Chicken skin is the part so many people desperately want to eat, but throw away because eating almost pure fat is not good for you, except if it’s cold pressed olive oil or coconut oil. Right? If you’ve been throwing away chicken skin, and the actual fat clinging to the wings, backs and legs, because that’s what you do when you want to be healthy, then you have been missing out on some wonderful benefits.
Besides the fact that you can actually eat it and still be healthy, chicken skin provides good amounts of several essential nutrients, notably choline and vitamin E, but also healthy unsaturated fatty acids with important benefits for health. But given its high content of calories, chicken skin is a treat best enjoyed occasionally and in limited amounts.
What are the benefits of eating chicken skin?
It doesn’t make you gain weight
Even though it’s essentially fat, and an extreme source of calories as a result, chicken skin will not cause you to gain weight if consumed in limited amounts and infrequently. Each food has a recommended intake that is determined so that consumption contributes to nutritional status and amplifies health. Chicken skin is analogous to cooking vegetable oils and fats like olive oil and butter.
Unlike regular food, it’s not meant to be consumed in large amounts. For example, you really can’t eat half a cup of just chicken skin, or 3 oz, or amounts like this that normally apply to fruits, vegetables, cereal grains and meat.
From a nutritional standpoint, chicken skin is almost entirely fat, 99.8% fat to be more exact, and has about 900 calories or kilocalories per 100 grams. You can eat it, but intake should be limited to very small amounts, and also infrequent, so it’s not something you would eat every day. But if you’re having a couple of chicken drumsticks or a chicken thigh, or a few chicken wings, you don’t need to discard the skin – enjoy it as an occasional treat knowing that it will not cause you to gain 5 pounds the very next day.
It is a source of nutrition
As mentioned earlier, chicken skin is almost entirely fat, 99.8% fat to be more exact. Scary, right? And the reason most health conscious individuals just throw it away without a second thought. But fat is an essential nutrient, meaning the body absolutely needs it. The brain and nervous system need fats, the skin needs fat, and every cell in the body needs fat. Fat helps the brain develop during pregnancy, maintains normal brain function throughout one’s life, and delays age-associated cognitive decline.
Sure, it doesn’t need to be chicken skin. But it’s okay if you don’t have avocado or extravirgin olive oil or cold pressed coconut oil every day. You can sometimes have a little butter or egg yolk or chicken skin for fat and that won’t mean you are eating unhealthy or going to be sick.
What matters is how much of something you eat – just as it’s not healthy to eat 3 avocados per day, every day, you shouldn’t eat chicken with skin every day, and in large amounts either. Similarly, it’s more important that you eat clean – having overly processed cheese substitutes or contaminated seafood or fruits or vegetables loaded with pesticides (e.g. pineapple, strawberries) is actually worse than occasionally eating two chicken drumsticks with skin, but which are a product of clean agriculture.
It’s food for the brain
In recent years there has been a growing trend of rejecting fat from the diet, especially fat from animal foods which is largely regarded as unhealthy. But not getting enough fat from the diet directly impacts the brain which normally uses fats as fuel to sustain cognitive functions.
It is estimated that up to 25% of basic metabolism goes into supporting brain function and, while not the main food source, fat also contributes towards brain nourishment. Fatty acids are also used as building blocks (e.g. fat is needed to build cell membranes and the insulating coating surrounding the tail of nerve cells called the myelin sheath). So having chicken with skin, even if just occasionally, is actually good for you.
It boosts intellectual performance
Not getting enough fat from the diet impacts brain function, causing brain fog, impaired thinking and other cognitive functions. Brain fog manifests as a state of generalized mental confusion which diminishes the ability to communicate both thoughts and feelings effectively, and results in reduced intellectual capacity, lower productivity, and emotional distress.
Making sure you get enough fat from your diet can help nourish the brain and support and boost intellectual effort. Not just this, but eating fat quiets an unsettled mind, and creates the perfect setting for intellectual performance. Avocado, first-press extravirgin olive oil, but also butter, chicken with skin, whole eggs and egg yolks all support brain function and support achieving intellectual performance.
