May 22, 2024

Chicken is one of the most popular types of meat.

It’s not only widely available and easy to prepare but also easily found in a number of preparations and varieties.

Still, though chicken is a common dietary staple, you may be unsure about just how healthy it is.

This article reviews a few of the benefits and downsides of chicken to determine whether it’s good for you.

Chicken is rich in a variety of important nutrients, including protein, niacin, selenium, and phosphorus.

One 3-ounce (85-gram) serving of chicken breast contains (1):

  • Calories: 122
  • Protein: 24 grams
  • Fat: 3 grams
  • Carbs: 0 grams
  • Niacin: 51% of the Daily Value (DV)
  • Selenium: 36% of the DV
  • Phosphorus: 17% of the DV
  • Vitamin B6: 16% of the DV
  • Vitamin B12: 10% of the DV
  • Riboflavin: 9% of the DV
  • Zinc: 7% of the DV
  • Thiamine: 6% of the DV
  • Potassium: 5% of the DV
  • Copper: 4% of the DV

Protein, in particular, is essential for building and repairing your tissues and maintaining muscle mass (2).

Meanwhile, selenium is a trace mineral that’s necessary for proper immune function, thyroid health, and fertility (3).

Chicken is also rich in B vitamins like niacin and vitamins B6 and B12, which play central roles in energy production, DNA synthesis, and brain health (4).


Chicken is a great source of many key nutrients, including protein, niacin, selenium, and phosphorus.

Chicken is rich in an array of important nutrients and can be an excellent addition to a healthy, well-rounded diet.

Given that chicken is low in calories but high in protein, it may be especially beneficial for weight loss, if that’s a goal for you.

Studies show that increasing your intake of protein may enhance feelings of fullness, increase weight loss, and help maintain lean body mass (5, 6, 7).

When paired with resistance training, protein can also help promote muscle growth (8, 9).

What’s more, protein is involved in calcium metabolism and important for optimizing bone health (10).


Chicken is highly nutritious and a good source of protein. Adding chicken to your diet may help support weight loss, muscle growth, and bone health.

Not all types of chicken are created equal.

For example, fried and breaded varieties like chicken nuggets, popcorn chicken, and chicken tenders are typically high in unhealthy fats, carbs, and calories (11).

Some types of chicken are also heavily processed, such as lunch meats.

Research suggests that processed meat intake may be associated with a higher risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer (12, 13).

Processed meats may also contain high amounts of sodium and preservatives (14).

Reducing sodium intake has been shown to help decrease blood pressure levels, especially in people with high blood pressure (15).

Additionally, some preservatives in processed meats, such as nitrites, can contribute to the formation of carcinogenic compounds (16).


Fried and breaded chicken may be higher in unhealthy fats, carbs, and calories. Certain types of chicken are also heavily processed, and processed meat intake is associated with negative health effects.

Some common chicken preparation methods are healthier than others.

Here are a few of the best choices:

  • Grilled chicken. Grilled chicken can be a quick and healthy way to boost your protein intake. Consider throwing some vegetables onto the grill to help round out your meal.
  • Baked chicken. Baking your chicken is a great weeknight dinner option, especially if you’re trying to lose weight. In addition to being low in fat and calories, baked chicken is rich in important nutrients.
  • Stir-fried chicken. Try stir-frying chicken with a bit of oil and your favorite veggies for a high fiber, protein-packed meal.


Grilling, baking, and stir-frying chicken are a few of the healthiest ways to enjoy chicken.

Although chicken can certainly fit into a healthy diet, some types are loaded with extra calories, fat, or sodium.

Here are a few types of chicken that you should limit or avoid:

  • Fried chicken. Because it’s typically deep-fried and breaded, fried chicken is usually high in calories, carbs, and unhealthy fats (11).
  • Rotisserie chicken. Store-bought rotisserie chicken is generally brined and heavily seasoned, which can significantly increase the amount of sodium in the final product (17).
  • Chicken lunch meat. Processed meats, including chicken lunch meats, are often pumped full of added sodium and unhealthy preservatives to extend their shelf life (14, 18).


Fried chicken, rotisserie chicken, and chicken lunch meat are a few types of chicken that you should limit or avoid on a healthy diet.

Chicken can be a great addition to a balanced diet.

Stick to around 3–4 ounces (85–113 grams) per serving, which is roughly the size of a deck of cards.

Be sure to also choose healthy cooking methods like baking, grilling, stir-frying, or steaming whenever possible.

Finally, keep in mind that chicken should be enjoyed alongside a variety of other protein sources, such as fish, meat, poultry, and legumes, to ensure that you’re getting all of the nutrients your body needs.


Enjoy 3–4 ounces (85–113 grams) of chicken per serving and choose healthy cooking methods like baking, grilling, stir-frying, or steaming whenever possible.

Chicken is rich in a variety of important nutrients that can benefit your health.

However, it’s important to choose healthy types of chicken and opt for cooking methods like baking, grilling, steaming, or stir-frying rather than deep-frying.

Finally, be sure to enjoy chicken as part of a balanced diet alongside a variety of other healthy protein-rich foods.


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