When it comes to protein choices, most Americans choose chicken more often than beef, pork, turkey or fish, according to the National Chicken Council. While you might be eating chicken, you're probably not eating chicken hearts and gizzards. If you're not familiar with the gizzard, it's the muscle in the chicken that grinds food before it is digested. Like other parts of the chicken, the hearts and gizzards are a good source of protein, but are higher in fat and cholesterol than light meat chicken.
If you're looking to save calories the gizzards make a better choice. A 3.5-ounce portion of simmered chicken hearts contains 185 calories, while the same portion of simmered chicken gizzards contains 153 calories. Even though there is a 32 calorie difference between the two different meats, both the chicken hearts and gizzards are low-energy-dense foods, which means their calorie content is low when compared to weight.
Both the chicken hearts and gizzards are high in protein, but the gizzards are slightly higher than the hearts. A 3.5-ounce portion of simmered chicken hearts contains 26 grams of protein, and the same portion of simmered chicken gizzards contains 27 grams. As an animal protein, both the hearts and gizzards provide all the essential amino acids, making it a complete source of protein. Protein is found in every cell in your body, and the protein in your diet is used to help replace and maintain protein levels.
Fat and Cholesterol
Although chicken hearts and gizzards are low in calories and high in protein, they are both high in cholesterol, and the chicken hearts are high in fat. A 3.5-ounce portion of the hearts contains 8 grams of total fat, which is 38 percent of total calories, and 242 milligrams of cholesterol. Chicken gizzards contain a little less total fat and cholesterol than the hearts with 3.6 grams of total fat and 194 milligrams of cholesterol in a 3.5-ounce portion. The American Heart Association recommends you limit your total fat intake to 25 to 35 percent of total calories and cholesterol to less than 300 milligrams a day.
High in Iron and Zinc
Both chicken hearts and gizzards are high in iron and zinc, but the hearts are the better source. A 3.5-ounce portion of chicken hearts contains 9 milligrams of iron and 7 milligrams of zinc, while the gizzards contain 4 milligrams of iron and 4.3 milligrams of zinc. Iron is needed to make hemoglobin and transport oxygen throughout your body. Zinc helps you fight colds by boosting your immune system, and also helps heal cuts.
- National Chicken Council: Per Capita Consumption of Poultry and Livestock, 1965 to Estimated 2014, in Pounds
- TheKitchn: Chicken Giblets: An Illustrated Guide
- FatFree: Nutritional Data for Chicken; Gizzard, All Classes, Ckd, Simmered
- Health-Alicious-Ness.com: Chicken Heart, All Classes, Cooked Simmered
- FatFree: Nutritional Data for Chicken; Broilers or Fryers, Light Meat, Meat Only
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Protein
- American Heart Association: Know Your Fats
- KidsHealth: Minerals
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Low-Energy-Dense Foods and Weight Management: Cutting Calories While Controlling Hunger