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Dark or White Meat? You Choose...

Dark or White Meat? You Choose... Everyone does seem to have a favourite. Either you like the dark meat from a chicken or turkey, from the leg or wing; or perhaps you like the easy to eat lower fat slices of breast meat. Dark meat definitely has slightly more fat than white meat does, but have you ever considered what the actual difference is?

Why dark meat is still a healthy choice

The extra fat in dark turkey or chicken raises your levels of cholecystokinin (CCK), a hormone that makes you feel fuller for longer. So you'll be less likely to overeat in the hours that follow your meal. What about your cholesterol? Only a third of the fat in a turkey drumstick is the saturated kind, according to a US food database. The other two-thirds are heart-healthy unsaturated fats. What's more, 86 percent of that saturated fat either has no impact on cholesterol, or raises good cholesterol more than bad cholesterol—a result that actually lowers your heart-disease risk.

Some of the nutrients that are found in higher concentrations in dark meat rather than white meat are:
  • Zinc
  • Iron
  • Amino acids
  • Vitamin B6
  • Vitamin B12
  • Thiamine
  • Riboflavin

Although many people prefer white meat for its taste, there are certainly some people who also prefer dark meat. These individuals usually find that the dark meat is much juicier and flavorful than the areas of white meat. As for calories, an ounce of dark turkey meat contains just 8 more calories than an ounce of white meat. 

Many people, however, prefer the taste of white meat to dark meat; some people find the taste of dark meat to be too "gamy".

A bit about white meat

As with any meal, be conscious of your total portion sizes. A good rule of thumb: Limit yourself to 8 ounces of meat or less at any one sitting, which provides up to 423 calories. Eat that with a big serving of vegetables, and you'll have a flavourful lower in fat meal.
  • Fewer calories. The Department of Agriculture asserts that a boneless, skinless turkey breast contains only 46 calories, while a boneless, skinless thigh (dark meat) contains 50 calories.
  • Less fat. The same breast and thigh compared contain 1 and 2 grams of fat, respectively.
  • Less cholesterol. According to sources, white meat contains lower levels of cholesterol than dark meat.

The Verdict

Overall, both white and dark meat are relatively good for you, with dark meat offering up a wealth of great nutrients for your body and white meat providing fewer calories and grams of fat. In addition, dark poultry meat is still lower in fat than most cuts of red meat. Therefore, eating poultry for protein is an all-around better choice regardless of whether you choose light or dark meat.

If you're concerned about getting the maximum health benefits from your meat, consider the following tips:

  1. Eat a combination of both white and dark meat. This is a good way to control calorie and fat intake and cholesterol levels while also getting the great nutrients from dark meat into your diet.
  2. Always remove the skin from any white or dark meat that you eat. The skin increases the saturated fat content of a piece of meat considerably.
  3. Cut out any significant areas of fat while preparing your poultry meat. This will further reduce the fat content of your meal, regardless of whether it consists mainly of light or dark meat.
  4. Look for free-range, organic poultry. Because these animals were raised in a natural setting, the meats won't contain harmful antibiotics, hormones or pesticides.
  5. Make sure the meat is cooked thoroughly. One problem many people encounter is the difference in cooking times for white and dark meat since dark meat takes longer to cook. Ensure that every portion of meat has been cooked thoroughly to remove the risk of E.coli and other food-born illnesses.

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