Chicken is rich in many important nutrients, including protein, niacin, selenium, phosphorus and more.
A 3-ounce (85 g) serving of chicken breast contains:
- Calories: 122
- Protein: 24 grams
- Fat: 3 grams
- Carbohydrates: 0 grams
- Niacin: 51% of the Daily Value (DV)
- Selenium: 36% of daily value
- Phosphorus: 17% of daily value
- Vitamin B6: 16% of daily value
- Vitamin B12: 10% of daily value
- Riboflavin: 9% of DV
- Zinc: 7% of daily value
- Thiamine: 6% of daily value
- Potassium: 5% of daily value
- Copper: 4% of DV
Protein, in particular, is essential for building and repairing tissue and maintaining muscle mass.
Selenium, meanwhile, is a trace mineral necessary for normal immune function, thyroid health, and fertility.
Chicken is also rich in B-complex vitamins such as niacin, as well as vitamins B6 and B12, which play central roles in energy production, DNA synthesis and brain health.
Chicken is packed with important nutrients and is an excellent addition to a healthy, well-rounded diet.
Given that chicken is low in calories and high in protein, it may be particularly beneficial for weight loss if your goal is to lose weight.
Research shows that increasing protein intake may increase satiety, increase weight loss, and help maintain lean body mass.
Protein can also help promote muscle growth when paired with resistance training.
Additionally, protein is involved in calcium metabolism and is important for optimizing bone health.
Not all types of chickens are created equal.
For example, fried and breaded varieties like chicken nuggets, popcorn chicken, and chicken tenders are often high in unhealthy fats, carbs, and calories.
Certain types of chicken are also highly processed, such as lunch meat.
Research shows that processed meat consumption may increase the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer.
Processed meats may also contain large amounts of sodium and preservatives.
Reducing sodium intake has been shown to help lower blood pressure levels, especially in people with high blood pressure.
Additionally, some preservatives in processed meats, such as nitrites, may contribute to the formation of carcinogenic compounds.
Some common methods of preparing chicken are healthier than others.
Here are some of the best options:
roast chicken. Grilled chicken is a quick, healthy way to increase your protein intake. Consider throwing some veggies on the grill to round out your meal.
Baked chicken. Grilled chicken is a great weeknight dinner option, especially if you're trying to lose weight. In addition to being low in fat and calories, grilled chicken is packed with important nutrients.
Fried chicken. Try sauteing chicken with a little oil and your favorite vegetables for a high-fiber, protein-rich meal.
While chicken does fit into a healthy diet, some types of chicken contain extra calories, fat, or sodium.
Here are some types of chicken you should limit or avoid:
fried chicken. Because fried chicken is usually deep-fried and breaded, it's often high in calories, carbs, and unhealthy fats.
roast chicken. Store-bought rotisserie chicken is often brined and seasoned, which can significantly increase the sodium content in the final product.
Lunch meat chicken. Processed meats, including lunch chicken, often have large amounts of sodium and unhealthy preservatives added to extend their shelf life .
Chicken can be a great addition to a balanced diet.
Keep serving sizes around 3-4 ounces (85-113 grams), which is about the size of a deck of playing cards.
Choose healthy cooking methods whenever possible, such as baking, grilling, sautéing or steaming.
Finally, remember that chicken should be eaten with a variety of other protein sources, such as fish, meat, poultry, and legumes, to ensure you're getting all the nutrients your body needs.
Chicken is rich in many important nutrients that are good for your health.
However, it's important to choose a healthy type of chicken and choose cooking methods such as baking, grilling, steaming or stir-frying rather than frying.
Finally, be sure to include chicken as part of a balanced diet, along with a variety of other healthy protein-rich foods.