For quite some time “white meat” seemed to be the preferred choice of protein. While most kids would reach for the drumstick, the adults always ask for a piece of the breast. Similarly, even marketing and advertisements for fast food were always quick to tout that they had “white meat.” Still, if you do your research, dark meat also has some very strong muscle building benefits. Marketing gimmicks aside, which one truly is better for a healthy diet and to build muscle?

Which is Better?

White meat, but not by as much as you’d think.

Why is it Better?

White (light) meat has less fat than dark. That being said, if you’re piling your plate with holiday grub like mashed potatoes, veggies in some fatty sauce, and dessert, you should at least limit the amount of fat you’re getting with your meat.

This does not mean that dark meat is bad for you. When you’re eating less fatty foods, dark meat is a terrific protein source – just consuming fat (bad fat) with your protein source along with fatty (bad fat) treats is a bit overboard. Light meat does have more protein per ounce (a direct result of having less fat), but dark meat contains more selenium, a mineral that is linked to heart health and reducing the risk of cancer, and which also appears to have an effect on muscle and strength.

In fact, a recent study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers reported that lower levels of selenium in the blood were associated with less strength.

Why Dark Meat Has More Fat Than White Meat

Turkeys need endurance in their legs, for their mobility. Higher levels of fat provide that endurance. Since turkeys don’t fly long distances, their upperbody muscles have more fast-twitch or explosive muscle, which doesn’t rely on fat for energy. Still, despite the fact that dark meat is fattier, only a third of that fat is the saturated (bad) fat. The rest is mostly healthy polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat.

Dig in!