Anyone on a weight-loss plan has heard it ad nauseum: Boneless, skinless chicken breasts are best for a low-fat diet. Skinless chicken breasts are incredibly versatile, but they can still get boring. And if they're cooked improperly, they can be dry and tasteless. Fortunately, you may not have to give up chicken skin entirely to maintain a healthy diet.
There are several kinds of fats: monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, saturated and trans-fats. Unsaturated fats are the healthiest fats, according to the Harvard School of Public Health. Unsaturated fats lower levels of bad cholesterol, or low-density lipoproteins, in your blood and raise the high-density lipoproteins, or good cholesterol. Saturated fats raise your levels of LDLs, and trans-fats raise the level of LDLs while killing off HDLs.
Chicken Skin Facts
There is about a 50-calorie difference between skinless chicken and chicken with the skin on. Also, an April 2010 report by CNN pointed out that 55 percent of the fat in chicken skin is monounsaturated. So if you need some juicy flavor, it makes more sense to reach for homemade broiled skin-on chicken than the empty calories and trans-fats of chips or fast-food fried chicken.
Cooking chicken with the skin on helps keep the meat itself from absorbing oil, as long as the chicken is cooked at 350 degrees or higher. The heat draws moisture from inside the meat to the skin, where it forms a crust. This crust keeps the oil from seeping into the skin and the meat. Draining the chicken on paper towels when it's done can help to remove any extra oil from the skin. Occasionally eating chicken with the skin on may feel like a guilty pleasure, allowing you to keep your low-fat diet on track the rest of the time.
The fact that chicken skin is not quite as unhealthy as it was believed to be does not give you license to eat skin-on fried chicken every day. The extra calories in chicken can add up quickly. Also, the breading on fried chicken soaks up more oil than the skin itself does, and because it is made of refined flour, it will cause the same insulin response that all starchy foods cause. Chicken skin, like any other food, is only as fattening as you let it be.