Chicken breast is low in calories, high in protein and can be prepared in many different ways and seems to be a staple on almost every weight-loss plan. And you may even have that one friend who after dropping what seemed like half her weight claimed, "I ate only chicken for a week."
If you're struggling with your weight and looking for a solution, you may wonder if eating chicken breast every day is the magical formula you've been searching for all your life to finally drop those unwanted pounds. Well, a chicken breast diet may offer health benefits to support your efforts, but no one food can help you win your battle against the bulge.
Eating chicken breast every day isn't the key to losing weight. Chicken breast, however, is low in calories and high in protein and can support your weight-loss efforts when combined with a reduced-calorie, balanced diet plan.
The Weight-Loss Equation
Despite what you may read on the internet or see on TV, no single food, pill, potion or combination of foods can help you lose weight. Weight loss is really a mathematical equation that involves calories. To lose weight, the number of calories you take in must be less than the number of calories you burn.
It's generally understood that one pound of fat contains 3,500 calories. To lose 1 pound of fat in a week, you need to create a 500-calorie daily deficit by consuming fewer calories, burning more calories with an increase in activity or both.
You may be able to create a calorie deficit by making a few simple changes to your daily diet. For example, you can save as many as 300 calories by swapping your fancy frozen mocha coffee drink for a cup of black coffee, or you can cut 90 calories by snacking on two clementines instead of a small bag of potato chips.
You can also save calories by drinking water instead of juice or soda, using low-fat or nonfat milk instead of whole milk and replacing your fried chicken with baked, grilled, or broiled chicken breast.
Just don't cut too much or you may sabotage your weight-loss efforts. Eating too few calories makes it difficult for your body to get all the nutrients it needs to maintain normal body function. A very low-calorie diet may also cause a slowdown in your metabolism in an effort to conserve energy, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, which may mean a slowdown in your weight loss.
The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute says that most men can safely lose weight eating 1,500 to 1,800 calories a day and most women can go with 1,200 to 1,500 calories a day. They also warn that you shouldn't eat fewer than 800 calories a day unless directed to do so by your doctor. You can also consult with your doctor or a registered dietitian to help you determine your calorie needs for weight loss.
More Than Just Calories
While calories are an important part of the weight-loss equation, where those calories come from matters too. According to a December 2011 long-term cohort study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers found an association between weight gain and the intake of highly processed foods such as potato chips, soda and fried foods. The researchers noted that people who ate more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and yogurt were less likely to gain weight.
A more recent prospective study published in September 2015 in PLOS Medicine found that men and women who ate more fruits and nonstarchy vegetables (leafy greens, carrots, broccoli) were less likely to gain weight.
When it comes to weight loss, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health says to fill your diet with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats and healthy sources of protein, which includes chicken breast.
Read more: General Nutritional Facts About Chicken
Chicken Breast Diet Benefits
With the focus on calories and food quality, you may be wondering how chicken breast weight loss fits together. Well, chicken breast offers many benefits when you're trying to lose weight, which is why it's a staple on so many diet plans.
First, it's low in calories. According to the USDA, a 3-ounce portion of cooked lean chicken breast has 133 calories. On a 1,500-calorie weight-loss diet that's less than 10 percent of your daily calorie needs.
Chicken breast is also a good source of protein with 27 grams per 3-ounce serving. When it comes to weight loss, protein offers many benefits. According to an August 2012 review published in the_ British Journal of Nutrition_, high-protein foods support weight loss by keeping you full, helping you maintain more of your muscle mass and increasing your metabolic rate. In fact, the authors noted that not getting enough protein in your diet may increase your risk of weight regain.
Chicken breast is also a good source of many essential nutrients, including phosphorus, selenium, niacin, riboflavin and pantothenic acid. It can also help increase your intake of iron, vitamin B12 and magnesium.
Read more: Is Baked Chicken Breast Healthy?
Healthy Meal Suggestions
When it comes to losing weight, you don't need to limit yourself to a plain chicken and vegetable diet plan. Chicken breast is a versatile protein that goes well with many flavors and foods, cooks quickly and tastes great hot or cold.
- Healthy chicken Parmesan: Cover baked chicken breast with your favorite tomato sauce and sprinkle it with mozzarella and Parmesan cheese, and then bake it in the oven until the cheese is melted.
- Chicken and broccoli weight-loss stir fry: Heat oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat, add thinly sliced strips of chicken breast and cook for five minutes. Then add chopped broccoli and your favorite stir-fry sauce, such as a mix of low-sodium soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, ginger, garlic, red pepper flakes, water and corn starch prepared in a separate bowl. Serve with brown rice.
- Leftover chicken and veggie soup: In a sauce pan, heat low-sodium chicken broth with diced cooked chicken and your favorite veggies, such as chopped carrots, onions, celery and collards. Cook until your veggies are soft.
- Slow-cooker shredded chicken tacos: Season chicken breasts with pepper, salt and chili powder and place in your slow cooker. Cover with a jar of your favorite salsa and cook on high for 4 hours. Shred your tender chicken with a fork and serve with whole-wheat tortillas and roasted corn on the cob.
Activity Counts Too
While you can lose weight by making healthier choices and consuming fewer calories, the American Academy of Family Physicians says you're more likely to keep the weight off if your calorie deficit includes exercise. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, such as a brisk walk or low-impact aerobics class, five days a week to support your weight-loss efforts on your chicken breast diet.
To improve your body's calorie-burning power, you may also want to add strength training to your weekly activity. Muscle is more metabolically active than fat, and adding more muscle to your frame may help you burn more calories while you're at rest. Consider lifting free weights, adding body resistance exercises or going to a yoga class.
- American Academy of Family Physicians: "What It Takes to Lose Weight"
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: "4 Ways Low-Calorie Diets Can Sabotage Your Health"
- USDA FoodData Central: "Frozen Mocha Coffee Drink"
- MyFoodData: "Lean Chicken Breast, Clementines, Snack Potato Chips Lightly Salted, Coffee"
- National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute: "Healthy Eating Plan"
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Physical Activity for a Healthy Weight"
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: "The Best Diet: Quality Counts"
- The New England Journal of Medicine: "Changes in Diet and Lifestyle and Long-Term Weight Gain in Women and Men"
- PLOS Medicine: "Changes in Intake of Fruits and Vegetables and Weight Change in United States Men and Women Followed for Up to 24 Years: Analysis from Three Prospective Cohort Studies"
- The British Journal of Nutrition: "Dietary Protein - Its Role in Satiety, Energetics, Weight Loss and Health"