Is Chicken Breast Healthy? Here's What a Dietitian Has to Say

Chicken breast is a healthy addition to an overall balanced diet. Here's why.


Chicken breast is a popular protein source that is the star of dishes like Chicken Parmesan and Sheet-Pan Chicken Fajitas. Thanks to its satisfying taste, relatively low cost and ease of preparation, this poultry choice graces many dinner plates on a regular basis.

Chicken breast is, as the name implies, a lean cut of meat taken from the pectoral muscle on the underside of the chicken (aka the breast area). It is classified as a "white meat" cut of the chicken (unlike the dark-meat cuts like the leg and the thigh), and it can be enjoyed grilled, baked, fried or even boiled.

But what is it about chicken breast that makes us keep reaching for more? And, is chicken breast genuinely healthy, or is it just a convenient protein that we are simply in the habit of eating?

Pictured Recipe: Grilled Chicken with Red Pepper-Pecan Romesco Sauce

Chicken Breast Nutrition

Chicken breast is a nutrient-packed protein source that fits into many popular diets, including the Mediterranean diet. Many people may lean on chicken breast because it offers a punch in the protein department, but this meat cut is much more than a muscle-building addition to your plate.

Chicken breast can be purchased with the skin on or the skin removed.

According to the USDA, one 3-ounce (85-gram) portion of skinless cooked chicken breast contains:

  • Calories: 128
  • Protein: 26 g
  • Total Fat: 3 g
  • Saturated Fat: 1 g
  • Carbohydrates: 0 g
  • Dietary Fiber: 0 g
  • Sugar: 0 g
  • Calcium: 4 mg
  • Sodium: 44 mg
  • Iron: <1 mg

Chicken will also provide you with other micronutrients, including choline, vitamin B12, thiamin, vitamin B6, zinc and pantothenic acid (vitamin B5).

Keeping the skin on your chicken breast and eating it will provide you with more calories and fat.

Health Benefits of Chicken Breast

If you are looking for a lean and protein-packed food loaded with micronutrients, look no further than chicken breast. From being a part of a heart-healthy diet to having surprising brain-health-supporting benefits, chicken breast can certainly be a part of a healthy diet.

When chicken breast is included in an overall healthy diet, here are some health benefits that may be observed:

Weight Management

When it comes to weight management, one macronutrient that appears to help people accomplish their goals is protein. A 2021 meta-analysis published in Nutrients found that people who increase protein intake may experience more successful weight loss than those who don't consume more. Protein supports satiety, which can be a reason why protein is oftentimes a part of a weight management diet.

Cardiovascular Health

According to the American Heart Association, eating lean poultry, like chicken breast, can be a part of a heart-healthy diet. And data shows that a high intake of poultry does not adversely affect cardiovascular disease risk, per a 2021 review published in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition.

Thanks to the low saturated fat content of chicken breast, opting for this protein choice rather than higher-fat-containing red or processed meats may be the reason for the potential heart health benefits. Evidence, such as a 2022 review published in Nutrients, suggests eating fresh lean white meat (like chicken breast) may have potentially beneficial effects on cardiometabolic risk factors.

Type 2 Diabetes Risk

It is estimated that 462 million people are affected by type 2 diabetes around the world. And data shows that, among the many factors that can increase one's risk of developing this condition, excessive intake of saturated fat can be a contributor, per a 2018 review published in Current Nutrition Reports.

Furthermore, a 2019 cohort study with more than 53,000 participants published in the European Journal of Nutrition shows that replacing processed red meat with poultry is linked to a lower risk of type 2 diabetes.

The Bottom Line

Chicken breast is part of many healthy diets, including the DASH diet and Mediterranean diets. As long as it isn't prepared with excessive amounts of saturated fat, salt or sugar, including a serving of chicken breast in your overall healthy diet can support your health goals in an impressive way.

There are a wide variety of ways to enjoy chicken breast. From Maple-Glazed Chicken Breast to Zucchini Enchiladas to a Classic Chicken Soup, finding ways to include chicken breast in your diet isn't hard to do. And it is quite delicious, too!

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