Chicken is probably the most common types of meat consumed across the world. It is also the one most well known for its health benefits. 

Whether it's chicken soup as a remedy for a common cold or a chicken-based diet to add that dose of high-quality protein to your meals, you don't have to be a health expert to know how this poultry meat helps our health and well being. Chicken contains a lot of vitamins and minerals and is low in carbs.

Being affordable and readily available compared to other types of meat, chicken is a staple ingredient in several traditional preparations and cuisines all around the globe. It can be prepared in various ways depending upon the dish or meal for which it is used. These include boiling, grilling, baking, frying, and barbequing among others.

Did you know?

The use of chicken for consumption dates back to around 600 BC. It was also the most commonly available meat in the middle ages. In India, chicken is also the most favoured meat consumed by people of all age groups. Ayurvedic texts mention the benefits of chicken consumption for the vata and pitta doshas.

Owing to its popularity and demand, chicken is one of the many birds which are bred using advanced methods of poultry farming, especially in the developed countries. The lesser developed countries, however, still rely on traditional methods of poultry farming and breeding chicken. 

Read on to know all about the health benefits and side effects of consuming chicken.

  1. Nutritional facts about chicken
  2. Health benefits of chicken
  3. Healthy Chicken Recipe
  4. Side effects of chicken

Chicken is rich in various nutrients, vitamins and minerals. The table below enlists the nutritional facts about raw uncooked chicken per 100g. The values may differ for the cooked meat depending upon the method of preparation.

Nutrients Value (per 100g)
Energy 143
Carbohydrates 0.04
Proteins 17.44
Fats (Total Lipids) 8.1
Water Content 73.24
Vitamins
Vitamin B1 0.109
Vitamin B2 0.241
Vitamin B3 5.575
Vitamin B6 0.512
Vitamin B9 1
Vitamin B12 0.56
Vitamin E 0.27
Vitamin K <0.8
Minerals
Calcium 6
Phosphorus 178
Potassium 522
Magnesium 21
Iron 0.82
Zinc 1.47
Sodium 60
Fatty acids (Lipids)
Cholesterol 86
Saturated 2.301
Trans 0.065
Monounsaturated 3.611
Polyunsaturated 1.508

There are several health benefits of chicken meat when consumed in the appropriate amounts. The manner in which chicken is prepared also matters when it comes to obtaining the desired health benefits. Discussed below are some health benefits of chicken consumption.

  • Helps gain body mass: Chicken meat is one of the richest sources of protein. Consuming in it a broiled or grilled form is helpful in reducing weight and increasing muscle mass by making you feel full for longer.
  • Strengthens bones and teeth: Chicken meat is a particularly good source of phosphorus, a mineral that makes up most of the bone mass alongside calcium. Including chicken meat in your diet will thus prevent bone loss and osteoporosis.
  • Relieves cold and congestion: Warm chicken soup is one of the best remedies for cold. It improves immunity and provides relief from congestion and sore throat.
  • Prevents anaemia: Chicken contains a good amount of vitamin B, E and K, all of which promote RBC production and reduce the risk of anaemia. Chicken liver provides a sufficient amount of iron, thus preventing iron-deficiency anaemia.
  • For hair and nails: Vitamin E and vitamin K present in chicken aids in preventing hair loss and promotes hair growth. It also helps strengthen your nails, avoiding the problem of brittle nails.
  • Improves mental health: Chicken meat contains a generous amount of vitamin B, which is helpful in preventing anxiety and depression. It also improves brain function and memory along with reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s.

Chicken for the immune system

Chicken is abundantly rich in various nutrients and minerals. These nutrients are required in adequate amounts for the proper functioning of the immune system. Hence, it helps in boosting immunity. Consuming chicken also plays an important role in getting rid of toxins such as free radicals (causing damage to the internal organs) from the body. Free radicals are unstable molecular entities that are produced as a result of the body's own metabolic processes but their number increases with age and due to poor diet or lifestyle.

(Read more: Antioxidant foods)

Chicken soup for cold

The minerals and nutrients of chicken can be very beneficial in getting rid of infections such as a common cold. As mentioned above, it also helps in improving the function of the immune system, aiding antibiotics to work more efficiently. Nutritionists recommend the consumption of chicken soup to get relief from a congested nose or a sore throat, which is generally associated with common cold.

