What's the Difference: Dark Meat vs. White Meat Chicken
Whether ordering from a menu or preparing at home, chicken may just be one of the most popular protein sources enjoyed. But when it comes dark meat versus white meat, does choosing one over the other grant greater health benefits? Find out the meaty truth here!
Dark Meat versus White Meat Chicken
The color of meat is dictated by the muscle fibers in the animal, with the difference lying in the use of the muscle. Dark meats contain myoglobin, a protein responsible for shipping oxygen to the muscle cells, with more frequently used muscles offering a darker color. And when you think about chickens walking around, it is logically drumsticks, thighs, and wings are considered dark meat. The breast and wings are considered white meats related to their short bursts of movement such as a flapping their wings.
White Meat and Dark Meat Chicken Nutrition
*Values obtained from the National Chicken Council and based on 3.5-ounce serving
The chart above verifies the nutritional variations between white meat (breast) and dark meat (thigh, drumstick, and wing) along with the differences between skin-on and skinless varieties. 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 calorie and total fat contents.
• Despite the larger fat content of "skin-on" types, they also offer monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, also known as those "healthy fats" that have shown to offer anti-inflammatory benefits.
• Along with a greater iron content, dark meats tend to offer more zinc, riboflavin, niacin, thiamin, vitamins B6 and B12 compared to white meat.
The Meaty Truth
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 nutrients, including vitamins A, K, B6 and B12, along with folate, iron, niacin, pantothenic acid, riboflavin, phosphorus, selenium, and zinc. Reducing calorie and fat content can be achieved by ditching the oils and fryer, as well as peeling off the skin. For a well-balanced meal, pair chicken with vibrant veggies, including fresh green beans, grilled asparagus, or roasted carrots. Complementing with a whole grain or starch, such as brown rice or a sweet potato, further heightens the fiber and nutritional content of the meal.
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