White or Dark Meat Chicken – Which is Healthier?

Nahida Wankhade

August 11, 2022

Debates about white and dark meat to understand which is better have been going on for a long time. White and dark meat has excellent nutritional qualities and different tastes and flavours.

Furthermore, the differences between white meat and dark meat are not as vast as it seems. For years, health professionals have recommended white meat over dark meat because of the high protein content in the former.

People also usually prefer the same for the same reason. White meat and dark meat are present in different parts of the chicken. The high protein content of chicken makes it an ideal food product for those who take care of their diet. In addition, chicken meat is more easily digestible than most other kinds of meat. 

What is Chicken Meat?

Chicken or chicken meat is the easiest and the most common type of meat available in the market to be consumed as a food item.

Meat is also one of the most preferred types of meat source by most people. Chicken meat is both healthy and tasty and can be consumed in different forms depending on the type a person prefers. 

However, the nutritional properties we acquire vary on how we eat the meat, how we cook it, and even on the part we regularly consume. When eaten without the skin, chicken meat helps ensure high-quality protein intake without excess calories and fat content. However, chicken with skin contains 2-3 times more fat than chicken without skin.

Therefore, white meat is the best chicken for individuals who wish to reduce the intake of extra calories and fat. White meat is also the best for people with heart diseases such as arrhythmia, atherosclerosis, and heart attack. In addition, chicken meat has low levels of collagen, which helps with the easier digestion of the meat. 

Chicken meat is rich in several nutrients like protein, essential amino acids, lipids, fatty acid profile, essential vitamins, and minerals, providing many benefits.

Furthermore, chicken is a source of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. These are beneficial for various cellular functions. These are also helpful in improving cognitive function and other neural functions. 


As mentioned above, Chicken meat is a good source of essential minerals and vitamins. In addition, dark meat and white meat contain a high amount of iron, zinc, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, sodium, and other minerals.

  • Iron is used to produce haemoglobin to prevent anaemia and for normal muscle activity.
  • Calcium and phosphorus are essential for healthy bones and teeth.
  • Sodium and potassium help to regulate electrolyte balance.
  • Selenium exhibits excellent antioxidant properties used to scavenge free radicals. 
  • Magnesium is necessary for proper protein synthesis and proper muscle activity. 

Chicken meat contains fat-soluble and water-soluble vitamins such as vitamin A, D, E, K, and B-complex. However, the content of vitamins varies in different cuts of chicken meat.

Research indicates that chicken meat has the highest amount of niacin and vitamin B12. Vitamin A, E, D, and K are fat-soluble vitamins that help improve vision, increase bone strength, and boost the immune system and blood coagulation.

They help to lower the risk associated with bone and heart diseases. Water-soluble vitamins such as B-1, B-2, B-3, B-5, B-6, B-9, and B-12 help in various physiological processes. They help improve eyesight, brain function, appetite, digestion, proper nerve function, and anaemic conditions. 

Chicken meat is also rich in niacin which is beneficial for carbohydrate and energy metabolism. It is an excellent nutrient for healthy skin, hair, and eyes and also known for its neuroprotective function and helps the central nervous system. Furthermore, it helps in reducing cholesterol levels and improves blood circulation. Niacin helps in improving HDL cholesterol levels. 

The average daily requirement of protein varies for every age group. Moderate protein content for adults is 0.5-0.8g/kg body weight, whereas, for children, it is 1.0-1.2g/kg. As for pregnant women, the requirement for protein increases in a trimester, an additional 23g/day is the additional daily protein requirement. 

Epidemiological studies suggest that adequate consumption of chicken meat regulates body weight because of its high biological value protein content. It holds and delays the progression of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and hypertension. 

Studies suggest that optimum protein intake helps counter age-related physiological diseases such as sarcopenia. Sarcopenia refers to a progressive decrease in muscle mass with difficulty in movement and self-reliance. Chicken protein is a good source for everyone, especially for purple over 65, because it is highly digestible and easily chewable. 

The HealthifyMe Note

It is a known fact that chicken meat is a high source of protein. There is 21.6 g of proteins per 100 grams of chicken, so regular chicken meat consumption can fix protein deficiency. But many are not aware that chicken may provide relief from a common cold.

