Thanksgiving Myth Busters!
From Lauren Hogan, RDN
White Versus Dark Turkey Meat: Is Either More Nutritious?
Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to gather around the table with loved ones and enjoy good eats, and at the center of a lot of our tables is the turkey! When filling our plates, we often choose the white meat over the dark meat, thinking that the white meat is healthier. Let’s discuss the nutritional benefits of white versus dark turkey meat and debunk this nutrition myth together!
What Makes Turkey Meat Different Colors?
Turkey meat is labeled as white and dark meat because of the appearance of the muscle when it is cooked. The darker color of the meat is found on the legs of the turkey and has a higher amount of a protein called myoglobin. Myoglobin works to supply the muscles with oxygen and is what gives the darker meat its color. The white meat on the turkey is found in muscles that have less myoglobin, hence the lighter color.
Nutrition of White Versus Dark Turkey Meat
White meat has traditionally been labeled as “healthier” because it is lower in fat and calories; however, it is good to compare the two to see if there is any significant difference. White meat is generally slightly higher in protein, lower in fat, and contains fewer calories. According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, one serving of white meat has 125 calories, 26 grams of protein, and 2 grams of total fat. One serving of dark meat has 140 calories, 24 grams of protein, and 5 grams of total fat. However, although the fat content is higher for dark meat, turkey meat contains mainly heart-healthy fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats) which are our good fats that we want to consume in higher amounts. Additionally, although both white meat and dark meat contain essential vitamins and minerals like B vitamins, iron, and zinc that are important for our health, dark meat actually contains a higher amount compared to white meat.
The Bottom Line
Although white meat has higher amounts of protein, fewer calories and less fat, dark meat proves to have higher amounts of certain vitamins and minerals. Overall, there are health benefits to both white and dark turkey meat. This Thanksgiving, ditch the idea that white meat is always the “healthier” choice and choose the meat with the benefits that are most important to you for your overall health.