Is Chicken the Healthiest Option?

Let's talk about the best protein sources.

slow cooker spinach artichoke chicken

Chicken is a super popular food choice for so many people around the world, due to it being versatile, affordable, and healthier than other proteins. But is chicken really the healthiest option? Let’s look at the nutritional facts and other factors to see if chicken is the best protein you can put in your body!

The Nutritional Makeup of Chicken

is chicken the healthiest option

Any gym guy or gal will tell you that chicken is a fantastic source of high-quality protein, crucial for building and repairing those hard earned muscles. Chicken breast typically contains about 35 grams of protein per 4-ounce serving, making it an excellent option for those who want to remain healthy while maintaining a balanced calorie and fat intake.

Pictured above: Air Fryer Chicken Parmesan

Chicken contains many important vitamins and minerals. It is particularly rich in B vitamins, including niacin (vitamin B3), essential for energy metabolism, and vitamin B6, which supports immune function. Chicken is also a good source of selenium, an antioxidant that protects cells from oxidative damage, as well as phosphorus, which helps maintain bone health.

This protein is truly a treasure trove of micronutrients, making chicken essential for a well-rounded diet. However, the nutritional content of chicken can vary since it depends on the method of cooking, the cut of the chicken, and whether the chicken is organic or conventionally raised.

Chicken: The Lean Protein 

chicken breasts

As an excellent source of lean protein, chicken is a great choice for weight loss and muscle building. Health-conscious individuals prefer skinless, boneless chicken breast because of its low fat and calorie content. Using lean cuts of protein makes for far more choices when cooking! It’s perfect for roasts, soups, stews, salads, and so much more!

Pictured above: The Easiest Air Fryer Chicken Breasts Recipe

Industrial Vs. Organic Poultry Farms

balsamic chicken

In industrial poultry farming practices, antibiotics and hormones are used in large quantities, causing concerns regarding their safety. Antibiotics are commonly used in poultry farming to prevent and treat bacterial infections and promote growth. As a result of the overuse of antibiotics in livestock production, a threat to public health has arisen resulting from antibiotic resistance.

Pictured above: Balsamic Fig Chicken Breasts

Growth hormones can also be administered to chickens to quicken their growth and boost their meat output. Although many countries have strict regulations regarding the use of hormones in poultry farming, residues from these treatments may still be present in chicken products. This raises concerns about the potential impact of these residues on human health, especially about conditions like certain cancers that are hormone-sensitive.

People are frequently turning to pasture-raised or organic chicken to ease these worries, as these chickens are usually free of hormones and antibiotics. 

Organic chicken is raised following strict regulations established by organizations that certify organic products, without using artificial pesticides, fertilizers, antibiotics, or hormones. Conversely, chicken fed in pasture is given access to open-air pasture areas where they can graze for naturally occurring items. This leads to a more diversified diet that may include more nutrients. While it’s a bit pricier, going for free-range organic chicken may be the way to go.

Why Cooking Methods are Important for Healthy Chicken

oven baked chicken

The healthiness of your chicken is not only determined by the cut (breast, wing, thigh, etc.) but also by how you cook it.

The cooking technique used can have a significant effect on the nutritional makeup of the chicken dish. It can affect things like fat content, calorie density, and even the production of potentially hazardous chemicals.

Pictured above: Crispy Oven Baked Chicken Katsu

One of the healthiest ways to prepare chicken is usually to grill, bake, or roast it without adding extra fat. With these methods, the natural juices are preserved while extra fat is allowed to drop off, making the finished dish leaner and fewer in calories. Plus, by reducing the amount of vitamins and minerals that are broken down, baking or grilling chicken at moderate temperatures helps maintain its nutritional integrity.

Fried or deep-fried chicken can dramatically raise the fat and calorie content of the dish, turning an ordinarily low-fat protein source into a high-fat treat. Large amounts of fat are absorbed by chicken when it is dipped in heated oil, leading to needless calories and saturated fats in the meal. Luckily, the air fryer has opened the door to enjoy that “fried” texture without the added fat and calories!

In short, you can get the nutritional benefits of chicken without sacrificing your health goals by using healthier cooking methods like grilling, baking, roasting, or air frying.

Potential Health Risks

quinoa chicken nuggets

Although chicken is a lean protein source, processed chicken items like patties, nuggets, and deli meats may not be. They often have added salt, preservatives, and other ingredients that counteract the nutritional benefits of chicken and lead to negative health consequences.

Pictured above: Quinoa Chicken Nuggets

Safely Cooked and Prepared Chicken is Super Important!

Undercooked or carelessly handled chicken may include bacteria like Salmonella and Campylobacter. These can cause foodborne illnesses like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and in extreme cases, hospitalization or even death. So it’s important to keep your kitchen clean and practice cooking chicken perfectly to prevent these horrible outcomes!

For food safety and to reduce the risk of foodborne illness, chicken must be handled, stored, and cooked properly. Be sure to grab some air-tight containers and zip-lock bags, and refrigerate your chicken to be eaten within the next couple of days.

Here are some tips on how to safely prepare, cook, and store your chicken:

Practice proper food handling: To avoid cross-contamination with other foods, handle raw chicken with care and wash your hands, utensils, and surfaces thoroughly.

Store chicken properly: To prevent bacterial growth, keep it frozen or refrigerated as soon as it is purchased, and keep its temperature below 40°F (4°C).

Thoroughly cook the chicken: Cook the chicken until its internal temperature reaches 165°F (75°C) to eradicate dangerous pathogens like Salmonella and Campylobacter.

Be cautious with leftovers: To reduce the chance of contracting a foodborne disease, store leftover chicken in the fridge and eat it within a few days.

Mind the expiration dates: Check the expiration dates on chicken products placed in packaging, and throw away any spoilt or expired goods.

Finding a Dietary Balance

one pan meal

Chicken is amazing and goes with almost anything, which is why it’s important to include it as part your diet. After all, eating a diet consisting only of protein robs you of precious micronutrients!

Carbs like whole grains, fruits, and veggies are crucial for fiber and energy. Fats from nuts, olive oil, and eggs are necessary for brain, skin, and heart health. The majority of your meals should contain a healthy balance of protein, carbs, and omega-3 rich ingredients.

Pictured above: One-Pan Broccoli, Sweet Potato, and Chicken Dinner

And while chicken is king, it’s best to include other sources of protein from time to time. Every protein source has a different nutritional profile, containing various vitamins, minerals, and substances that are good for you. For instance, beans and legumes offer fiber, folate, and antioxidants vital for digestive health and disease prevention. Additionally, fish is high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for heart health and cognitive function.

We’ve got plenty of nutritious, well-balanced, protein-rich recipes to try that don’t include chicken, like:

Must-Try Healthy Chicken Recipes

instant pot posole verde soup

All this chicken talk makes us hungry! Let’s check out some of our mouthwatering chicken recipes:

Need More Inspiration?

We hope you’ve gained some insight into chicken and if it is the healthiest option for your protein-packed meals. Let us know your thoughts in the comments section!

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Gale Compton

Gale co-founded SkinnyMs. with a goal to provide women with delicious recipes, fitness routines, and ways to reach their ideal weight. Gale has been featured on the Today Show in which she won a cook off for the best Lasagna. Be sure to search for her winning recipe, Skinny Lasagna Rolls.

Guided by her firm belief in healthy eating and the power of exercise, Gale has written two cookbooks and several fitness ebooks. She earned her Fitness Training Certification from, National Exercise & Sports Trainers Association. Gale loves to run with her dog Maggie and has completed numerous half-marathons.

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