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Dark Meat vs. White Meat Chicken: Nutrition & Health Benefits

Chicken is the number one protein consumed in the U.S. But when it comes to dark meat versus white meat chicken, should you choose one over the other?

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According to the National Chicken Council, Americans consume more chicken than anyone else in the world. In fact, it is the number one protein consumed in the U.S.

While dark meat sizzles ahead of grilling season, chicken breast still rules the supermarket roost. But at a nutritional standpoint, should white meat or dark meat chicken be flocked to more?

Discover these details of white meat vs dark meat chicken here!

Dark Meat vs. White Meat Chicken

First off, the color of meat is dictated by the muscle fibers in the animal. So, the key difference between white meat and dark meat chicken lies in the use of the dominant muscles.

What part of the chicken is dark meat?

Dark meats contain myoglobin, a protein responsible for shipping oxygen to the muscle cells. Frequently used muscles naturally inherit a darker color related to their active use.

And when thinking about chickens walking around, chicken thighs and drumsticks are considered dark meats.

What part of the chicken is white meat?

White or light meats are not rich in myoglobin nor actively used. This lack of movement gifts white meat their lighter color.

Chicken wings and breasts are considered white meats.

Dark Meat vs. White Meat Chicken Nutrition

The chart below verifies the nutritional differences between white meat and dark meat chicken. It also shines a light on the variances between skin-on and skinless varieties.

*Values obtained from the National Chicken Council and based on 3.5-ounce serving

General takeaway messages include:

• The whiter the meat, the greater the protein content.

• The darker the meat, the greater the fat and cholesterol content.

• Skinless types reduce both calories and grams of fat.

• Despite the larger fat content of "skin-on" types, they also offer monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. These are known as "healthy fats" that offer anti-inflammatory benefits and support heart health.

• Dark meats tend to offer more iron, zinc, riboflavin, niacin, thiamin, vitamins B6 and B12 compared to white meat.

Which Is Healthier: White Meat Chicken vs Dark Meat Chicken

When it truly comes down to the meaty truth, white and dark meats are valuable in a well-balanced diet. Along with supplying adequate protein, both meat types offer rich in these vitamins and minerals. These include folate, iron, niacin, pantothenic acid, riboflavin, phosphorus, selenium, zinc, and vitamins A, K, B6, and B12.

Nutrition experts stress the importance of moderating portion and serving sizes. This especially serves true to keep saturated fat in check when enjoying dark meat chicken.

Also, be cautious of preparation techniques. Ditch the added oils and fryer and peel the skin off to reduce overall calorie and fat content. Reconsider stuffing chicken breast meat with cheese, butter, and other high-fat foods, too.

For a well-balanced meal, pair chicken with vibrant veggies, including fresh green beans, grilled asparagus, or roasted carrots. Complementing with a complex carb, such as brown rice or sweet potato, heightens the fiber and nutritional content of the meal.

To enjoy both dark and white meat varieties, use these 10 inexpensive recipes to get the most from a whole chicken. Or, let bistroMD prepare and send chicken meals directly to doorsteps!

Its laundry list of chicken meals is sure to satisfy your taste buds. Options include chicken meatballs with lentils, Thai coconut chicken, chicken tortilla soup, chicken paella with Andouille sausage, chicken enchiladas. (And that is just to name a few!)

Written By Sydney Lappe, MS, RDN. Published on October 05, 2017. Updated on September 28, 2019.

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