Drumstick Lovers Rejoice! Dark Meat Turkey is Actually Pretty Good for You

By Heather Ashare - DietsInReview.com

As our fear of fat continues to grow, the dark meat turkey is often shunned during Thanksgiving dinner. However, as we avoid the calories, we all set up ourselves to miss out on some key nutrients. We did a side-by-side comparison of dark meat and white meat and found that really, the difference is negligible and if you like the juicier variety of this holiday bird, help yourself. Here is a look at the benefits of white and dark meat turkey and some surprising factoids that might have you once again calling dibs on the drumstick.


Note: Each value represens 3.5-ounce serving of turkey meat without skin (about the size of a deck of cards).

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

While the white meat turkey has fewer calories and fat, the dark meat provides far more nutrients that our bodies need. With a mere 30-calorie difference between the two, you really can have the dark meat if that's what you prefer.

Dark turkey meat delivers a much more nutrient-dense wallop than white turkey meat. With greater amounts of vitamin B like riboflavin, thiamine and folate and minerals like iron, zinc and selenium, dark turkey meat's damaged reputation for being too high in fat deserves to be overturned considering these impressive nutrition facts.

Leftover Potential

The slightly higher fat content in dark meat gives a juicier flavor and protects the meat from drying out in the refrigerator. Thanksgiving turkey leftovers with dark meat make for tastier sandwiches, salads and even soups. Clearly all of these leftover recipes work just fine with the more plentiful white meat, but again, we're just saying you have the option and you shouldn't feel guilty if you use it.

Try some of these recipes for Thanksgiving day or for your leftovers:

Stuffed Turkey Rolls

Hot Turkey Club Sandwiches

Roasted Thanksgiving Turkey Breast

Curried Turkey and Cauliflower Stew

Southwestern Turkey Salad Wraps

When it comes to calories and fat, the difference between the two isn't significant enough to guilt yourself into another dry Thanksgiving dinner. Still trying to justify? Place your fork down just one bite shy of finishing your slice of pumpkin pie and you will have balanced out any extra calories consumed with the dark meat.

Need more healthy Thanksgiving tips? Check-out our Healthy Thanksgiving Recipe Guide.

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