Food on my Plate: Chicken

Did you know that the original ancestors of the domesticated chicken, the Southeast Asian Red Fowl is native to the Philippines and nearby Asian Countries? This is why it is one of the top raised poultry and is found in many Filipino dishes. Poultry refers to different kinds of domesticated fowl used as food. Main poultry sources include chicken, duck, goose, turkey, pigeons and quail.

This article will focus on Chicken and its nutrient content, health benefits, proper storage, cooking tips and recommended intake.

Nutrient Content & Health Benefits

One pound of cooked chicken (453.3 grams) contains 857 calories and 105.5 grams of protein. Chicken consist of 65% water, 23% protein, 11% fat, and less than 1% of carbohydrates. It is also an excellent source of many nutrients, including protein, iron, potassium, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, Vitamin B6, pantothenic acid and Vitamin B12. It contains significant amounts of calcium, magnesium, zinc, selenium, copper, phosphorus and choline.

When compared to other meats, its protein and vitamin content are somewhat similar to meat with a few exceptions. In terms of fat and cholesterol, the dark meat in chicken found in the legs and thighs contain higher fat, calories and iron as compared to the white meat portions such as the chicken breast. When the skin is removed, fat content significantly goes down and an individual may save up to 100 calories just by removing the skin and visible fat.

Therefore chicken breast with no skin and fat is a good option for those trying to lose weight or reduce their fat or cholesterol intake such as individuals with dyslipidemia and hypertension.

Storage and Cooking Tips

Since chicken is a perishable food item, it must always be kept in chilled storage to slow down the proliferation of bacteria that may cause spoilage and food poisoning. Campylobacter and Salmonella are the major bacteria found in raw chicken which may cause food borne illnesses.

Thus, store chicken in a chiller with a temperature of at least 4 degrees Celsius if it will be cooked soon or marinated in sauce and cook it within 1 – 3 days. For longer term storage, store it in the freezer with a temperature of at least -18 degrees Celsius and this can last up to 4 – 6 months.

When thawing chicken, put the chicken in the lower refrigerator with lower temperature overnight to thaw it safely and chilled. It must be placed in a separate container and away from fresh foods such as salad greens and fruits to avoid cross contamination. It can also be thawed in water then replace the water as the water gets cold. Once thawed, cook the chicken within 1-2 hours to prevent spoilage.

To make chicken tender, you may soak it in a brine solution or water with salt to help tenderize the meat and add a little flavor to the deeper portions. You may slice the chicken into small strips and use it in stir fried vegetables or into larger chunks and be cooked in stews. Whole or half chicken portions can be used for roasting or baking.

Recommended Intake

To save on calories, baked or roasted chicken is more preferable because it has less oil and breading as compared to fried breaded chicken. You may also remove the skin and visible fat before cooking to lower your fat and cholesterol intake. In general, the recommended intake of chicken breast or meat for a healthy Filipino adult is 5 – 6 ounces daily or 2 palm size servings per day. Portion control tips are summarized in the image below:

Healthier cooking methods include steaming, boiling, stewing, roasting and baking your chicken. It is also recommended to eat it with other food groups such as carbohydrates from rice and vegetables to make your meal fuller and healthier! ( courtesy: NNC website)