What Is Dark Meat?
Dark meat refers to the meat primarily found in the legs and thighs of poultry. These parts are darker in color compared to white meat parts because of the presence of a protein called myoglobin.
Myoglobin plays an important role in storing oxygen for muscle function. The higher amount of myoglobin in cells gives dark meat its reddish or darker color [source].
Generally, white meat and dark meat are similar in nutritional content, but the levels of these nutrients are different.
The Nutrient of Dark Meat
Both dark and white meats are nutritious sources of protein, but they have different nutrient profiles. Dark meat is higher in fat and iron, while white meat is lower in fat and higher in niacin and vitamin B6.
The following table shows the nutritional value of 100 grams of dark meat chicken [source]:
This nutritional profile shows that dark meat is a good protein source with fewer carbohydrates and different benefits for the body. Let’s see what these benefits are.
The Health Benefits of Dark Meat
- Better Oxygen Transport: Dark meat is a good source of iron, an essential mineral that helps carry oxygen through the body. Iron deficiency can lead to anemia, causing symptoms like fatigue, weakness, and shortness of breath [source].
- Boosting Immunity: Dark meat is higher in zinc than white meat. Zinc is an important mineral that supports immune function, wound healing, and cell growth [source].
- Better Blood Sugar and Cholesterol Control: Dark meat is higher in niacin than white meat. Niacin is a B vitamin that helps regulate blood sugar levels, lower cholesterol, and improve blood circulation [source].
- Rich in Healthy Fats: Dark meat contains a higher proportion of healthy fats than white meat, which are good for providing sustained energy and supporting various bodily functions like hormone production and cell structure.
So, to decide which meat best suits your needs and goals - maybe even both - you can check out the table below, which summarizes the main differences between dark and white meats.
Dark Meat vs. White Meat
The difference between dark and white meat is not limited to differences in nutrients. They are different even in taste and type of cooking.
Let’s take a look at the nutritional comparison between 100 grams of white meat vs. dark meat in the following table.
These differences in nutrients cause many differences in the properties, benefits, taste, and even the best cooking methods of white and black meat.
Dark meat contains more fat than white meat because dark meat contains more myoglobin, which is a kind of fat that adds to the flavor and texture of dark meat [source].
Dark meat has more iron than white meat. Iron plays a vital role in oxygen transport in the body and is crucial for maintaining energy levels, cognitive function, and overall health [source].
General Nutrient Profile
White meat is a valuable source of essential nutrients, including protein, niacin, vitamin B6, and selenium, despite its lower fat content.
Flavor and Cooking Methods
White meat can be used in many recipes and is adapted to various cooking methods. Grilling, baking, roasting, and poaching are all suitable techniques for preparing white meat.
Additionally, white meat can be used in stir-fries, salads, and creative diets, while dark meat has less diversity, and is often better for dishes that take longer to be cooked, such as stews.
Also, white and dark meats have different tastes. So, you can choose the one that best matches your preferences.
Which Meat Tastes Better?
Generally, whether you like the taste of dark and white meat is a matter of personal preference. However, the taste of the meat can be influenced by various factors like the cut of meat, cooking methods, and seasoning [source].
Dark meat generally provides a richer and more flavorful taste due to its higher fat content. However, white meat tends to have a milder and more delicate flavor, as some even describe it as being bland or tasteless, which is mainly because of lower fat content and less CLA [source].
Generally, dark meat is more delicious, but white meat is more flexible for diets and recipes, so which one is better?
White vs. Dark Meat: Which Should You Choose?
Well, you should choose the meat that aligns with your preferences, goals, and specific needs.
- If you're watching your overall fat intake, particularly saturated and unhealthy fats, white meat is a healthier choice, especially for those who have heart disease or diabetes [source].
- If you prefer a subtle flavor in your protein dishes, white meat can be a good choice. But if you wish to boost your iron intake, dark meat is a rich source.
- If you don’t have much time for cooking, white meat cooks faster than dark meat.
Personal choices and decisions aside, can we label any of these meats as a healthier option?
Is the White Meat healthier?
To name one of these kinds of meat healthier, you need to consider your personal goals and needs. Each type of meat has its own benefits due to its specific nutritional profile.
For those following a high-fat diet like the Carnivore diet, dark meat can be a better option. Dark meat is rich in nutrients, such as iron and zinc, which is a good option for those who lack these nutrients [source].
Also, if you’re focusing on weight loss, white meat is better as it is lower in calories, cholesterol, and carbohydrates [source].
Meat, as an important part of many diets, has various benefits. The best kinds of meat for you are the ones that align well with your goals and health condition.
You can also consult a healthcare professional or registered dietitian to ensure what type of meat helps you reach your health and fitness goals.