Chicken: Vitamins and health benefits, explained.

The nutritional value of chicken varies depending on its cuts and preparations. This means that chicken gives you the freedom to pick and choose the kind of nutrition you want to receive by eating it!

Does eating red meat make you feel heavy and as though you have consumed too much fat? Well then the best alternative would be to opt for chicken!

Read on to see how chicken is a healthier alternative.

Chicken, the better alternative!

Chicken, lean white meat that is popular amongst most non-vegetarians, is often opted for over red meat due to its various health benefits.

Chicken has various cuts or methods of preparations that can further determine its nutritional value. 

Darker cuts like the thigh and drumstick contain higher caloric content than lighter cuts like the breast. Keeping the skin on will add extra saturated fat.

We find around 30 different nutritional substances beneficial to the body from just 100 grams of chicken!

A common myth that surrounds the consumption of chicken meat is that chickens are genetically modified.

This is not true because the government has not approved the consumption of GMO meat, and therefore it is illegal to modify chicken meat genetically.

However, these animals consume genetically modified plants, but this does not affect their DNA structure, nor does it make them GMO [1].

Do you prefer white meat over red meat?

Yes, white all the way!

No, red meat is more delicious.

If you said yes, then let me begin by telling you that consumption of white meat contributes to your health positively!

White meat, especially chicken, has an array of nutrients and can be an excellent addition to a healthy, well-rounded diet.

It is low in calories but high in protein; moreover, the vitamins in chicken make  it the best meat to consume when on your weight loss journey.

Vitamin A present in great amounts in the chicken liver can help build your eyesight and play an essential role in maintaining your immune system.

Minerals such as iron can help prevent anemia, improve muscle activity and hemoglobin function.

How are vitamins in chicken beneficial?

Vitamins are an essential part of one’s diet. They perform various roles in our body, some of which being, healing wounds, and boosting your immune system.

They also convert food into energy and repair cellular damage.

So what are the vitamins in chicken, and how do they benefit our body?

The following are nutrient facts for 100 grams of chicken according to the USDA [2].

Nutrients

Content in 100g

RDA  (% of total RDA)

Vitamin B6

0.6 mg

1.7 mg (35.3%)

Vitamin B12

0.34 mcg

2.2 mcg (15.4%)

Vitamin E

0.27 mg

15 mg (1.8%)

Vitamin A

6.3 mcg

900 mcg (0.7%)

Vitamin D

0.1 mcg

20 mcg (0.5%)

Vitamin K

0.3 mcg

90 mcg (0.33%)

Choline

117 mg

425 mg (27.5%)

Phosphorus

228 mg

700 mg (32.6%)

Zinc

1 mg

11 mg (9.09%)

Potassium

256 mg

3400 mg (7.5%)

Magnesium

29 mg

420 mg (6.9%)

Iron

1.04 mg

18 mg (5.7%)

Sodium

74 mg

2000 mg (3.7%)

Copper

0.049 mg

0.9 mg (5.44%)

Calcium

15 mg

1000 mg (1.5%)

Manganese

0.017 mg

2.3 mg (0.74%)

What other nutrients are found in chicken?

Vitamins in chicken are present in abundance, and so are minerals, but what about the other nutrients?

What nutrients is chicken rich in?

Let’s find out!

The following are nutrition facts for 100 grams of chicken according to the USDA [2].

Nutrients

Content in 100g

RDA (% of total RDA)

Protein

31 g

52 g (59.6%)

Total lipid (fat)

3.57 g

77 g (4.6%)

Polyunsaturated fatty acids

0.77 g

22 g (3.5%)

Saturated fatty acids

1.01 g

30 g (3.3%)

Monounsaturated fatty acids

1.24 g

44 g (2.8%)

100g of chicken has 65.3 g of water and provides our body with 165 kcal of energy; so is chicken highly nutritious and an important part of one’s diet?

Yes!

If you’re looking to lose weight, build muscle, and look for an overall healthy lifestyle, adding chicken to your diet can go a long way.

More beneficial ingredients or compounds in chicken.

Phenylalanine

Phenylalanine, an aromatic amino acid found in chicken and essential to the human body, plays a vital role in the biosynthesis of other amino acids.

It is converted to tyrosine that is used in the biosynthesis of dopamine and norepinephrine neurotransmitters.

Absorption of UV radiation by phenylalanine is used to quantify protein amounts. 

Therefore, you can say that phenylalanine plays an essential role in protein production [3].

Lysine

Lysine is one of the nine essential amino acids that a human requires.

It is known to reduce stress-induced anxiety by lowering the levels of the stress hormone cortisol. 

It can also prevent the growth of the herpes simplex virus by knocking out arginine [4, 5].

Health Benefits

Chicken is often opted over other types of red meat due to its various health benefits.

Apart from the vitamins in chicken, it is also rich in protein, fats, and various minerals.

But what role does it play in benefitting our body and its functioning?

Chicken:

1. Can improve brain function

Chicken is rich in vitamin B12 and choline.

