The health benefits of chicken include its ability to provide a good supply of protein, essential vitamins, and minerals. It also aids in weight loss, regulating cholesterol and blood pressure, and reducing the risk of cancer.
Chicken is the most common type of poultry in the world. It has been domesticated and consumed as food for thousands of years. There are many varieties of chicken, including free range chicken, organic chicken, and conventional chicken, the difference being on the basis of their breeding. While free-range chicken, as the term implies, is allowed to roam freely in the pastures; conventional chicken, which is also the most controversial, is kept in cages and not allowed to move freely. Conventional chicken is injected with hormones to fasten its growth and make it unnaturally big. This chicken variety is usually kept in unhygienic and unhealthy conditions.
Of the three, organic chicken is the most expensive because it is bred freely and is allowed to eat only organically prepared food, as per the USDA standards. It is kept in healthy and clean conditions and is allowed to grow naturally without any medications to disturb its hormone cycle. Organic chickens are also vaccinated and therefore safe to eat.
Nutritional Value of Chicken
According to the USDA, chicken (100 g) has moisture (65 g), energy (215 kcal), protein (18 g), fat (15 g), saturated fat (4 g), cholesterol (75 mg), calcium (11 mg), iron (0.9 mg), magnesium (20 mg), phosphorus (147 mg), potassium (189 mg), sodium (70 mg), and zinc (1.3 mg). In terms of vitamins, it contains vitamin C, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, folate, vitamin B12, vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin D, and vitamin K.
Health Benefits of Chicken
Being known all around the world for its protein content, chicken has a wide range of health benefits. Let’s discuss them below.
High Protein Content
Chicken breast, with 31 grams of protein per 100 grams, is one of the best foods for protein. Protein plays an important role in our diet. It is made of amino acids, which are the building blocks of our muscles. Generally, the recommended amount of daily protein requirement is 1 gram per 1 kg of body weight or 0.4 g of protein per pound of body weight. For athletes, the daily requirement of protein is about 0.6 g to 0.9 g per pound.
Rich in Vitamins & Minerals
It is not only a good source of protein but is also very rich in vitamins and minerals. For example, B vitamins in it are useful for preventing cataracts and skin disorders, boosting immunity, eliminating weakness, regulating digestion, and improving the nervous system. They are also helpful in preventing migraine, heart disorders, gray hair, high cholesterol, and diabetes.
Vitamin D in chicken helps in calcium absorption and bone strengthening. Vitamin A helps in building eyesight and minerals such as iron are helpful in hemoglobin formation, muscle activity, and eliminating anemia. Potassium and sodium are electrolytes; phosphorus is helpful in tackling weakness, bone health, brain function, dental care, and metabolic issues.
Diets with high levels of protein have been known to be effective in reducing weight and chicken has been one of the main contenders in weight loss. Studies and trials have shown that significant weight control was observed in people who regularly ate chicken breast. This can be attributed to its high protein content and low calories.
Control of Blood Pressure
Chicken consumption has been found to be useful in controlling blood pressure as well. This was observed in people with hypertension and in many African Americans, though the diet was also comprised of nuts, low-fat dietary products, vegetables, and fruits.
Reduced Cancer Risk
Studies have found that in non-vegetarians, a higher consumption of red meat, pork/ham increased the risk of colorectal cancer, while in chicken and fish eaters, the risk of developing this cancer in later life was reduced, although the evidence is not conclusive. It is also said to reduce the risk of colon cancer.
The amount of saturated fat and cholesterol found in red meat such as beef, pork, and lamb are much higher than the levels found in chicken, fish, and vegetables. Therefore, the American Heart Association has advised consuming chicken or fish instead of red meat for a lowered risk of cholesterol and subsequent heart disease development. The AHA also says that consuming chicken or fish must be limited to normal levels, as excessive consumption can also lead to the development of heart disease.
Treatment of Common Cold
- Chicken Salad: Add roasted chicken breast, cherries or cranberries, halved seedless grapes, diced apple, chopped green onions, and boiled mushrooms to a bowl and mix well. Add salt and pepper as per taste. Enjoy this healthy and easy to prepare the salad.
- Chicken Sandwich: Toast 2 slices of bread and spread butter on them. Put slices of cucumber, beetroot, onion, capsicum, and cooked chicken on one slice. You can use a mix of chicken thighs and breast. Add salt and pepper to taste, and cover it with the second slice. Serve with ketchup or mayonnaise.
- Oven-fried Chicken: Take medium-sized cut chicken breast pieces or chicken legs (drumsticks), season them with paprika and salt to your preferred taste. Dip the pieces in egg whites and later dip them into a mix of crushed cornflakes. Grease a baking tray and place the pieces on it. Bake for 30 minutes and serve.
Measures to Be Taken
Here are some of the safety measures that should be taken while buying chicken.
- The USDA has specified certain rules and regulations for handling chicken. All the details are mentioned on their official website.
- All the varieties or breeds that are sold in the market are treated as chickens.
- The USDA inspects all the chickens sold in the market as well as in the farms to make sure that they do not have any diseases that spread and guarantee that the consumers get the best quality chicken.
- Chicken can be either fresh or frozen. According to the USDA rules, “fresh” is where the raw poultry has not been frozen below 26° F or -3.3° C. Raw poultry that has been held at 0° F or -17.8° C must be labeled frozen or previously frozen.
- According to the USDA, no growth hormones are used while raising them. On the other hand, antibiotics are used to prevent the spread or development of microbial infections and diseases. However, the law requires the withdrawal of such antibiotics weeks before the slaughter of chickens so that no residual antibiotics remain in the chicken’s systems.
- The USDA also specifies the temperatures at which it can or cannot be stored. At temperatures between 40° F and 140° F, bacteria can start multiplying. Freezing cannot kill bacteria but will stop the bacteria from multiplying and decomposing the chicken. Only the thorough cooking of poultry above 165° F or 73.9° C will kill the bacteria present.
- Some bacteria that can be found in it include Salmonella, Staphylococcus aureus, Campylobacter jejuni, Listeria monocytogenes, and Escherichia coli.
- The USDA also recommends washing hands and cleaning the surfaces often to avoid bacterial infections. Raw poultry, red meats, and fish must be stored separately to stop the spread of any bacteria to other foods.
These are some of the rules and recommendations laid down by the USDA to ensure a safe distribution and consumption of chicken. Now, go out and enjoy some delicious chicken!