It has vitamin D
While otherwise poor in nutrition, chicken skin has vitamin D. Vitamin D is an essential nutrient, meaning the body absolutely needs it. But getting it from the diet can prove difficult since more than half the foods don’t have vitamin D naturally. In fact, except for mushrooms, only animal foods have vitamin D naturally, including fish, seafood and chicken skin.
How much vitamin D in chicken skin? There are 4.8 mcg (micrograms) of vitamin D in 100 grams of chicken skin which accounts for 24% of total daily values for an adult. The vitamin D content in chicken skin per serving is lower: one tablespoon of chicken skin at 12.8 grams has 0.614 mcg of vitamin D, roughly 3% of total daily values. Eating two chicken drumsticks with skin, or even just one chicken thigh, can get you upward of 10% of your daily vitamin D values, which is a lot.
Vitamin D holds important benefits for health: it modulates the immune system for a stronger immune system response, boosts fertility in women and men, boosts bone density and lowers risks of osteoporosis, and has anticancer properties. So if you were just about to throw away the chicken skin, think about what it can actually do for you in terms of health benefits, not just about the few extra calories it provides.
It has cholesterol, which is a good thing
Cholesterol is something so many people nowadays run from. But cholesterol has an unmerited reputation and has been unjustly vilified – it’s not even directly responsible for raising LDL cholesterol levels in the blood all by itself. Not just this, but in the amounts that it’s meant to be consumed, cholesterol is actually good for you.
For example, the body uses cholesterol to produce bile acids for digestion and hormones for optimal growth and development, fertility and various regulatory functions. Cholesterol is used as raw material for the synthesis of vitamin D following sun exposure.
A serving of 100 grams of chicken skin, which is beyond what you would normally eat, has only 85 mg (milligrams) of cholesterol. By comparison, one chicken egg at just 50 grams, or one egg yolk because that’s where all the cholesterol in eggs is located, provides over 200 mg (milligrams) of cholesterol.
It’s not all unhealthy fat
While chicken skin is almost entirely fat, it’s not all bad fat. For one, chicken skin does not have processed fats. Not just this, but out of all the fat content, only 29.8 grams are saturated fat, and 44.7 grams monounsaturated fat and 20.9 grams polyunsaturated fat. Chicken skin even has Omega-3 fatty acids, known for their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits, and overall beneficial effect for health in general.
It has vitamin E
Chicken skin is a natural source of vitamin E, albeit the content is minimal considering how much chicken skin you can and should eat. Nevertheless, there are 2.7 mg (milligrams) of vitamin E per 100 grams of chicken skin which accounts for 18% of total vitamin E requirements for an adult per day.
Vitamin E is known as an emollient, but it’s also a strong antioxidant and enters the composition of cell membranes, including skin cell membranes, regulating cell membrane permeability which allows for skin cells to enjoy optimal hydration, nutrition and health.
Studies have identified vitamin E as an immunomodulating agent, increasing proliferation of lymphocytes, raising immunoglobulin levels and antibody responses, as well as enhancing natural killer cells activity and the activity of Interleukin-2, a cytokine-type protein belonging to the immune system that regulates white blood cell activity. While raw nuts and seeds remain the best sources to get your vitamin E from, let’s just say that the content of vitamin E in chicken skin is one reason not to throw it away next time.
It has choline
Chicken skin is a natural source of choline, an essential nutrient with several wonderful benefits for health. Getting enough choline from the diet helps keep blood pressure numbers low, supports muscle function and helps make neurotransmitters for the brain and nervous system. Among its many benefits, choline helps maintain lungs flexible, intestinal tissue absorb fats from food and holds benefits for memory.
Chicken skin provides 122 mg (milligrams) of choline per 100 grams, out of the 550 mg daily recommended intake. That means that 100 grams of chicken skin provides 22.22% of total daily choline values for an adult.
What are the side effects of chicken skin?
Chicken skin is only bad for you if consumed in excessive amounts. Eating two chicken drumsticks or a chicken thigh or a few chicken wings with skin every once in a while can be considered a normal part of a varied and balanced diet, contributing to daily nutritional requirements. If intakes are unreasonable however, side effects such as weight gain, acid reflux and heartburn, indigestion and, long-term, inflammation in the body and cardiovascular problems may occur.
This post was updated on Friday / April 30th, 2021 at 11:02 PM