While a bowl of hot chicken soup is not exactly the prescribed remedy for the common cold, sore throat, or cough, they have a reputation for providing relief from such common ailments for centuries. Since chicken is a good source of protein it can also assist in combating atherosclerosis, hypertension, diabetes, etc. 

White Meat Chicken vs Dark Chicken Meat

White meat refers to chicken breast, wings, and back portions. This meat section contains high-quality lean protein, low-fat content, and fewer calories.

Dark chicken meat refers to the chicken’s thighs and legs (drumsticks), which have a high protein, high fat content, and various vitamins and minerals. 

When it comes to the difference between white meat and dark meat, there are various factors such as taste, flavour, calories, and nutritional properties. However, one of the main distinctions is the amount of myoglobin in different meat parts. 


Myoglobin is an oxygen-carrying protein in the muscle of chicken meat. The amount of myoglobin in different cuts of meat determines white meat and dark meat. White meat contains about 10% red fibres, while dark meat has about 50% red fibres. 

Research indicates that myoglobin is responsible for oxygen transport and is a principal pigment associated with the red colour of the meat. When mixed with oxygen, myoglobin forms oxymyoglobin and produces a bright red colour.

The remaining red colour comes from iron present in myoglobin. The amount of myoglobin in muscles depends on how frequently you use your muscles and how much oxygen and blood flow you require in that area.

If the muscles are used frequently for different activities such as standing and running, it needs the ability to react quickly. However, if you use your muscles less frequently, they require less oxygen and blood flow and do not have to respond soon.

Chicken meat contains two muscle fibres, red and white, also known as slow and fast-twitch. Dark meat has more red muscle fibres, i.e., it contains more capillaries for increased blood flow and oxygen in the particular area.

Whereas white meat contains white muscle fibres, having fewer capillaries means less blood flow. Chickens cannot fly. They use their legs and thighs to move around. Hence these parts contain more red fibres than chicken breast and wings. Myoglobin provides oxygen to the muscles required according to the exercise and movement performed by that area. 


It is needless to say which meat is nutritionally healthy and which is not. The difference between dark and white meat’s nutritional properties is minuscule. Dark meat seems to have higher dietary properties than white meat. Dark meat is high in calories, fat, and proteins, along with several vitamins and minerals.

Personal preferences matter the most when it comes to white meat and dark meat. If one is looking to cut calories and fat white meat is the best option as it has high-quality lean protein and fewer calories.

Whereas if one is looking for a better nutrient source for good health, dark meat should be the choice as it is high in calories, high-quality protein, healthy fats, and essential vitamins and minerals. It is a better source of iron, niacin, riboflavin, zinc, and selenium.

Taste and Flavour

White meat, i.e., chicken breasts, wings, and back is known to have a mild flavour. Dark meat cuts include chicken thighs and legs that are tender, juicier, and filled with delicious flavour.

White meat can easily dry out if overcooked. While on the other hand, dark meat can be cooked longer and has no change in texture because of its high-fat content.

But when it comes to taste, everything comes down to personal preferences. One may like the taste of white meat because of its mild flavour, while others may prefer dark meat’s tender and juicy flavour. 

The HealthifyMe Note

White meat refers to the chicken breast, wings, and back. This meat section is high in quality lean protein, low in fat, and low in calories. Dark chicken meat refers to the thighs and legs of the chicken. It contains a significant amount of protein, fat, vitamins, and minerals. White meat has a mild flavour, while dark meat cuts are tenderer, juicier, and full of flavour.


Individuals’ preference matters the most when consuming any food item, and the same goes for chicken. Every cut of chicken varies in terms of its nutrition profile.

Chicken is a good source of high-quality protein, which is easily digestible. To a health-conscious person, white and dark meat are good sources of nutrients. Whereas if one is looking to lose weight and calorie deficit, white chicken is considered best because of its low-fat content, calories, and protein content.

Because of its favourable nutritional profile, chicken is suitable for every age group, such as pregnant, children, adults, and the elderly. In addition, chicken meat is the most convenient, affordable, and acceptable source of vitamins, and minerals. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q. Is white or dark meat chicken better for you?

