Chicken and turkey are popular birds used for food around the world. Both are great options full of health benefits. However, there is another bird in town that many tend to overlook, the duck. While a roast duck can be a great alternative to chicken or turkey, duck nutrition holds many additional benefits.
Ducks are waterfowl, and to survive cold-water temperatures these birds have an extra heat-insulating fatty layer between the skin and meat. Duck is also darker meat than chicken or turkey, with the legs being the darkest cut.
Wild vs Domesticated Duck
Like with fish, you can purchase farmed or wild ducks, though wild ducks are harder to find unless you live in a hunting community (or you hunt for them yourself). Also, like fish, the way a duck is raised can play a big role in the breakdown of nutrients.
First of all, the mallard is the most common duck that has been domesticated for food. Almost all farmed ducks are mallards, so if you’ve had duck there’s a good chance that’s what breed it was.
Things get more diverse when you hunt a wild duck. Mallards, pintails, gadwalls, widgeon, teal, and the northern shoveler, are the most common wild ducks hunted for food. However, you also get divers like bluebills, canvasbacks, buffleheads, goldeneyes, and redheads. These ducks have a different nutritional profile and taste as small crustaceans make up the bulk of their diet.
A big difference between a domesticated versus a wild duck is the fat content. Domesticated duck has a total of 28.4g of fat per 100g serving, while a wild duck only has 15.2g. This makes sense as a wild duck will be leaner from flight and increased activity. Domesticated ducks (or farmed ducks) don’t get the same level of activity, plus a consistent, readily available source of food leads to a more fatty bird.
Due to the higher levels of fat in domesticated ducks, they also have double the omega-6, which can cause inflammation if not balanced with omega-3 levels.
Domesticated ducks have higher levels of protein, vitamin A (though still in low quantitates), niacin, pantothenic acid, zinc, and selenium. They also contain some vitamin E and vitamin K, while wild ducks typically do not.
Wild ducks are a better source of thiamin, vitamin B6, folate, vitamin B12, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and copper. They also contain vitamin C, which you won’t find in a domesticated duck.
That being said, many of these differences are minimal. Plus, both varieties have good, equal sources of riboflavin.
There is a far smaller between wild vs farmed ducks than salmon for example. While wild duck is probably the better choice if available, a domesticated duck is still a great, healthy option. The big benefit to eating wild is that it has had a more diverse diet, leading to a healthier balance of nutrients.
Thiamin is a water-soluble B vitamin that plays a key role in energy metabolism. It is needed for cell growth, development, and function. Small amounts are stored in the liver, but the body uses this vitamin quickly, so it is important to get it on a regular basis.
Thiamin deficiency can cause oxidative stress and death of neurons, memory loss, and is common in patients with Alzheimer’s.
We need vitamin B6. It’s a co-factor for many of the body’s metabolic functions. It is needed for glucose, amino acid, and lipid metabolism. A healthy metabolism is vital in order to maintain energy levels, burn fat, and recovery.
Iron is an important mineral for growth and development. It’s used to make hemoglobin (a protein in red blood cells needed to carry oxygen to the body), and myoglobin (the red blood cell protein that carries oxygen to muscles). Iron is also used to produce connective tissues and hormones.
A lack of iron will mean less oxygen is getting to the body, resulting in fatigue, poor memory and concentration, paleness, headaches, inflammation, chest pain, and poor appetite.
This mineral has antioxidant properties, preventing oxidative stress. It reduces DNA damage, helps protect against heart disease, asthma, and autoimmune diseases. It also supports healthy reproduction. Be careful not to get too much as selenium toxicity has many dangerous side effects. Avoid supplementing selenium and stick to getting this mineral from good whole food like duck.
Duck liver is a delicacy that you may want to add to your diet. It’s also great to use more than just the breast and leg meat of these birds.
Duck liver is a good source of protein, phosphorus, zinc, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, and pantothenic acid. It has great levels of folate, and selenium, plus astronomically high levels of vitamin A, vitamin B12, and copper.
Foie gras is the most popular way duck liver is prepared. It is the liver from a duck or goose that has been force-fed twice daily, making it much higher in fat. However, this delicacy has far lower levels of vitamins and minerals so stick to a traditionally raised duck (this is more humane too).
Vitamin A is a must have in your diet. It is essential for ocular (eye) health, fighting inflammation, and is a cancer preventer. Vitamin A works as an anti-aging vitamin to help protect your skin from wrinkles, plus it helps improve your complexion and reduces acne.
This vitamin supports the brain and nervous system, making it extremely important. It is needed for red blood cell formation, which supports energy levels and heart health. Generally, it helps cellular function, keeping your body going. Plus, vitamin B12 deficiency has been linked to anxiety and depression.
Copper is a cofactor for the enzyme lysyl oxidase, which plays a supportive role in maintaining connective tissues. It’s needed for elastin and collagen production, especially as you age. This essentially helps hold you together and keeps you looking and feeling younger.
Roast duck is a popular dish in many parts of the world, but it hasn’t reached the same level of popularity as other poultry. This likely is due to the dark, fattier meat. However, don’t be afraid to mix up your dinner options and add a duck to the menu!