Chicken Nutrition Facts: Something to Cluck About?

Chicken is widely seen as health food, and it can be a great choice, but before you head over to Popeyes, be sure you have your chicken nutrition facts straight.  It’s easy to overdo it with this seemingly low fat, low calorie meat option, so, keep in mind a few tips, and you’ll reap  the benefits without over-indulging.

The Good

Chicken is a great source of selenium (which helps prevent cancer, heart disease, regulate the thyroid, and help maintain a healthy immune system), niacin, for cholesterol production, vitamin B6 and phosphorus, helping maintain a healthy heart and aids in the repair, growth and maintenance of cells and tissues. A four ounce serving (about the size of a deck of cards) of the breast, with the skin and bone removed, has about 165 calories, and 31 grams of protein.  Chicken is also low in sodium, so avoid store bought marinades. Don’t undo your careful eating!

Though the bone and skin impart flavor to a chicken breast, it also adds fat and calories. Fortunately, chicken is easy to marinate, picking up flavor quickly, so you can ditch the fatty skin and trade it for other flavor. That said, marinate carefully!  Many marinades pack lots of fat and tons of sodium.  Try marinating a chicken breast in the juice of half a lemon, a few thinly sliced rings of white onion and some chopped parsley for 30 minutes before throwing it on the grill.  These Greek inspired flavors are fantastic with a side of grilled veggies, on salad, or with sliced tomato and cucumber in a whole wheat pita! So kiss those store bought marinades and their weird ingredients good-bye, and keep your chicken healthy.

The Bad

A chicken breast, probably the most common piece eaten, has 4 grams of fat in a 4 oz serving. Compare it to the same size filet, with 17grams of fat in the same size, and chicken doesn’t look so bad.  However, people tend to think that since chicken is so lean, that the portion size doesn’t matter.  Use caution when you are serving it up on your plate!  Eating the whole breast, depending on the brand that you buy, could chalk up 3 or more servings!  Just think…cut it down and you’ll have lunch left tomorrow!

Shockingly, the cholesterol content of a 4 oz piece of chicken breast is actually 2 milligrams higher than that in a Porterhouse steak. So, you probably don’t want to be gnawing on a chicken breast at every meal, but the RDA is around 300mg, depending on gender and age.

When ordering chicken in a restaurant, be sure to find out how it’s prepared.  Some preparations can pile on the fat and calories, even if they are called grilled or sauteed. Ask if there is oil used to brown, or if butter is used to make it shiny.

When it comes down to it, chicken sure IS something to cluck about!

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