Is There A Nutritional Difference Between Chicken Breasts And Thighs?

Chicken tends to be a pretty polarizing poultry protein. Some seem to fall on the side of thinking it has no flavor, whereas others seem to eat the bird up in many of its forms — from sausage for breakfast, to salad for lunch, or a grilled chicken breast for dinner.

Whether you love it or hate it, the United States consumes eight billion chickens per year (via Vox). If you're participating in any of that astronomical consumption, it's worth exploring whether your favorite part of the bird, perhaps the breast or thigh, is offering up any substantially different benefits to your body.

There's no denying that chicken breast is a lean, low-fat, slightly chewy protein that pretty much takes on the flavor of whatever you add to it (via Healthline). On the other hand, chicken thighs have a much more meaty, umami flavor and a tender bite. So, does flavor equal more nutritious, or the other way around?

It depends on your goals

When thinking about the nutritional differences between chicken breasts and thighs, it really comes down to light meat versus dark meat. Just like leafy greens — where the darker the green the more nutrient dense the vegetable is — when it comes to chicken, the darker the meat, the more bang for the buck it offers in terms of nutrition, but only slightly (via Insider). The main nutritional differences come down to what your goals are. There are slight variances in everything from macronutrients, like fat and protein, to micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals.

If lower calorie foods are preferable to you, chicken breasts are the way to go because thighs contain over 30% more calories (per Calories Info). Upping your fats for keto? Thighs have breasts beat by nearly 65%. Packing on muscle with protein? The difference is a somewhat negligible 8%, favoring thighs. Regarding vitamins and minerals, chicken thighs have over 50% more vitamin E, nearly 25% more iron, and over 90% more vitamin B2.

The method you use to cook the breast or thigh also affects the nutrition of the piece of bird. Darker meat tends to have more flavor, eliminating the need for heavy cooking fats and sugary sauces, per Insider. Dark meat can also withstand higher temperatures, such as broiling, without drying out.

So is there a nutritional difference? Yes. Is it substantial enough to change your poultry preferences? Probably not.