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Is White Meat Healthier Than Dark Meat?

Is eating white meat really healthier than eating dark? Find out which part of the chicken or turkey you want on your plate.

When you carve a turkey, do you discard the dark meat because it’s “not good for you”? Many people believe the white meat of a chicken or turkey is more healthful than the dark – although dark meat is more rich and flavorful. When it comes to dark meat vs. white meat, which is the healthier choice?

What Makes Dark Meat Dark?

Dark meat has higher levels of myoglobin, an iron containing pigment found in muscle cells that supplies oxygen to muscle tissue during exercise. Chickens and turkeys have greater amounts of myoglobin in their legs due to a higher demand for energy – since they walk rather than fly. Thus, turkey and chicken legs have myoglobin rich dark meat, while the white meat found in the breast has an absence of myoglobin.

Dark Meat vs. White Meat: Dark Meat is Healthier than You Think

Contrary to popular thinking, eating dark meat has some advantages from a nutritional standpoint. Turkey and chicken dark meat has more B vitamins, iron, and zinc than their lighter counterparts – and dark meat is an excellent source of the antioxidant selenium. Ounce per ounce, dark meat has more nutritional value than white meat.

Eating White Meat: The Fat Issue

Yes, there is a slight calorie difference between the two meats with dark meat being higher – but this effect is small. A three ounce serving of white meat turkey with the skin still on it has 130 calories versus 160 calories for the dark meat with skin. Not a huge difference. On the other hand, dark turkey meat has almost three times the fat content of turkey white meat – but not all of it is saturated. Two-thirds of the fat in dark meat turkey is unsaturated – the heart-healthy kind. That extra heart-healthy fat helps to fill you up – so there’s less chance of snacking later.

Dark Meat vs. White Meat: Which Should You Choose?

Eat white meat, but don’t be too quick to discard the dark meat. Eating small amounts of dark meat adds additional vitamins and minerals you won’t get from eating white meat alone – and they’re both healthier choices than red meat.

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