Chicken is a good source of lean protein, but its calorie and fat content go way up if you eat the chicken skin. Saturated fat consumption— such as eating chicken skin— is linked to weight gain. Looking at chicken skin nutrition data can help you make the best choices for weight management.
Eating the skin with chicken adds calories, cholesterol and fat— including saturated fat. Remove the skin before cooking or cook the chicken skin on and remove before eating.
Chicken Skin Nutrition Data
The USDA National Nutrient Database states that there are 32 g of total fat in 100 grams of chicken skin. In chicken skin saturated fat makes up about 30 percent of the total fat, or 9 grams per 100 grams of raw chicken skin. About 42 percent of the fats are monounsaturated and 21 percent are polyunsaturated. One hundred grams of chicken skin also contains a small amount of trans fats and chicken skin cholesterol content is 109 milligrams.
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By comparison, boneless, skinless breast meat contains the fewest calories and fats compared with other chicken parts. A 4-ounce serving (113 grams) contains just under 3 grams of total fats, including 0.6 grams of saturated fat. Saturated fat makes up just 0.4 percent of the calories in a serving of boneless, skinless chicken breast.
Read More: General Nutrition Facts About Chicken
Types of Fat
Saturated fats are solid at room temperature and are found in foods such as red meat, butter, cheese, cream, bacon, sausage, coconut oil and palm oil. Eating a lot of saturated fat can lead to high cholesterol and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
Unsaturated fats come from plants and are liquid at room temperature. Avocados, olive oil and canola oil are monounsaturated fats and corn, sunflower and safflower oils are polyunsaturated fats. Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids from fish, flax seeds and walnuts are also polyunsaturated.
Polyunsaturated fats are essential to several body functions. Monounsaturated fats are healthier than saturated fats but aren't as important for good health as polyunsaturated. Saturated fats are OK to eat in moderation, but should be limited to avoid health problems.
Dietary Recommendations for Saturated Fats
The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends limiting saturated fat intake to 10 percent of total calories. Lean meats, such as chicken, provide good sources of protein but are lower in calories and saturated fat than fattier meats.
The American Heart Association advises that no more than 6 percent of daily calories should come from saturated fats, or 13 grams daily for a 2000-calorie diet. For 1500 calories per day, that allows fewer than 10 grams of saturated fat.
Saturated Fat and Body Weight
Based on data gathered in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, people at a healthy weight with a body mass index (BMI) between 18.5-24.9 consumed fewer grams of fat than people with obesity with a BMI greater than 35, despite taking in about the same number of calories. These findings, published in the May 2017 issue of Nutrients, showed that people with a BMI greater than 35 consumed more saturated fats than mono- or polyunsaturated fats, while people with a BMIs under 30 consumed more unsaturated fats than saturated fats.
After analyzing data from the NHNES researchers found that a greater intake of saturated fat correlated to a higher BMI. Consuming more saturated fats than unsaturated fats was associated with greater weight gain in people with a BMI greater than 30, a trend that was not witnessed when people consumed more unsaturated fats than saturated fats.
Cooking Chicken: Skin or Skinless?
A serving of boneless baked chicken breast with the skin has more than double the total fat and saturated fat compared to a boneless, skinless breast. Chicken skin's saturated fat adds extra calories and cholesterol to the otherwise lean breast meat. Cooking chicken with butter, rather than a vegetable oil also adds saturated fat. A chicken drumstick with skin contains about 15 grams of saturated fat.
Because it is a lean meat, chicken tends to become dry if cooked without the skin. Leaving the skin on chicken while it cooks helps to retain moisture and prevents the meat from drying out. Removing the skin before eating cuts down on a significant amount of fat and calories.
Read More: Grilled Chicken Breast Nutrition Information
- USDA National Nutrient Database: “Chicken, Broilers or Fryers, Skinless, Boneless, Meat Only, Raw”
- Harvard Health Publishing: “The Truth About Fats- The Good, the Bad and the In-Between”
- Dietary Guidelines for Americans: "2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans"
- American Heart Association: "Saturated Fat"
- Nutrients: "Relationship Between the Reported Intakes of Fats and Fatty Acids to Body Weight in US Adults"
- Epicurious: Roast Chicken Breasts with Parsley Pan Gravy