(Read more: Home remedies for common cold)

Chicken for healthy hair and nails

Vitamin E and K are essential for healthy nails and hair. A deficiency of these vitamins can lead to various problems such as hair loss and brittle nails. Chicken contains good amounts of these vitamins and thus, should be included in the diet in order to prevent hair or nail breakage and promote their healthy growth.

(Read more: How to make your hair grow faster and longer)

Chicken for weight management

Chicken is white meat, and thus, a healthy source of protein. A proper weight management program requires the inclusion of protein in appropriate amounts. Also, adequate protein amounts in chicken provide a feeling of fullness that prevents uncontrolled or disordered eating habits. Those willing to try an effective weight loss or weight management regime must include chicken in the regular diet. However. it is important to make sure that the chicken is cooked using healthy ingredients. This ensures that the body receives the right amount of nutrients required for exercising without consuming unhealthy fats.

(Read more: 7 Common weight loss mistakes) 

Chicken for body mass gain

Chicken meat can help in maintaining healthy body mass, especially in people with obesity.

It is a great source of protein, a nutrient highly essential for maintaining body mass. 

Furthermore, a deficiency of vitamins and minerals can cause damage to the body cells and tissues. This could lead to dry patches on the skin and skin cracking. Riboflavin (Vitamin B2) is essential for the growth and damage repair of the body cells and tissues. Chicken breast and liver are particularly rich in vitamin B2. Consumption of chicken can, thus, help in preventing damage to the body cells and effectively promote the growth of worn-out tissues.

(Read more: Best foods for muscle growth)

Chicken for bones and teeth

Bone density loss is a common condition prevalent in middle-aged people around the world, especially women. Loss of bone density may lead to other serious conditions as osteoporosis. Since it is rich in phosphorus and calicum, inclusion of chicken meat in diet in appropriate amounts helps in increasing bone mass and density. 

Calcium and phosphorus are the most essential components required for healthy teeth and bones.

The phosphorus content of chicken has been found to be beneficial in preventing tooth decay.

(Read more: Five foods to make your teeth and gums stronger)

Chicken for diabetes

People with diabetes need a healthier source of protein to fulfil their dietary requirements. A study was conducted on patients with type 2 diabetes where red meat was replaced with chicken in their regular diet. Results of the studies indicated that an alternative strategy could be used to treat such patients. The strategy involves the use of chicken as the only source of meat in the normal diet of such people for managing diabetes.

(Read more: What to eat and what not to eat in diabetes)

Chicken for kidney

Kidney problems are commonly observed in people with type 2 diabetes. Such people usually experience more frequent urination. A research study indicated that replacing chicken as the only protein source in the diet of such people may have beneficial results. The results of the study found that the rate of urination was significantly reduced in the patients who ate chicken. Additionally, patients suffering from microalbuminuria (an increase in urine albumin, a serum protein that is filtered by the kidneys in small amounts) were also found to have reduced amounts of albumin content in their urine.

(Read more: Microalbumin test)

Chicken for cancer

Chicken has also been found to be effective against cancer. Studies show that people who consume chicken in the required amounts have a lower risk of cancer than people who do not. Vitamin B3 present in chicken is believed to contribute to its anti-cancerous property.  However, in vivo studies are required to establish the anti-cancerous property of chicken.

(Read more: Difference between cancer and tumour)

Chicken for anaemia

Chicken hosts a variety of vitamins including vitamin B, vitamin E, and Vitamin K. All these vitamins help in the production of blood cells.

Anaemia is caused due to iron deficiency. The inclusion of chicken, especially its liver, in a regular diet provides the body with the iron supplement it requires. Replenishing the blood with iron can help in treating anaemia and other related conditions.

(Read more: Foods to eat and avoid in anaemia)

Chicken for mental health

Vitamin B is required to maintain good mental health. It is found in generous amounts in chicken. Studies have found that the intake of chicken can help prevent anxiety, stress, and other mental health-related issues. Consumption of chicken can also help to improve concentration power in children and adults as suggested by the findings of a study. Additionally, nutritionists recommend that consuming chicken can slow down the progress of diseases like Alzheimer’s.

(Read more: How to increase brain power)

Consumption of chicken can be really beneficial especially when it is prepared using nutritious and healthy ingredients. The methods of cooking chicken for better health include steaming, boiling, grilling or roasting. A healthy recipe for chicken that is simple and easy to cook has been provided below.

