Americans eat about 60 pounds of chicken per person each year. As long as you don't eat the skin and you remove any visible fat, both dark and light meat chicken can be healthy. While chicken breasts have less fat, dark meat like chicken legs has more minerals.
Chicken legs include the drumstick, thigh and back. An entire chicken leg contains 346 calories, including 183 from the drumstick, 125 from the thigh and 38 from the back. Each chicken leg provides 48 grams of protein and 16 grams of fat, including 4 grams of saturated fat. This is 96 percent of the daily value for protein, 25 percent of the DV for fat and 20 percent of the DV for saturated fat if you eat 2,000 calories per day.
Eating a chicken leg will provide you with 0.18 milligram of thiamine, or 12 percent of the DV; 0.38 milligram of riboflavin, or 22 percent of the DV; 12 milligrams of niacin, or 60 percent of the DV; 0.85 milligram of vitamin B-6, or 43 percent of the DV; and 0.78 milligram of vitamin B-12, or 13 percent of the DV. These B vitamins are essential for breaking down the food you eat and turning it into energy; for proper functioning of your nervous system; and for keeping your liver, skin, eyes and hair healthy.
Each chicken leg contains 408 milligrams of phosphorus, or 41 percent of the DV; 4.2 milligrams of zinc, or 28 percent of the DV; 535 milligrams of potassium, or 15 percent of the DV; and 2.2 milligrams of iron and 48 milligrams of magnesium, or 12 percent of the DV for each of these minerals. Phosphorus is important for kidney, nerve and muscle function, zinc is necessary for immune function and forming protein and DNA and potassium is needed for digestion and heart function. You use iron for forming red blood cells to carry oxygen throughout your body and magnesium for keeping your bones strong and your blood sugar and blood pressure within the normal range. Chicken legs also contain 197 milligrams of sodium each, which is about 9 percent of the recommended sodium limit for healthy people of 2,300 milligrams per day. Consuming too much sodium increases your risk for high blood pressure.
Breading and frying your chicken makes it unhealthy, whether you are eating chicken breasts or legs. Stick with baking or broiling. If you don't want to eat a whole chicken leg, the drumstick is a little higher in nutrients than the thigh, but also a bit higher in calories, fat and saturated fat. Organic chicken can be slightly healthier than conventionally raised chicken since it hasn't been given antibiotics or food exposed to pesticides.
Based in Massachusetts, Jessica Bruso has been writing since 2008. She holds a master of science degree in food policy and applied nutrition and a bachelor of arts degree in international relations, both from Tufts University.