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Chicken: Benefits for health, nutrition and possible risks

Chicken: Benefits for health, nutrition and possible risks Photo: Chicken breast calories - A simple guide to nutritional content (GettyImages)

Chicken, one of the most consumed proteins in the world, plays a significant role in people's diets with its nutritional benefits, versatility, and widespread availability. As a lean protein source, chicken offers essential vitamins, minerals, and a high protein content with limited saturated fat, making it a popular and healthy dietary choice, according to Today.

Chicken is a versatile protein suitable for most healthy eating plans, yet its nutritional value varies across different forms. Skinless white chicken breast is a low-fat, low-calorie option, unlike dark meat and skin-on chicken, which contain significantly more calories and fat.

A 3.5-ounce portion of skinless, boneless, white chicken breast contains 106 calories, 23 grams of protein, 2 grams of fat, and no carbohydrates. Dark meat from chicken generally has more calories and fat.

Rich in protein, chicken breast supports muscle building, brain function, mood stability, and weight management. Protein, essential for various bodily functions, should constitute a significant part of an individual's diet, especially for muscle growth and recovery in active people. Additionally, chicken provides vitamin B12 and choline, which are crucial for brain health and development.

Although definitive studies on chicken's health benefits are limited, its low saturated fat content and nutritional profile make it a healthy dietary choice.

Chicken health risks

Chicken is a favorite among many non-vegetarians, featuring prominently in various dishes, from appetizers to main courses. Known for being a healthy source of protein and different nutrients, chicken is a typical diet choice. However, the question arises: are there any side effects to eating chicken every day?

Chicken health risks:

  • Carcinogens. Grilled chicken often contains PhIP, a known carcinogen linked to breast, prostate, and other cancers;
  • Cholesterol. Chicken raises cholesterol levels as much as red meat, particularly saturated fat in poultry;
  • Pathogens. Poultry products are frequently contaminated with harmful bacteria, causing foodborne illnesses. Campylobacter and Salmonella infections have been increasing;
  • Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs). E. coli from chicken feces can lead to UTIs, with drug-resistant strains posing treatment challenges;
  • Fecal Contamination. Chicken products can have hidden fecal contamination, as USDA inspections only target visible feces.

Chicken labeling

When shopping for chicken, various packaging claims like organic, free-range, or conventional can be confusing. Understanding these terms can help you make informed choices that suit your dietary needs and preferences.

For example, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulates terms like "organic" and "antibiotic-free." Organic chickens are raised on organic feed without antibiotics, while conventional chickens may receive antibiotics and have no specific feed requirements.

Chicken: Benefits for health, nutrition and possible risksChicken (Photo: Serious Eats)

The USDA monitors antibiotic use to prevent the development of resistant superbugs. "Antibiotic-free" chickens don't receive antibiotics, but their feed isn't regulated.

The term "free range" is more ambiguous. It generally indicates that chickens have some outdoor access during the day, though this doesn't guarantee free roaming. Often, they have limited outdoor space and choose to stay inside near their food and water, as the USDA evaluates these claims individually.

We recently wrote about a recipe for crispy, juicy, beer-infused chicken.