Ingredients for the recipe

Steps to make a healthy chicken recipe

  • Wash the chicken pieces properly.
  • Squeeze the juice of 1 lemon and rub it all over the chicken.
  • Warm up the cooking vessel.
  • Place the chicken pieces in it and add oil.
  • Add vegetables and stir the mixture.
  • Add garlic, ginger, and peppercorns. The peppercorns can also be crushed if required.
  • Add salt to taste.
  • Let the mixture cook on low steam for about 5-7 minutes.
  • Add water so that the chicken and the vegetables are dipped in it.
  • Cover the vessel and let it cook for about 20-25 minutes.
  • Check if the meat is cooked thoroughly and serve hot.

Chicken has numerous health benefits. However, over-consumption or consumption in an unhealthy manner can often result in side effects. A few side effects of chicken have been listed below.

  • Food poisoning
    Farm-raised chicken is often a host to bacteria such as Campylobacter and Salmonella. These bacteria are harmful to man and cause several health complications. It is, therefore, important to purchase chicken that is safe and approved by the food quality regulation authorities. Additionally, undercooked chicken might also result in food poisoning from such bacteria.
  • Contamination
    Broiler chickens are often bred (raised) in quarters that contain faecal matter contaminated with the bacterium Escherichia coli. This bacterium is known to cause gut-related infections in humans such as diarrhoea. It is also responsible for causing urinary tract infections and respiratory diseases. It is, therefore, highly essential that chicken is properly cleaned and cooked all the way through to remove any traces of such harmful bacteria.
  • Antibiotic resistance
    Bacteria resistant to antibiotics are a nuisance to the medical world. Farm bred chicken are often given antibiotics to protect them from infections. Over time, bacteria become resistant to a particular set of antibiotics. Consumption of chicken with traces of antibiotics can cause possible reactions with gut bacteria. Though further research is required to support this claim, researchers have found certain strains of antibiotic-resistant Salmonella that might have been transferred to humans due to chicken consumption. (Read more: What is antibiotic resistance)
  • Cholesterol
    Although chicken is considered to be healthy meat, its overconsumption might lead to an increase in serum cholesterol levels. The fat of farm-bred chicken has a higher content of cholesterol as compared to that of the local breed. Moreover, preparation of chicken in large amounts of oil and other fats only increases the amount of saturated and unsaturated fatty acid levels in the body. As a result, it causes an increase in the risk of high cholesterol and related cardiovascular diseases. (Read more: Cholesterol test)
  • Exposure to toxic metals
    Chicken fodder provided in farms often contains arsenic to ensure good growth, improve pigmentation, and prevent diarrhoea in chickens. Arsenic exposure in humans, however, may cause a good number of problems such as diabetes, heart diseases, neurological problems, and even cancer. (Read more: Arsenic blood test)

References

  1. K.M. BEAVERS et al. EFFECT OF PROTEIN SOURCE DURING WEIGHT LOSS ON BODY COMPOSITION, CARDIOMETABOLIC RISK AND PHYSICAL PERFORMANCE IN ABDOMINALLY OBESE, OLDER ADULTS: A PILOT FEEDING STUDY. J Nutr Health Aging. 2015 Jan; 19(1): 87–95. PMID: 25560821
  2. Pijls LT, de Vries H, van Eijk JT, Donker AJ. Protein restriction, glomerular filtration rate and albuminuria in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus: a randomized trial. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2002 Dec;56(12):1200-7. PMID: 12494305
  3. Gross JL et al. Effect of a chicken-based diet on renal function and lipid profile in patients with type 2 diabetes: a randomized crossover trial. Diabetes Care. 2002 Apr;25(4):645-51. PMID: 11919119
  4. de Mello VD et al. Long-term effect of a chicken-based diet versus enalapril on albuminuria in type 2 diabetic patients with microalbuminuria. J Ren Nutr. 2008 Sep;18(5):440-7. PMID: 18721739
  5. Pecis M, de Azevedo MJ, Gross JL. Chicken and fish diet reduces glomerular hyperfiltration in IDDM patients. Diabetes Care. 1994 Jul;17(7):665-72. PMID: 7924775
  6. Lauren T. Ptomey et al. Portion Controlled Meals Provide Increases in Diet Quality During Weight Loss and Maintenance. J Hum Nutr Diet. 2016 Apr; 29(2): 209–216. PMID: 25664818
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