Light Meat Vs Dark Meat: Which One Is Better For You?

It's an ongoing poultry debate that seems to be split between taste and nutrition factors — should you choose light meat over dark meat?

There's a reason why dark meat usually tastes more rich and flavorful than its white meat counterpart. Light meat chicken is lower in calories, total fat, and saturated fat than dark meat (via Livestrong). The caloric differences are slim — around 32 calories for a 3.5 ounce serving. But there is more than double the fat content in dark meat than light meat — 4.5 grams of total fat and 1.2 grams of saturated fat compared to 9.7 and 2.7 grams, respectively.

Fat content is an important consideration for your heart health. However, it is important to note that both white and dark meat chicken primarily contain healthier monounsaturated fats, according to Women's Health. So either choice of poultry doesn't necessarily contain all bad fats.

Dark meat still has nutritional benefits

Light meat chicken also packs more protein. There are 31 grams of protein in a 3.5-ounce portion of light meat chicken compared to the 27 grams in dark meat of the same portion, according to Livestrong. Light meat also beats out dark meat in the nutrients niacin and magnesium.

But, before you ditch the drumstick for good, there are some perks to dark meat chicken. Dark meat is a better source of iron, riboflavin, thiamin, and zinc. And Meme Inge, R.D.N., tells Women's Health, "The iron in dark meat is more easily absorbed than the iron found in plants." 

Another benefit of dark meat is its rich flavor. While white meat can easily dry out, with dark meat you may be able to skip the unhealthy sauces you tend to slather on your chicken breasts. 

So, should you choose white meat or dark meat? It depends on your specific dietary needs. If you are on a strict low-calorie, low-fat diet, white meat chicken may be your best bet. However, like most nutrition decisions, dark meat is OK in moderation when part of a healthy diet.