Nutritionally, Dark Meat Trumps White Meat

By Heather Ashare, MPH for

Have you shunned a drumstick at Thanksgiving because of a fear of fat and calories? In our attempts to trim our turkey dinner we may be cutting out some key nutrients.

We looked at the nutritional benefits of both white and dark meat turkey and learned that there’s nothing wrong with fighting over the drumstick after all.

In our side-by-side analysis, we used a 3.5 ounce serving for both white and dark meat turkey, without skin.

  • Calories: White meat = 161 calories. Dark meat = 192 calories.
  • Fat: White meat = 4 grams. Dark meat = 8 grams.
  • Protein: White meat = 30 grams. Dark meat = 28 grams.
  • Iron: White meat = 1.57 mg. Dark meat = 2.4 mg.
  • Zinc: White meat = 2.08 mg. Dark meat = 4.3 mg.
  • Thiamine: White meat = .04 mg. Dark meat = .05 mg.
  • Riboflavin: White meat = .13 mg. Dark meat = .24 mg.
  • Selenium: White meat = 32.10 mcg. Dark meat = 40.90 mcg.
  • Folate: White meat = .01 mcg. Dark meat = 10 mcg.

Dark meat turkey meat offers a richer flavor than white meat, which is often accused of being too dry. People make up for the dryness by adding gravy, which just replaces the fat and calories they would have been eaten in the far more wholesome dark turkey.

In regards to leftover potential, the dark meat’s higher fat content makes it juicier and therefore protects it from drying out in the fridge. If you want a tasty sandwich, salad or soup during Thanksgiving weekend, stick with the dark meat.

It’s clear that dark turkey meat offers more nutritionally than its white counterpart. With more B vitamins like riboflavin, thiamine and folate, and minerals like iron, zinc and selenium, dark turkey’s poor reputation warrants a retraction.

When it comes to calories and fat, the difference between the two meats is negligible, as dark turkey meat has only 30 calories more than white meat and just an additional four fat grams. Stop eating pie one bite before finishing off a slice and you will have balanced out any extra calories you consumed by choosing dark meat over white.

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Geoff Price
Past Member 4 years ago

Just eat what you like

Gordon Ralph
Gordon Ralph4 years ago

sorry to rock the boat but i have always found white turkey/chicken to be far more tasty and far more pleasant to eat.And as it is less fatty i will continue to eat it as whatever your "survey" suggest i believe the white meat to be far more healthier !!

Dale Overall

So true, soup stock certainly does bring out the flavour and includes using all parts of the bird so that there is no waste being very economical for meal planning. Soup is very nutritious as are all parts of the turkey be it dark or white meat. To me, dark has more flavour.

Perhaps she is frightened to see the food item as in the comment below is a turkey...unless she sees a tarantula or brown recluse spider climbing up the side of the turkey or she is vegan...or her eyes are in shock at the performance of the turkey baster...the slow speed of how long it is taking the liquid to ebb out to baste the bird may mean that she has to wait til Easter to eat it instead of American Thanksgiving. This article was written in November. Canadians have Thanksgiving in early October and we are no doubt thankful that have an extra month to recover before travelling once again to visit relatives and friends in December on Christmas.

Jane Mckenzie
Jane Mckenzie5 years ago

get with the facts and enjoy all the turkey meat - don't forget to make stock from the bones - you can skim the fat off and enjoy the flavour

Heidi Aubrey
Heidi Aubrey5 years ago

I learned long ago dark meat tastes way better. Not just turkey, but I use chicken (boneless, skinless) thighs for all the recipes that call for chicken breasts and the recipe's flavor is immeasurably improved.

Penny B.
.5 years ago

I prefer dark meat, nice to know it's better for you, thanks.

Dale Overall

Care2 photographers...we really need to talk. Your photos of various prepared dishes are resplendent. Lovely iced teas, salads and numerous other foods. However, when humans are brought into the picture they morph into strange creatures with expressions on their faces that are beyond belief. Take the poor soul featured with eye balls about to pop out of their heads. Other people look as if they are about to face execution within the hour. Whether it is meat or veggies these poor souls often look as if they are in a panic or...something. Did they just watch Day of the Triffids? As far as dark meat goes, it is far more tastier.

Penny C.
penny C5 years ago


Sonny Honrado
Sonny Honrado5 years ago

Thanks. Dark meat tastes better.

Lynn D.
Lynn D5 years ago

Yeah! I love dark meat, wish you could get it in more restuarants also! (Most of them almost always serve white meat ---what do they do with all the dark meat?) Thank you ever so much, you made my day!