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Is White Meat Healthier Than Dark Meat?

By Jane Smith

When it comes to white and dark chicken or turkey, nutrient value is no contest. White and dark chicken and turkey provide five essential nutrients: protein, magnesium, phosphorus, niacin and choline. They also provide small amounts of calcium, iron and potassium. One of them provides the lowest cholesterol level, while only one provides the highest amount of vitamin A. Selecting the option with the most nutrient value helps stretch your food dollars.

Vitamin A

Roasted chicken breast provides only 21 IU of vitamin A per 3.5-oz. serving, leaving dark chicken the clear winner, with 72 IU per serving of this important nutrient. Neither white nor dark turkey provides any measurable vitamin A, according to data at the USDA Nutrient Database for Standard Reference. The recommended daily intake for vitamin A is 625 IU for men ages 19 and older, 500 IU for women ages 19 and older, 550 IU for pregnant women over age 19 and 900 IU for nursing mothers ages 19 and older.


Roasted white turkey breast has the lowest cholesterol level, just 69 mg. Dark chicken has the most cholesterol, at 93 mg per 3.5-oz. serving. Both roasted chicken breast and roasted dark turkey provide 85 mg of cholesterol per 3.5-oz. serving. The Cleveland Clinic Heart and Vascular Institute, located in Cleveland, Ohio, recommends a cholesterol intake of less than 200 mg per day. Eating a pat of butter and two servings of dark-meat chicken a day would easily send you over that limit.

Calcium, Iron and Potassium

With 32 mg of calcium, 2.33 mg of iron and 305 mg of potassium per 3.5-oz. serving, dark turkey sweeps the other choices aside. Both light and dark chicken provide just 15 mg of calcium, while turkey breast provides 19 mg of calcium per serving. The National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine, Food and Nutrition Board recommends 800 mg of calcium per day for men and women.

The Winner

Roasted chicken breast wins over dark chicken and all types of turkey when you measure protein content, magnesium, phosphorus, niacin and choline. Roasted chicken breast provides 31.02 g of protein, 29 mg of magnesium, 228 mg of phosphorus, 13.7 mg of niacin and 85.3 mg of choline per 3.5-oz serving.

Dark chicken provides the least protein, magnesium, phosphorus and choline, just 27.37 grams of protein, 23 mg of magnesium, 179 mg of phosphorus and 74.4 mg of choline per serving. Dark turkey provides the lowest level of niacin, at 3.6 mg per serving.

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