Chicken is a favorite meat choice for many.
It’s easily available, versatile in recipes, and found in numerous dishes worldwide.
But, you might wonder about its health benefits.
This article dives into the pros and cons of consuming chicken, helping you decide if it’s a healthy option for you.
What’s in chicken? Nutrition facts about chicken
Chicken packs a punch when it comes to essential nutrients like protein, niacin, selenium, and phosphorus.
Here’s what you get in a 3-ounce (85-gram) chicken breast serving:
- Calories: 122
- Protein: 24 grams
- Fat: 3 grams
- Carbs: 0 grams
- Niacin: 51% of what you need daily
- Selenium: 36% of your daily quota
- Phosphorus: 17% of your daily target
- Vitamin B6: 16% of what you need each day
- Vitamin B12: 10% of your daily requirement
- Riboflavin: 9% of your daily intake
- Zinc: 7% of your daily goal
- Thiamine: 6% of your daily amount
- Potassium: 5% of your daily intake
- Copper: 4% of what you need daily
Protein stands out as it’s crucial for tissue repair and sustaining muscle strength.
On top of that, selenium, a lesser-known mineral, is vital for immune strength, thyroid balance, and fertility.
Also, chicken has a good dose of B vitamins, especially niacin and vitamins B6 and B12. These are key for energy, DNA building, and brain well-being.
Summary: Chicken is brimming with essential nutrients, like protein, niacin, selenium, and phosphorus.
Why eat chicken? Benefits of chicken
Chicken is nutrient-dense, making it a smart choice for a balanced diet.
It’s not just low in calories but also high in protein, which can be handy if you’re trying to shed some pounds.
Research suggests that upping your protein intake can make you feel full longer, assist in weight reduction, and help keep your muscles lean.
Coupled with exercises like weight lifting, protein from chicken can boost muscle development.
Additionally, protein plays a role in managing calcium, crucial for keeping your bones strong.
Summary: Chicken is nutritious, packed with protein, and can help with weight management, muscle building, and bone strengthening.
Chicken’s potential downsides and drawbacks
While chicken is a staple for many, not all chicken dishes are equally nutritious.
For instance, fried options like chicken nuggets, popcorn chicken, and tenders often come with more unhealthy fats, carbs, and calories.
Some chicken varieties are also overly processed, think lunch meats.
Studies indicate that eating processed meats might increase your risk of ailments like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers.
These processed options usually pack more sodium and preservatives.
Cutting down on sodium has proven benefits for reducing blood pressure, particularly for those already experiencing hypertension.
Moreover, certain preservatives in these processed meats, like nitrites, could lead to the development of harmful, cancer-causing compounds.
Summary: While chicken is loved by many, choices like fried and processed varieties might not be the healthiest, and consuming them can come with potential risks.
Best ways to cook chicken, and healthy preparations
Chicken can be made in various ways, with some methods being healthier than others.
Here are some top healthy picks:
- Grilled chicken. A fast and nutritious way to up your protein game. Pair it with some grilled veggies to balance your dish.
- Baked chicken. A go-to dinner choice for many, especially if you’re watching your weight. Baked chicken is not just tasty but also filled with vital nutrients.
- Stir-fried chicken. A quick stir fry with some oil, chicken, and your chosen veggies offers a meal rich in protein and fiber.
Summary: For a healthier chicken experience, consider grilling, baking, or stir-frying it.
Unhealthy preparations: Chicken dishes to think twice about
While chicken is a staple for many health-conscious individuals, not all preparations are equally beneficial.
Suggested read: Are egg noodles healthy? Benefits & downsides
Here are a few chicken varieties that might not be the best choices:
- Fried chicken. Due to deep frying and breading, it often contains more calories, carbs, and unhealthy fats than its grilled or baked counterparts.
- Rotisserie chicken. The ones from stores are often soaked in brine and heavily seasoned, upping the sodium content.
- Chicken lunch meat. These processed slices often have added sodium and preservatives, which aren’t ideal for regular consumption.
Summary: Be cautious with fried chicken, store-bought rotisserie chicken, and chicken lunch meat when aiming for a healthier diet.
How to consume chicken wisely and eating tips
Chicken can be a nutritious protein source for many diets.
Aim for a serving size of 3–4 ounces (85–113 grams), which is about the size of a deck of cards.
Always go for healthier preparation methods such as baking, grilling, stir-frying, or steaming.
Remember, chicken is just one of many protein sources. Mix it up with fish, other meats, poultry, and legumes to ensure a well-rounded nutrient intake.
Summary: Aim for moderate servings of chicken and prioritize healthier cooking methods. Also, diversify your protein sources for a balanced diet.
Chicken boasts numerous essential nutrients that promote health.
Yet, the key is choosing the right type of chicken and cooking it in a health-conscious manner, like baking or grilling, instead of deep frying.
Above all, include chicken in a diverse diet, complemented by other protein-rich foods for optimal health benefits.