Trying to put together anti-aging diet menus I realized that I had examined very few sources of protein. Since the NHANES study of 17,000 Americans showed people with higher protein intakes had fewer wrinkles, I decided to take a close look at everyones favorite protein, chicken.
Americans eat 57 pound of chicken a year. Affordable and available everywhere, chicken is high in protein and much lower in fat than beef, lamb and pork. Its full nutritional profile is pretty impressive. Three ounces of grilled or roast chicken breast clocks in at a mere 165 calories and a whopping 31 grams of protein. There aren’t too many vitamins in this bird but the list of minerals is quite respectable. That three ounce serving of chicken breast offers a nice payload of potassium, calcium and iron.
Most of the fat in chicken is embedded in the skin. Skinless breasts have 3 grams of fat and 70 grams of cholesterol. By comparison, a chicken thigh has 210 calories, 15 grams of fat and 80 grams of artery clogging cholesterol. Do the math and you’ll make the healthiest choice.
Are organic chickens worth the money?
Organic produce and livestock are regulated by the FDA which has set the guidelines on organic farming. The standards refer primarily to farming practices that are healthier for the environment, not necessarily for us. Organic farmers are committed to better waste mnagement, greenhouse gas reduction, and reduced energy consumption. Organic chicken farms practice more humane treatment of the birds. They can run around outdoors and don’t live in overly cramped quarters. ( We should all be so lucky)
Organic chickens are not given antibiotics and are fed a diet free of animal parts. You might see chickens advertised as hormone free which is actually a pretty meaningless claim. Turns out that in the US growth hormones are banned in all animals raised for food.
Organic chickens have the same nutritional profile and are twice the price of traditionally raised birds. While organic fruits and vegetables reduce our intake of pesticides and chemical fertilizers, the benefits of orgnic chickens are not that cler cut.
Heath hazards of chickens
It seems that every few years there is another news story about a new outbreak of food poisoning due to contaminated chicken. Contamination can come from the feed, a dirty processing plant or unsafe prep of the birds during cooking. A study from Spain found that organic chickens actually had higher bacterial counts that conventionally raised birds. Apparently organic chicken farmers do not use antibiotics or irridiation during processing which large scale chicken plants use to reduce contamination from E-coli and Salmonella.
To keep your chicken dinner safe and healthy, always follow the FDA preparation guidelines eg wash hands after handling raw poultry, clean knives plates and counters tops that came into contact with raw chicken and cook chicken until 180F.
I think its a crime against nutrition to take a healthy lean protein like chicken and serve it in a mayonaise laced salad, chopped up into fried nuggets or tucked into a creamy chicken pie. Chicken is packed with nutrition when roasted with potatoes and carrots, grilled with olive oil and lemon, and stewed with wine and tomatoes. Just don’t coat it with white flour and and toss it into a deep fryer.