It’s easy to eat chicken every day and feel good about it. But don’t give credit to those grammatically challenged cows in the Chik-fil-A ads. Chicken is a great source of protein for a lot of reasons.
Health: Back in the 1980s, doctors warned against eating too much saturated fat in red meat. And while we’re no longer as terrified by saturated fats, new health concerns about red meat and colon cancer have kept the leaner chicken in the health sweet spot.
Cost: Chicken is relatively cheap. The composite price (whole bird, breast, and leg prices) for a pound of chicken has dropped by roughly a half dollar since 1980, according to the USDA. Why? Innovations in breeding and mass production have made it easier to grow chickens bigger and faster, making chicken more plentiful and affordable.
Convenience: Starting with McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets in the early 80s, fast-food chains have made eating chicken every day easier as sandwiches, salads, wraps, tenders, and even popcorn chicken to meet rising demand. Forty-two percent of chicken is now sold through foodservice outlets, according to the National Chicken Council, and 60% of that amount is sold at fast-food restaurants.
With chicken in every pot, freezer, fryer, and fast-food bag, you could be eating chicken every day of every week without even realizing it. Here’s what can happen to your body if you do. And for more info about the benefits and drawbacks of eating certain foods regularly, check out What Happens to Your Body When You Eat Avocados Every Day.
Proteins take longer to digest than carbohydrates do, so eating a meal of chicken every day could keep your belly feeling satisfied long enough to avoid craving carbs or overeating calories. In a study published in the journal Appetite, researchers found that chicken was equally as effective as beef and pork at triggering the release of intestinal hormones and insulin, which influence satiety. By eating chicken every day in place of more calorie-dense foods, like fattier meats and processed foods, and avoiding consuming a lot of low-fiber carbohydrates, you’ll likely lose pounds. Pair chicken with the 11 Healthiest Drinks for Weight Loss to shrink your waistline in no time.
Even though people often successfully use diets low in carbs and moderately high in protein to lose weight, if you eat a lot of chicken, every day, you can gain weight. Chicken isn’t special. If you consume too much protein of any type, your body stores what it can’t burn as fat, which can make you gain weight, according to a study in Clinical Nutrition The 2015 study found that people whose diets were made up of more than 20% protein—especially animal protein—were significantly more likely to gain more than 10% of their body weight compared to people whose diets had less than 15% protein. “I think people don’t understand that protein still has calories,” says Bonnie Taub-Dix, RD, creator of BetterThanDieting.com and Read It Before You Eat It. And calories add up. Wondering if you’ll suffer the consequences? Don’t miss these Warning Signs You’re Eating Too Much Protein.
Protein is the building block of muscle so your daily chicken dinner will give you the raw materials you need to construct a stronger, more massive you. Chicken is a complete protein that’s rich in leucine, an amino acid that plays a major role in muscle protein synthesis by stimulating protein-building pathways, according to a study in The Journal of Nutrition. How much chicken protein do you need to get the job done? A 2018 study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine that analyzed 49 other studies determined that the ideal amount of protein per day for gaining muscle is 1.6 grams per kilogram of body mass. So, for a 160-pound person that would be 115 grams of protein per day or about 3 chicken 3.5-ounce skinless breasts.
STAY INFORMED: Sign up for our newsletter to get the latest food news delivered straight to your inbox.
Maybe you’re eating less red meat and more poultry because it’s lower in saturated fats. But be aware that the amount of fat in genetically modified factory-farm-grown broiler chickens has risen to maybe five to 10 times more than a century ago, according to a UK-study in Public Health. A four-ounce serving of chicken packs 17 grams of total fat, including 5 grams of saturated fat.
If you’re eating chicken every day, we’ll assume you’ve visited Chick-fil-A restaurants on occasion, and maybe even ordered the Spicy Deluxe Chicken Sandwich. If so, you got a clucking ridiculous amount of salt with your lunch, 1,759 mg of sodium, which is more at one sitting than the ideal 1,500 mg daily maximum suggested by the American Heart Association for lowering blood pressure.
Hot dogs, deli meats, sausage and other processed red meats have long been linked to raising the risk of heart disease. But what about poultry and other unprocessed meats? Researchers at Northwestern University and Cornell University tried to find out by examining the dietary patterns and health data from about 30,000 participants in six studies. The people did not have heart disease at the start of those studies. Researchers determined that eating just two servings of red meat, processed meat or poultry, but not fish, weekly was linked to a 3% to 7% greater chance of developing blockages in the arteries, stroke or heart failure, according to the report in JAMA Internal Medicine. Granted, it’s a small increase, but whether eating chicken specifically every day of the week will elevate that risk remains to be studied. One thing to note: The researchers did not determine how the chicken was prepared.
If you’re eating a lot of chicken, chances are you may get careless about proper prep. If you eat undercooked chicken or other foods or beverages contaminated by raw chicken or its juices, you can get a foodborne illness from Campylobacter, Salmonella and Clostridium perfringens bacteria, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About a million Americans do every year. Don’t make the common mistake of washing raw chicken, which spreads chicken juices to countertops, utensils and other foods. Use a separate cutting board and knives for raw chicken and wash your hands, utensils, cutting boards, and dishes with hot soapy water. Also, use a food thermometer to ensure chicken is cooked to a safe internal temperature of 165°F.
No, a chicken sandwich won’t back you up, but if you consume a lot of protein like chicken at the expense of vegetables, whole grains, fruits, and beans, you may suffer from constipation. High protein diets that restrict these healthy carbohydrates are typically low in fiber. So, make sure your chicken shares your plate with salad greens, carrots, brown rice, and other high-fiber sides. And increase your water intake if you are eating a lot of protein. For help, see these 20 Easy Ways to Add Fiber to Your Diet.
Eating chicken was associated with a higher risk of getting cancer, according to a study in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. Researchers at Oxford University tracked the diets of 450,000 people over an eight-year period and found that “poultry intake was positively associated with risk for malignant melanoma, prostate cancer, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.”
You might even shed a tear for the 52 billion chickens that are slaughtered globally for meat, especially if you watch one of the many YouTube videos or documentaries on the horrors of factory poultry farming, such as Food Inc., Forks Over Knives, or Eating Animals. Recommended reading: We Are The Weather: Saving the Planet Begins at Breakfast, by Jonathan Safran Foer, a book about the impact we can have on global warming by eating less meat.
A large, long-term study of 107,000 women found that 44% of those who ate fried food every day were obese. But even after researchers controlled for risk factors like obesity and lack of exercise, the news didn’t get any better: Eating fried foods like fried chicken was associated with heart-related death. The study published in BMJ in 2019 found that women who ate one or more servings of fried chicken a day had a 13% higher risk of death from any cause compared to those who didn’t eat fried food and a 12% higher risk of heart-related death. You can add eating fried chicken every day to the list of 20 Worst Eating Habits That Are Shaving Years Off Your Life.