Is white meat chicken healthier than dark meat chicken?

Welcome to Burning Questions, The Takeout’s video series in which we answer all your culinary quandaries and ponderings.

Despite our insistence that dark meat chicken is the more flavorful, delicious part of the bird, white meat chicken breast continues to vastly outsell any other cut of chicken at the grocery store. It makes sense: throughout the 1990s, most popular diets relied on skinless chicken breast as their primary source of lean protein, and we’ve bought into its healthiness ever since. But chicken thighs are tastier and often cheaper—and how much worse for you could they possibly be, really? We spoke to the experts to find out. For the full investigation, head here.


Dr Emilio Lizardo

While it is true that the difference in calories (and even fat) is fairly small, it is not offset in any way by the added nutrients in dark meat that you mentioned. You listed higher levels of iron, zinc, riboflavin, thiamine, B6, and B12 as advantages of eating dark meat. Of those, only iron deficiency and B12 deficiency occur in developed countries and it is virtually impossible for an adult or child on solid food to get those deficiencies through lack of dietary intake. Iron deficiencies occur by either bleeding or malabsorption syndromes (almost always celiac disease (REAL celiac disease, not the trendy one (don’t start with me))) and B12 deficiency only occurs through malabsorption from stomach surgery, regular antacid use, or pernicious anemia. In developed countries, all the nutrients you listed are ubiquitous enough in our food that it is impossible to develop deficiencies through dietary absence alone, so missing those nutrients in your chicken breast is irrelevant.

So based on your 14 cal/5 oz difference, subbing breast for thigh 3 times a week saves you less calories than skipping an Oreo. I think this proves once again that the most effective diet is the one you will stick to.  Eat what you like, just pay attention to what you eat and eat less of it.