Healthy Protein Breakdown: White vs. Dark Meat

healthy proteinFamily reunions, cookouts, and holiday meals usually share similar food choices. When selecting a healthy protein, traditional thinking suggests that white meat is the better, more nutritious choice.

Regardless of your taste preference for white or dark meat, we will take a look at the actual nutrition information on whether white meat really is the healthier option.

White & Dark Meat by the Numbers

Is white meat really the healthiest choice? Let’s compare some statistics.

  • Calorie Content – When it comes to calories, white meat has the upper hand. For roasted chicken, a 3.5 ounce serving of light meat contains 173 calories. Compare that to the same size serving of dark meat chicken which contains 205 calories.
  • Fat Content – In terms of total fat, once again white meat is the better choice. There are only 4.5 grams of total fat in a 3.5 ounce portion of white meat chicken while the dark meat portion has 9.7 grams.
  • Saturated Fat Content – Saturated fat levels also favor the white meat option. The 3.5 ounce serving size of light meat clocks in at 1.2 grams of saturated fat. The same portion of dark meat chicken is more than double that at 2.7 grams of saturated fat.
  • Total Protein – In total grams of protein, the light meat choice is superior, too. 31 grams of protein are in the 3.5-ounce portion of cooked light meat chicken. Dark meat has 27 grams of protein for the same serving size.

Fear not, lovers of dark meat! While white meat is the healthier choice for lower calories, fat content and protein amount, there are several reasons why dark meat is still good for you.

Nutritional Benefits of Dark Meat

  • Loaded with Iron – Dark meat chicken is the better source of iron. Myoglobin, an iron-binding protein found in muscle tissue, is more prevalent in dark meat chicken and turkey.
  • Heart Disease – Taurine, an abundant nutrient found in dark meat, lowered the risk of coronary heart disease in women with high cholesterol. This was according to a study conducted by researchers at the New York University School of Medicine.
  • Additional Taurine Benefits – Taurine is an anti-inflammatory, encourages nerve function, and helps regulate blood pressure.
  • Vitamin and Mineral Content – Besides iron, dark meat poultry carries higher levels of zinc, selenium, vitamin A, riboflavin, thiamine, vitamins B6, and B12 than white meat chicken.

For those who prefer to eat dark meat, but are concerned about the calorie and fat content, consider a few final facts.

While dark meat does have extra fat, it actually raises the body’s amount of cholecystokinin. Cholecystokinin is a family of hormones that acts like a hunger suppressant. So even though you’ll be getting more calories by eating dark meat, it is less likely that you’ll overeat after the meal is done.

Also, as for those “extra calories” that dark meat carries, it comes down to about 8 calories more per ounce compared to white meat. If you’re looking to lose weight, but prefer dark meat, remember that you’re not exactly packing on the pounds by not selecting white meat!

There are nutritional benefits to both white and dark meat poultry. While calorie, fat and total protein numbers support lighter meat options, dark meat has plenty of benefits, too.



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