The Christmas turkey will soon take its majestic place on the dinner tables of many Quebec families. But which do you prefer: thigh or breast meat? Do you know whether nutritional properties vary substantially according to the colour of the meat? Nutrition experts have long suggested we should favour white meat because of its lower fat and calorie content. The reality is that the differences between white meat and dark meat are actually insignificant.
The colour of a piece of turkey meat, and other poultry, depends on the type of muscle it contains. The meat is darker where there are higher concentrations of myoglobin, a compound that allows muscles to transport oxygen. Because chickens and turkeys cannot fly, they walk a lot. Hence, the meat in their legs is darker than that of their breasts.
Many people will opt for white meat because of its lower calorie content. But in fact, a serving of around 30 grams of white turkey meat without the skin contains approximately 46 calories and one gram of fat, compared to dark meat without the skin, which contains 50 calories and two grams of fat. Even though dark meat has a few more calories, it also has great benefits. It contains more iron, zinc, riboflavin, thiamine, and vitamins B6 and B12 than white meat.
Nevertheless, we should remember that both turkey breasts and thighs have fewer calories and less fat than most cuts of red meat. Therefore, either color of turkey meat is a preferable food choice. As most of the fat in poultry actually hides in the skin of the bird, it is recommended we avoid eating it altogether. So when it comes time to choosing dark meat or white meat, go for what you like best, because the nutritional differences between the two are entirely negligible. Bon appétit!