Is the gym junkie staple really that healthy?
Chicken is part of the meat and alternatives food group. In case you aren’t aware, this food group also includes red meat, seafood, eggs, legumes, tofu, nuts and seeds.
Meat and alternatives are important for a few main reasons. For one, this food group is a main contributor of protein in your diet, which is key for muscle growth, maintenance and repair. But that’s not all – your brain, skin and hair are protein based as well. Plus, protein can help to keep you feeling full.
Meat and alternatives also provide some key micronutrients – iron, zinc and Vitamin B12, to name a few. To get you up to speed, iron is important for transporting oxygen throughout your body, while zinc plays a role in many different enzymes. Typically, Vitamin B12 (for blood and nervous system function) only comes from animal foods – so you can see that this food group is pretty important!
How much should you actually eat?
If you’re a female between the ages of 19-50, you’re recommended to have two and a half serves from this food group each day (not the mountains of protein your typical gym program recommends).
To put that into perspective, one serve of chicken is just 80 grams of cooked meat (think: a piece a little bit bigger than the palm of your hand). It’s really not that much!
In terms of other protein foods, one serve equals 65 grams of cooked red meat, 100 grams of cooked fish, 2 eggs, 1 cup of legumes or 170 grams of tofu. A small handful (30 grams) of nuts and seeds can occasionally count as a serve of protein, too.
The energy content
And now for what you’ve come here for: 100 grams of skinless chicken breast has 143 calories. By comparison, 100 grams of chicken thigh has 175 calories. FYI, chicken breast has 2.5 grams of fat per 100 grams, whereas a chicken thigh has 8.7 grams of fat per 100 grams – hence, there is more energy in the latter.
What might be more surprising is the energy content of chicken skin – if you leave it on a chicken breast, you’ll add almost 50 calories.
What’s more, the cooking method can send energy content sky rocketing. Baking or poaching are typically the best cooking methods as you don’t need to add any fat. Pan frying will add energy if you’re using oil, and obviously deep-fried foods are a calorie bomb (so save them for special treats, rather than an everyday affair).
You can bet your bottom dollar that chicken is a healthy food.
In saying that, what’s important is that you eat it in the context of a balanced, varied diet. Do your best to choose a healthy cooking method, and don’t rely on chicken as your only source of protein (read: remember to include a bit of red meat, seafood and vegetarian options, too).