Chicken is one of the most commonly eaten proteins. According to a survey, 9 out of 10 people reported eating chicken at least six times in two weeks.
It also shows that chicken consumption is steadily increasing more than any other meat, which begs the question: is chicken healthy? When you select the right cut of chicken, it can be a low-fat, low-calorie addition to any diet or meal.
A carefully chosen and cooked chicken offers a good dose of protein without an unhealthy amount of cholesterol. Moreover, chicken is an inexpensive, nutritious, and leaner animal protein that helps with weight control.
Does Eating Chicken Impact Cholesterol Levels?
It is important to remember that your eating patterns and entire components of diets matter more than single nutrients. So, the effect of chicken on your cholesterol depends on whether you are following a high-fat eating plan or a balanced diet.
For example, the positives of having lean meat like chicken can get cancelled out if your diet includes too much-saturated fat from another source.
Since it is easier to get higher amounts of saturated fat from red meat, switching to chicken can help manage blood cholesterol. A study shows that including lean skinless chicken alongside fish can reduce “bad” LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol.
In addition, a lean meat diet with a good balance of whole grains, dietary fibre, and complex carbs can lower your LDL cholesterol by 5-9%.
Chicken can be exceptionally great cholesterol-friendly food if you serve it correctly. Chicken has less saturated fat and dietary cholesterol than pork, beef, and lamb.
For example, you get only about 90-100 mg of cholesterol from eating a small grilled, skinless chicken. It is a decent amount for consumption since doctors recommend no more than 300 mg of dietary cholesterol per day. And if you are physically active, chicken is a good energy source to fuel your body.
If you tend to be more health conscious, buy organic chicken because some research shows organic chicken contains slightly less fat and cholesterol. Plus, organically raised poultry are smaller, so sticking to a healthy portion becomes easier.
On the other hand, you can skip organ meats like chicken liver because they are high in cholesterol. For example, 28 grams of cooked chicken liver contains 160 mg of cholesterol, over 50% of your daily limit.
Healthiest Cut of Chicken for Cholesterol
It turns out that chicken or other white meat is not necessarily healthier or of higher quality when you choose the wrong cut. When selecting cuts of chicken for a cholesterol-friendly diet, there are several options to choose from. But not all cuts are made the same in terms of nutrition, cost, or flavour.
When you are trying to manage or prevent high cholesterol, these are the best options:
Chicken breast is relatively low in calories, but it is the leanest and the highest in protein. It has zero carbs and can help with weight control and muscle gain. On average, one small chicken breast provides 55% of recommended protein intake in a 2,000-calorie diet.
According to USDA, the average 100 grams serving size of raw boneless skinless chicken breast contains approximately:
- Calories: 120
- Protein: 22.5 g
- Cholesterol: 73 mg
- Fat: 2.62 g
The exact nutritional profile and calorie count can fluctuate depending on the size, cooking method, and whether the bird was pasture-raised, free-range, cage-free, or caged. Nonetheless, breast cuts contain the least amount of cholesterol.
The foremost factor differentiating chicken thighs from chicken breast is the slightly raised calorie and fat percentage. However, these juicier cuts offer about 50% more iron and zinc than chicken breast.
Research shows that zinc is an essential micronutrient effective in lowering blood levels of LDL cholesterol, total cholesterol and triglycerides.
Zinc deficiency affects around one-third of the global population, and eating dietary sources of zinc, such as chicken, is essential.
According to USDA, the average 100 grams serving size of raw chicken thigh contains approximately:
- Calories: 121
- Protein: 19.7 g
- Cholesterol: 94 mg
- Fat: 4.12 g
One medium chicken thigh (skin eaten) has about 60 mg of cholesterol. Removing the skin can help lower its cholesterol content. For example, the same medium-sized chicken thigh without skin has only about 49-51 mg of cholesterol.
Chicken wings are healthy if they are not deep-fried. Baked chicken wings can be a cholesterol-friendly snack. By removing the skin and baking, you significantly reduce the cholesterol and fat in chicken wings.
Taking its nutritional value into account, 100 grams of chicken wings contains 30.5 g of protein, 203 calories, and 8.1 g of fat.
Boneless chicken tenders are nutritionally equal to chicken breasts and suitable for preparing high-protein, high-vitamin, and highly nutritious fitness meals. However, it is likely to be fattiest when deep-fried.
