Newsflash: a lot of us love a good chicken dinner! It could be made for a special occasion, a family dinner, or a casual meal among friends.

While some of us like to fight over a healthy chicken breast, some of us are ripping off the legs of the bird to indulge in. This, of course, has led to a years-long debate over who's right when it comes to white meat versus dark meat. We're here to break down the nutrients, fat content, and flavor of both as we finally find out which is healthier for you and why.

Main Differences

chicken and herbs
  • White meat contains fewer calories and less fat than dark meat.
  • Dark meat tends to be a little juicier when cooked, which is why some people gravitate towards it.
  • They're cut from different muscles and therefore offer different health benefits.
  • Even though dark meat has more calories and a higher fat content, you don't need to avoid it.

White Meat

chicken and flavoring

White meat is definitely a dinner favorite and there are reasons why dieticians and nutritionists recommend including it in your diet.

What Is White Meat?

White meat from turkeys and chickens comes from the breast, wing, and breast tenderloin.


White meat is loaded with nutrients such as calcium, protein, phosphorous, B6, B-12, Vitamin D, iron, and zinc. It also has less cholesterol than dark meat.

These vitamins can seriously help you on your path to living a healthier life. According to the National Institutes of Health, vitamin B-12, for example, offers several benefits like proper red blood cell formation and an active presence in metabolism. Oregan State University released findings that suggested vitamin D allows for bone mineralization, maintenance, and development.Studies have shown that iron helps to maximize workout times and an iron deficiency leads to a poorer performance, while zinc can be used to fight off the common cold. Studies have also shown that vitamin B6 also helps with mental illnesses like anxiety and depression.

If you take a look at the nutrient levels for a chicken breast with the skin removed you'll see that you get 53 grams of protein 6 grams of total fat and 26 grams of calcium. A 3.5 ounce serving of white meat clocks in at 173 calories while an equal cut of dark meat will total 205 calories. Though it might not look like you're shaving a lot of calories off, the comparison between the two does show significant differences and white meat does pack more in the same serving.

Dark Meat

dark meat

Dark meat is higher in saturated fat and calories, but that doesn't mean you need to remove it from your diet entirely. You also don't need to feel bad if you tend to lean towards dark meat during dinner. Unlike white meat, which can dry out a little, dark meat retains its juiciness after being cooked.

What Is Dark Meat?

Dark meat comes from chicken and turkey legs (perhaps better known as drumsticks) and thighs. Dark meat is also something that people on a keto diet turn to due to its higher levels of fat.


The iron and zinc content in dark meat is higher than that of white meat.

If you look at the fat content of skinless dark meat and compare it to that of white meat, you'll see the main differences. A skinless thigh comes with 8 grams of fat while a thigh with the skin still on it jumps to 10 grams of total fat. A skinless thigh only offers you 11 grams of calcium as opposed to the 26 that white meat does. Additionally, a skinless thigh has 27 grams of protein whereas white meat had over 50. Though, if you were to keep the skin on then a thigh would give you 31 grams of protein.

That isn't to say that dark meat doesn't come with its benefits. A 2012 study found that a nutrient called taurine was discovered in dark meat and it helps with anti-inflammation, blood pressure regulation, and anti-oxidation.

Since there's a higher fat content in dark meat, we also know that dark meat tends to be a little juicier and more flavorful at times. Though it might not be the most popular among people, those who gravitate towards drumsticks at the dinner table have a reason.

turkey dinner

Which Is Healthier?

When it comes right down to it, white meat is probably the smarter choice. Though some will still consider it a tossup since white meat has fewer calories, more protein, and a lower fat percentage, but dark meat contains more nutrients like iron and zinc.

Though some prefer the lower-caloric intake of white meat, others will argue that dark meat packs more flavor thereby trumping a potentially drier breast. The next time you find yourself reaching for a breast or a drumstick just remember that both white and dark meat hold their own pros and cons. You can also indulge in a piece of both types of meat so you get all the bird has to offer you. There's really no need to fight at the table anymore!

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