Vitamin B 12 is crucial to the normal functioning of the brain and nervous system. It also helps regulate DNA.

Low levels of vitamin B12 have been associated with neurocognitive disorders.

It also plays a role in cognitive functioning. Due to its impact on acetylcholine and dopaminergic functions, it has a crucial role in neurotransmission.

Studies suggest that choline also positively affects other brain functions; it can reduce memory impairment [6, 7].

2. Can help build muscle and lose weight

The high protein and amino acids levels in chicken can help you build muscle while also managing your weight.

Our bodies use amino acids to build muscle tissue, and the high protein intake helps maintain bone mineral density.

Consumption of protein keeps you full for a longer period.

This plays a role in managing your weight by reducing your cravings during the day [8].

3. Reduces risk of cancer

Studies have shown that consumption of chicken or poultry meat over red meat reduces the chance of cancer, in this context, breast cancer [9].

Chicken is rich in various vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. It can keep your brain, muscle, and nervous system healthy.

4. Reduces the chances of developing depression

Vitamin B6 benefits the central nervous system and metabolism.

It turns food into energy, and also helps in creating neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and dopamine. 

Serotonin and dopamine are known as the ‘feel good’ hormones. They help us regulate our emotions and essentially affect our mood.

Impairing serotonin function can cause clinical depression [10].

How to prepare it?

Chicken can be exciting to cook with due to its various preparation methods and the versatility it brings!

You can pan-fry your chicken and add it to curries like butter chicken, you can grill it and make delicious side dishes, you can boil your chicken and add it to salads, or you can deep fry them for a crunchy snack.

One of my favorite dishes, a very popular meal in the Indian continent, is chicken biryani. 

Masala-infused rice with tender chicken that falls right off the bone!

There’s nothing like a well-cooked biryani.

Another one of my favorite dishes is chicken soup. 

So simple, yet so flavorful.

It brings a sense of warmth and comfort like no other.

An alternate source of protein for vegetarians would be pulses, nuts, paneer, beans, and sprouts, etc.

And if you’re vegan, you can opt for tofu.

Tofu is made from soy milk and resembles the texture of paneer.

How much to consume in a day?

The RDA for protein is just 52 g; therefore, consuming around 200g of chicken a day should suffice.

That being said, it is recommended to limit the amount of lean meat consumption to 85 -110 grams (3-4 ounces) per day.

However, since chicken can be fried and contain a lot of oil, it is important to watch your intake when it is cooked a certain way.

What if I consume too much chicken?

Although there is no evidence of harmful side effects that come with overconsumption, it is best to watch your intake to avoid

  • Digestive issues
  • Stomach pain
  • Nausea
  • Bloating, and
  • Lethargy

How to store chicken?

According to the USDA, you can keep raw chicken in your refrigerator for just about two days.

Ensure to keep raw meat in the freezer or refrigerator and away from other foods.

Keep it either wrapped up or in an airtight container to retain freshness.

You will often find fresh chicken and frozen chicken on the market. The only difference would be the storage period.

Frozen chicken is usually blast chilled and can be stored for a long time under 0℉ or colder temperatures.

Wrapping Up

Chicken can be considered a superfood due to its various nutrients and health benefits.

Including it in your diet can be beneficial, especially if you plan on working out.

However, like every other food, it is vital to watch your intake.

Has chicken found a place in your heart and diet yet?

Let us know in the comments below!

References

  1. FDA “GMO Crops, Animal Food, and Beyond” US FDA (2021)
  2. USDA. “Chicken, broilers or fryers, breast, meat only, cooked, roasted” Food Data Central, (2019)
  3. National Center for Biotechnology Information. “PubChem Compound Summary for CID 6140, Phenylalanine” PubChem, (2021). 
  4. Smriga, Miro et al. “Oral treatment with L-lysine and L-arginine reduces anxiety and basal cortisol levels in healthy humans.” Biomedical research (Tokyo, Japan) vol. 28,2 (2007): 85-90.
  5. National Center for Biotechnology Information. “PubChem Compound Summary for CID 5962, Lysine” PubChem, (2021)
  6. Health Quality Ontario. “Vitamin B12 and cognitive function: an evidence-based analysis.” Ontario health technology assessment series vol. 13,23 (2013): 1-45.
  7. Pillsbury, Laura, Maria Oria, and John Erdman, eds. “Nutrition and traumatic brain injury: improving acute and subacute health outcomes in military personnel.” Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 9, Choline. (2011)
  8. Marangoni, Franca et al. “Role of poultry meat in a balanced diet aimed at maintaining health and wellbeing: an Italian consensus document.” Food & nutrition research vol. 59 (2015): 27606.
  9. Lo, Jamie J et al. “Association between meat consumption and risk of breast cancer: Findings from the Sister Study.” International journal of cancer vol. 146,8 (2020): 2156-2165.
  10. Cowen, Philip J, and Michael Browning. “What has serotonin to do with depression?.” World psychiatry: official journal of the World Psychiatric Association (WPA) vol. 14,2 (2015): 158-60.
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