Including cooked chicken breast into your diet is one way of meeting the daily protein requirements recommended by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Dietary Guidelines. The USDA's definition of a healthy diet includes lean meats and foods low in saturated fats and sodium. According to the National Chicken Council, or NCC, chicken is a lean protein source -- and a wise selection, if selected and prepared properly. It's also important to include other protein sources in your diet as well.
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The NCC states that chicken is a complete source of protein -- essential amino acids used to build and repair tissues in the body. Protein is also an important component of bones, blood, muscles, and skin. A single serving of cooked chicken breast -- skinless, bone removed -- as defined by the USDA as 3 ounces, contains 26.7 grams of protein. It would take about three 3-ounce servings of chicken breast for the average adult to get the requisite amount of protein advised by the USDA's Dietary Guidelines.
Calories, Fat & Carbohydrates
A 3-ounce serving of cooked chicken breast contains 142 calories, only 28 of which are derived from fat. The total amount of fat in one serving is a mere 3.1 grams -- only 5 percent of the recommended Daily Value or DV based on a 2000-calorie diet. However, those watching their blood cholesterol levels might want to note that chicken isn't cholesterol-free: a single serving of cooked chicken breast contains around 73 milligrams of cholesterol, or 24 percent of the recommended DV.
In addition to protein, a cooked chicken breast also contains more than 5 percent DV of the following vitamins and minerals: niacin -- 59 percent; selenium -- 34 percent; vitamin B-6 -- 26 percent; phosphorous -- 20 percent; pantothenic acid -- 8 percent; and riboflavin, potassium and zinc -- 6 percent.
Chicken & the Food Guide Plate
In the USDA's Food Guide Plate, chicken is included in the high-protein food group along with meat, fish, dry beans or peas, eggs, nuts and seeds. To keep your choices healthy, the USDA advises purchasing chicken breasts that are already skinless, you can also remove the skin before cooking, as these, along with turkey cutlets, are among the leanest poultry choices. Before cooking, the USDA suggests trimming extraneous fat and broiling, grilling, roasting or boiling meat rather than frying. Additionally, avoid breading chicken breasts -- this adds fats and calories that you don't need.
Other Protein Sources
Although lean, cooked chicken breasts are a good selection when it comes to your nightly entree, the USDA urges you to vary your protein sources. It's important to include fish, nuts and seeds in your diet to increase your intake of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, as most of the fat in your diet should come from these. Some types of fish, such as salmon and trout, are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Nuts and seeds can also be a valuable source of essential fatty acids and vitamin E.