that the tendency for the Japanese diet to be very low in saturated fats was likely the reason behind this result.

How does this finding translate to the way the cholesterol in meat impacts blood fat levels? Well, it suggests that in terms of dietary choices, choosing to add in lean meats which provide many necessary nutrients may not be such a bad thing if saturated fats and carbohydrates are reduced alongside. And, it also suggests that the way in which meats are prepared is also very important, whereby lean steaks or pork may be substituted for poorly prepared options like fried chicken, which combines present cholesterol with cooking methods that add saturated fat.

Not all types of meat are good choices for a cholesterol diet. As evidenced by our chart above, some options like venison and lamb contain notably more cholesterol than other types of meat. However, the lean options that we have presented along with evidence that meat can be enjoyed by those with high cholesterol when other reasonable considerations to manage elevated lipids are employed, shows that the ideal diet for cholesterol management may vary from person to person, and is one part of a bigger compilation of lifestyle changes that will lead to better overall health with less emphasis on the cholesterol in meat and other foods and more focus on better all around eating and limiting saturated fats and sugars.