A. White and dark meat chicken are healthy. They have excellent nutritional properties, and the differences between both types of meat are relatively inconsequential. White meat is found in breasts and wings, while dark meat is in chicken legs. White meat contains about 10% red fibre, while dark meat contains about 50% red fibre. In addition, white meat is rich in B vitamins such as niacin, and pyridoxine, while dark meat has high levels of zinc, iron, riboflavin, thiamine, and vitamin B12.

Q. What tastes better white or dark chicken?

A. White meat is mild in flavour, while dark meat is tender, juicy, and filled with delicious flavour. While white meat is lean, dark meat has a higher fat content. Therefore, white meat can easily dry out because of overcooking, while you can cook dark meat for longer. While both types of meat have different flavours, it ultimately depends on personal preferences. For example, one may like dark meat because of its juiciness and tender flavour or white meat for its mild flavour. 

Q. What pieces of chicken are dark or white?

A. Dark meat is the muscle meat of chicken with 50% red fibres, and white meat is muscle meat with 10% red fibres. Chicken thighs, legs, and back come under dark meat, while chicken breast and wings are considered white meat. Dark meat contains high myoglobin content that stores oxygen in muscles and gives a darker colour to the meat. White meat has a low range of myoglobin, leading to the meat’s lighter shade. 

Q. Does dark meat chicken taste different?

A. It tastes different because of dark meat’s high-fat content, making it tender, juicier, and delicious. All this comes down to the amount of myoglobin (an oxygen-carrying protein) in dark meat. Myoglobin stores oxygen in the muscle cells and gives them a darker colour. Oxygen uses fat for energy purposes, and because of this, more fat gets stored in the legs and thighs of the chicken. Therefore, it results in high saturated fat content in dark meat than in white meat. Because of the high-fat content, dark meat tastes different, i.e., more flavorful. 

Q. What is the healthiest meat to eat?

A. Fish, chicken, and turkey meat are considered the healthiest choices. One has abundant choices when it comes to selecting fish meat. Fishes are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, B2, and minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, iron, zinc, and other minerals. Chicken is another healthy meat choice. Turkey is rich in protein, vitamin B’s, selenium, zinc, and phosphorus. 

Q. What part of the chicken is the healthiest?

A. Chicken breast is considered to be the healthiest choice of chicken parts. It has low-fat content, high-quality lean protein, and vitamins such as vitamins B3 and B5. In addition, it is more flavorful than other parts of the chicken. However, it’s all about personal preferences. It is also a good source of phosphorus which is beneficial for bones and teeth. 

Q. Why do people like white meat over dark meat?

A. White meat is preferred over dark meat because it contains low-fat, high protein, and fewer calories. In addition, white meat is rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. They help reduce the levels of LDL and increase the levels of HDL. It is also beneficial for heart health and is easier to digest.

Q. Is dark chicken meat healthier?

A. It is needless to say whether dark or white chicken meat is healthy. Dark meat is a nutrient-rich source. It contains higher fat content and high calories than white meat and has a more saturated fat content. It contains minerals such as iron, zinc, selenium, and vitamins such as vitamin A, K, thiamin, riboflavin, folate, and cobalamin.

Q. Why do chickens have dark and white meat?

A. White and dark meat contain myoglobin (an oxygen-carrying protein) that stores oxygen in the muscles. Muscles metabolise energy with less oxygen or in anaerobic conditions in white meat parts. In contrast, dark meat parts metabolise energy aerobically. Myoglobin content is higher in dark meat than in white meat. The darker colour of meat is because of iron in myoglobin. While white meat contains 10% of red fibres, dark meat has around 50% of red fibres. The high amount of red fibres in dark meat is because the muscles of that part are used for extended periods and hence require a consistent energy source. 

Q. Does white meat have less myoglobin?

A. Yes, white meat has less myoglobin. Myoglobin content is low in white meat parts because of the less usage of muscles. Due to less muscle usage, they do not require a constant energy source. Myoglobin does not require storing oxygen in these parts of meat. These muscles metabolise energy in anaerobic or low oxygen conditions. Hence they are leaner with low-fat content and less amount of red fibres. 

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