The cholesterol in your chicken tenders varies as per the type of breadcrumbs used for the crust, the fat content of your chicken breast, and the cooking method used.
You can make chicken tenders with a mixture of whole-grain breadcrumbs, nuts, and sesame to enhance their nutrition and effect on HDL cholesterol.
Chicken tenders have 2.5 to 2.9 grams of saturated fat; you should eat them sparingly. Excess saturated fat consumption can increase your cholesterol and triglyceride levels. However, eating a moderate amount of chicken tenders as a part of a balanced diet will not affect cholesterol levels significantly.
Every 100 grams of chicken tenders contains:
- 17.3 to 20.3 grams of carbohydrates
- 18.1 to 19.2 grams of protein
- 14 to 16.6 grams of fat
- 0.7 to 1.2 grams of dietary fibre (depending on the crust)
The HealthifyMe Note
Personal preferences matter the most when choosing chicken breast, thigh, drumsticks, and wings. But suppose you’re looking to cut calories, fat, and cholesterol. In that case, the boneless, skinless chicken breast is a lean, nutritious cut with an impressive amount of protein. However, cooking chicken the wrong way, no matter what cut you choose, may cause more harm than good.
Influence of Cooking on the Cholesterol in Chicken
How you prepare chicken significantly affects how healthy it is and how much cholesterol it provides. For example, breaded and fried chicken will have higher cholesterol than grilled or roasted chicken.
A study also says that the cooking and reheating method is not recommended in chicken thigh meat since it forms cholesterol oxidation products.
Here is the difference in cholesterol levels in chicken (100 grams serving) according to the preparation method:
- Roasted chicken, meat only: 75 mg
- Roasted chicken, meat and skin: 76 mg
- Fried chicken, meat only: 89-94 mg
- Fried chicken, meat and skin, with flour: 90 mg
- Grilled chicken, no skin: 104 mg
The ingredients you add also change the cholesterol level in the chicken. For example, each tablespoon of butter you add to chicken adds 31 mg of cholesterol. But baking and roasting your chicken with herbs, spices and seasonings won’t add additional cholesterol to your meal.
The Pro Way to Lower Your Cholesterol
HealthifyMe is a quick, efficient, and simple way to track and monitor your health and its vital markers, including cholesterol and blood sugar levels. The latest flagship product, HealthifyPRO 2.0, is designed for people who want to reduce or track their calorie intake or anyone interested in health and nutrition.
With a few taps, the app gives a detailed summary of your macronutrient breakdown, graphs your weight, and unlocks a metabolic panel covering 85+ health parameters.
HealthifyPro is an elite option to improve overall health through personalised nutrition, fitness strategies and smart nudges. It seamlessly syncs your health data with your preferred Android or iOS device.
Once you select a plan and choose a health coach, set a cholesterol goal and work with your assigned nutritionist to attain the results. The CGM that comes with the Pro Plan alerts you when glucose levels get too high or too low after consuming a food item. At the same time, it notifies your health coach, who gives advice and tips on bringing the levels back to normal.
Here are some pro tips to lower cholesterol:
- Read the nutrition labels to understand what good nutrients you eat and avoid trans fats.
- Choose meats with fewer saturated fats, like chicken or oily fish.
- Eat more soluble fibre, such as whole grain bread, kidney beans, oats, quinoa and more.
- Boost your unsaturated fat intake by snacking on fruits, vegetables and nuts, which are the best fats.
- Choose healthier ways to make your food, like trimming fat and removing the skin, boiling, broiling, baking, poaching or grilling to lower your cholesterol naturally.
- Use heart-healthy oils in place of butter and margarine.
- Regular exercise and proper sleep offer all-around health-enhancing perks.
Chicken, by nature, has lower cholesterol and lower fat than most meats. Chicken breast contains the least cholesterol, followed by the thighs, wings, and legs. However, its cholesterol-raising effects depend on the part of the chicken you use and the method of preparation.
Chicken tends to contain less cholesterol, but finding ways to consume it healthily can be challenging for many people. The easiest way to receive real-time dietary guidance from nutritionists is by downloading the HealthifyMe app.
HealthifyPRO 2.0 coaches will help you with detailed nutritional counselling beyond calorie tracking. You can design your chicken recipes and other meals according to your cholesterol, blood glucose levels and other health parameters with the help of qualified nutritionists. Then, with a one-on-one consultation with a health coach, determine whether you are taking the proper steps to lower your cholesterol levels.