Taking the skin off of chicken is a popular practice in the health and dieting world. It seems many people would rather die than eat a tender, juicy chicken leg with crispy skin. But while there can be benefits to removing it, chicken skin isn’t the unhealthy nightmare that so many believe it to be. In fact, eating chicken skin can actually be good for you!
The Well-Kept Secrets of Chicken Skin
Even those who aren’t extremely health conscious have heard one or two nasty rumors about chicken skin. It’s incredibly fattening. It can raise cholesterol. It’s bad for blood pressure. It can cause heart disease. The accusations never end. But Amy Myrdal Miller, Registered Dietitian of The Culinary Institute of America, and Dr. Walter Willett of Harvard School of Public Health spoke out about chicken skin to put a stop to the gossip once and for all.
Chicken Skin is a Healthy Fat
Miller says that while chicken skin is often accused of being high in fat, its mainly made up of unsaturated fat. Unsaturated fat is the healthier kind, also found in nuts, avocados, and fish. Studies even show that replacing saturated fats, such as butter, cheese, and red meats, with unsaturated fats may actually lower the risk of heart disease. (1, 2)
Not a Huge Calory Cut
Many people worry that eating too much fat leads to weight gain. Dr. Willet points out, however, that “Eating or drinking more calories than you need from any source, whether it’s fat, carbohydrate, protein, or alcohol can lead to weight gain.” In other words, it doesn’t matter so much where the calories come from as how many you eat. (1)
You may not be too shocked to hear that chicken with skin has more calories than chicken without. But what may surprise you is that the calory difference isn’t as drastic as it’s made out to be. A roasted drumstick without the skin is roughly 175 calories. The same drumstick with skin is only 200 calories. For only a 25 calorie difference, it might just be worth the extra texture and flavor. (3)
All That Delicious Flavor
Speaking of flavor, this is another upside to keeping the chicken skin where it belongs. The fat in chicken skin adds flavor to your dish that would otherwise need to be replaced with salt or butter. Leaving the skin on is often the healthier option. It can also make the cooking process much quicker and easier. (1)
What You Should Be Cautious of With Chicken
As it turns out, the crunchy chicken skin is the least of your worries when it comes to a crispy chicken dish. Studies show that antibiotics used on livestock are considered one of the causes of antibacterial resistance in humans. Antibacterial resistance occurs when bacteria gains the ability to fight against the drugs designed to kill them. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at least 23,000 people die each year in the U.S. due to antibiotic-resistant bacteria. (4, 5)
Why Avoiding Chicken Isn’t the Solution
But don’t start running just yet! While antibiotic-resistant bacteria is a serious issue, the CDC says that avoiding chicken entirely isn’t necessarily the solution. Everyone is at risk of contamination and even fruits and vegetables can have resistant germs.
Just make sure that you are taking the necessary precautions when cooking your chicken (skin and all) in order to reduce the risk as much as possible.
- Wash your hands and surfaces thoroughly whenever you’re working with raw chicken
- If you are cooking another meat with your chicken use separate dishes, cutting boards, knives, etc, in order to avoid cross-contamination
- Be sure to cook your meat to the right temperature. Invest in a meat thermometer, and remember that 165°F is the magic number for chicken
- Always keep your meat refrigerated at or below 40°F (6)
Make Chicken Your Go-To Again
Avoiding chicken skin isn’t any safer, healthier, or yummier than leaving it on your plate. In some cases, it’s actually the better option. So stop pushing that chicken skin to the side, and start enjoying that delightful crisp again. As long as you prepare and cook it safely, chicken with the skin can once again become your go-to meal.