Whether you need to watch calories, you’re searching for high-protein foods or you just want a versatile ingredient, you can’t go wrong with chicken. All of the chicken cuts share similar nutritional profiles except for one factor: Chicken legs and thighs are high in cholesterol. Chicken is packed with protein, provides B vitamins and its calories can fit into anyone’s daily goals.
Calories Carry Weight
No matter which cut of chicken you prefer, you’ll get about the same number of calories. A 3-ounce serving of roasted, skinless chicken breast has 140 calories, the leg has 148 and the chicken thigh contains 152 calories. If you’re watching calories, be sure to remove the skin. You can gain about 45 additional calories if you eat your chicken with the skin intact.
Go With Lean Cuts
With only 3 grams of total fat and 72 milligrams of cholesterol in a 3-ounce serving, chicken breast is the only cut that qualifies as lean meat. Even with the skin intact, roasted chicken breast is still a lean choice. Chicken legs and thighs contain too much cholesterol -- 109 and 113 milligrams, respectively -- to be called lean whether you remove the skin or not, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture regulations.
Packed With Protein
Your body doesn’t store protein, so it’s important to consume the recommended daily intake to be sure you have enough to fill its many roles, from maintaining muscles and tissues to producing hormones. Chicken legs and thighs provide 21 grams of protein in a 3-ounce serving, while chicken breast has 26 grams. With just one serving, women gain at least 46 percent of their recommended dietary allowance of 46 grams. Men need to consume 56 grams of protein daily, so they get at least 38 percent of their daily intake.
Vitamins for Metabolism
Chicken is a good source of niacin, vitamin B-6 and vitamin B-12. All three of these nutrients help metabolize food into energy. Vitamins B-6 and B-12 reduce levels of the amino acid homocysteine in your bloodstream. This may protect your cardiovascular health because too much homocysteine damages blood vessels, reports FamilyDoctor.org. All three cuts of chicken have about 13 percent of the RDA for vitamin B-12 and at least 30 percent of the RDA for vitamin B-6. Chicken breasts provide 73 percent of your daily niacin, while the other cuts have half that amount.
Minerals Fill Diverse Roles
A 3-ounce serving of any cut of chicken provides at least 30 percent of the RDA for selenium, an important antioxidant. Chicken also supplies at least 20 percent of your daily phosphorus. It’s essential for metabolism, but most of the phosphorus you consume binds with calcium to build bones. Two other minerals in chicken -- zinc and iron -- are vital for a strong immune system. Men get about 11 percent of their RDA for iron, but women only get 5 percent. You can count on about 10 percent of your daily zinc from chicken breasts, while legs and thighs have double that amount.
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Chicken, Broilers or Fryers, Breast, Meat Only, Cooked, Roasted
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Chicken, Broilers or Fryers, Leg, Meat Only, Cooked, Roasted
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Chicken, Broilers or Fryers, Thigh, Meat Only, Cooked, Roasted
- USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service: A Guide to Federal Food Labeling Requirements for Meat and Poultry Products
- Institute of Medicine: Dietary Reference Intakes: Macronutrients
- National Institute of General Medical Sciences: Proteins Are the Body’s Worker Molecules
- PubMed Health: Niacin
- Office of Dietary Supplements: Vitamin B-6
- Office of Dietary Supplements: Vitamin B-12
- FamilyDoctor.org: Coronary Artery Disease: High Homocysteine Level: How It Affects Your Blood Vessels
- Photo Credit AlexPro9500/iStock/Getty Images
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