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The Tidelands Health Newsroom

Published on November 21, 2016

Thanksgiving Fact or Fiction: White meat is “better” than dark meat

The Claim: White meat is healthier than dark meat

The Evidence: This is an age-old debate that simply doesn’t come with an easy answer.

The fundamental difference in color between dark meat and white meat is the presence of a compound called myoglobin, which is more prevalent in the most-used muscles of the turkey (think legs and wings).A prepared Thanksgiving turkey

Nutritionally, many people consider white meat to be healthier because it contains less fat and fewer calories per ounce.

That’s true, but not by much.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture found that three ounces of roasted dark meat (drumstick) contained about 10 more calories and two extra grams of fat compared to roasted turkey breast (160 calories and 6 grams of fat).
But the reduction in calories came at a cost. Dark meat contains more vitamins and minerals including iron, zinc, riboflavin, thiamine, and vitamins B6 and B12.

Bottom line: Assuming that you remove the skin from dark meat, the choice in meat type is less important than the amount consumed, said Crystal Cates, Tidelands Health clinical nutrition manager. Keep the overall portion size in check by using a deck of cards as a guide for a good portion size (3.5 ounces). Instead of eating lots of turkey or side dishes this Thanksgiving, load up on colorful vegetables to maximize nutrient-rich foods while keeping overall caloric intake low.


Tidelands Health is the region’s largest health care provider and MUSC Health affiliate, serving the Carolinas at four hospitals and more than 70 outpatient locations. More than 2,500 employee, physician and volunteer partners work side by side with our communities to transform the health of our region – promoting wellness, preventing illness, encouraging recovery and restoring health.