What Happens to Your Body When You Eat Chicken Every Day
There truly is a lot that you can do with chicken. It's a protein that works with any type of dish you want to whip up, from salads and soups to tacos and casseroles. Yet while this protein is versatile and relatively cheap for many, does eating it daily affect your body? We spoke with Mackenzie Burgess, RDN, a recipe developer at Cheerful Choices, about the positives and negatives of eating chicken every day and what to keep in mind if this versatile protein makes a daily appearance on your plate.
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Chicken is a versatile protein source and rich in nutrients such as selenium, phosphorus and niacin (vitamin B3). However, each part has a different nutritional profile. Let's look at the difference in nutrition between chicken breasts and chicken thighs.
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
- Selenium: 24 mcg
- Potassium: 332 mg
- Zinc: <1 mg
- Vitamin B3: 10 mg
- Sodium: 44 mg
- Iron: <1 mg
A 3-ounce serving of skinless cooked chicken thigh contains, per the USDA:
- Calories: 164
- Protein: 20 g
- Total Fat: 9 g
- Saturated Fat: 2.4 g
- Carbohydrates: 0 g
- Selenium: 20 mcg
- Potassium: 223 mg
- Zinc: 2 mg
- Vitamin B3: 5 mg
- Sodium: 285 mg
- Iron: <1 mg
Health Benefits of Chicken
You'll Get All Essential Amino Acids
"Chicken is a high-quality source of protein that contains all of the necessary amino acids (aka building blocks) that we need to make important proteins," says Burgess. "Proteins have a broad range of essential functions in our bodies, including the production of hormones and immune cells and the promotion of muscle growth."
Protein contains 20 amino acids; the body naturally produces 11 of these—the other nine need to be consumed (hence why they are called "essential"). Animal protein sources, such as chicken, are known for being complete protein sources, meaning that chicken has the perfect balance of all nine essential amino acids.
You May Reach Your Protein Goals
Protein is an essential macronutrient in the diet to help the body repair and build new cells, such as muscle. The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that adults consume between 46 and 56 grams of protein per day, or 10% to 35% of their total calories. And according to a 2018 article published in Nutrients, the international recommended dietary allowance for protein is generally 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight (1 pound is around 0.45 kilograms). For instance, someone who weighs 70 kg (154 pounds) would need about 56 grams of protein daily. However, this can easily vary from person to person—especially in different stages of growth and development, such as children, teenagers and during pregnancy.
"Although needs vary for each individual, I recommend aiming for about 15 to 30 grams of protein per meal to ensure protein needs are being met," says Burgess. "Getting enough protein can also aid in satiety."
Eating chicken every day is an easy way to reach those protein goals; Burgess points out that a simple 4-ounce serving of chicken provides 35 grams of lean protein. "Chicken in your meals can be a great way to meet your protein goals," she says.
Potential Downsides of Eating Chicken Daily
You May Lack Some Essential Fats
While chicken can be a versatile and convenient protein to cook, if your diet doesn't have a diverse protein profile, you lose out on some key nutrients—including essential fats, such as omega-3s.
"Eating chicken every day as your sole protein source could result in some nutrient gaps," says Burgess. "For example, since skinless chicken breast contains very little fat, consuming it every day may lead to a lack of essential fats in your diet."
Burgess recommends "including a healthy source of fat along with your chicken, like cooking it in olive oil or pairing it with an avocado salad," to ensure that you're getting a good amount of healthy fats in your diet.
You May Miss Out on Key Nutrients
Other sources of protein—both animal and plant-based—provide a myriad of other nutrients in the diet, which is why it's important to aim for a variety.
"I recommend consuming a variety of proteins from both animal and plant sources throughout the week," Burgess says. "Some of my favorite animal sources include salmon, shrimp, grass-fed beef, yogurt and eggs. My go-to plant protein sources are tofu, edamame, nuts, seeds and pulses. Pulses include beans, lentils and peas and are packed with important nutrients like protein, fiber, potassium and iron. This variety will give you a better diversity of nutrients in your diet. Plus, it also keeps meals fun and exciting!"
The Bottom Line
Chicken is a substantial source of lean protein that provides all of those essential amino acids your body needs and helps you to reach the necessary protein intake you need for the day. However, if you love to eat chicken every day, keep in mind that you'll need to incorporate other sources of proteins and healthy fats in your diet to get all of those necessary nutrients you need—like mono- and polyunsaturated fats, omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, potassium, iron, calcium and more.
Related: How to Cook Chicken Thighs