Chicken is a type of poultry that is high in protein and, when eaten without the skin, quite lean. Skinless white meat chicken breast is the lowest in fat and calories. Chicken is rich in many vitamins and minerals essential for human health and is a good food choice for dieters as well as bodybuilders and everyone in-between.
Like beef, fish and other types of poultry, chicken is high in protein. Each ounce of meat provides 7g protein. A typical portion is about 4 ounces or the size of a deck of cards and provides 28g protein. Also, like all animal protein foods and soy products, chicken is a complete protein food, meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids. Protein has many functions in the human body, including building body tissues and muscles.
Carbohydrates, Calories and Fat
Chicken is a carbohydrate-free food. According to NutritionData, skinless chicken breast provides the least amount of calories and fat, about 143 calories, 3g total fat and 1g saturated fat for half of a large boneless, skinless breast, or a 95g serving. Dark meat is higher in fat. About 86g of dark meat without skin provides 165 calories and 8g total fat, 2g of which are saturated. This nutrition information is for chicken that has been stewed without added fat.
Chicken is a rich source of two B vitamins: niacin or vitamin B3 and vitamin B6. A 4-ounce portion meets 40 and 16 percent respectively of the recommended daily value, or DV. The most important function of niacin is in helping to release energy from carbohydrates. It also aids in the formation of red blood cells. The best food source of vitamin B6 is poultry. This nutrient performs the same functions as niacin but is also important for protein metabolism, is necessary for proper immune system function and helps produce certain neurotransmitters, or brain chemicals.
A 4-ounce portion of chicken is also rich in two minerals, phosphorus and selenium, meeting 16 and 30 percent of the DV for each, respectively. Phosphorus is essential for healthy, strong bones and teeth and is a part of all cell membranes in the human body. This mineral also helps activate the B vitamins. Selenium is important for immune system function and aids in regulating the thyroid hormone.
How chicken is prepared and/or ingredients added alters the nutrition facts. For example, deep frying chicken and/or consuming the skin increases the amount of fat significantly. Breading chicken or coating it in flour adds carbohydrates. While minerals are indestructible, vitamins are easily destroyed by heat, light and other conditions. Boiling chicken in water may leach the B vitamins. Dry heat cooking methods, such as broiling, may better retain these nutrients.
- Nutrition for Foodservice and Culinary Professionals, 6th Ed.; K.E. Drummond and L.M. Brefere; 2007
- MyPyramid: Inside the Pyramid: Meats & Beans Group
- Nutrition Data: Chicken, broilers or fryers, breast, meat only, cooked, stewed
- Nutrition Data: Chicken, broilers or fryers, dark meat, meat only, cooked, stewed
- Northwestern Health Sciences University: Vitamin and Mineral Functions