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Health: true or false?

Doctors got it wrong: eating chicken skin now and again IS good for you

If you don’t eat chicken skin because you think it’s bad for you, fear not; it is high in unsaturated fat that is beneficial for the heart. Don’t eat too much, though, and know how the chicken was raised

PUBLISHED : Friday, 25 December, 2015, 8:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 25 December, 2015, 2:18pm

Is chicken skin really that bad for you?

The straight answer: No

The facts: The next time you cook or eat a piece of chicken, be sure to leave some of the skin on. For years, nutritionists and heart doctors have advised us to remove this fattening part of the bird before enjoying it, but as it turns out, chicken skin really isn’t as bad as was originally believed.

In addition to making cooked chicken juicier and more flavourful, chicken skin contains a good amount of heart healthy unsaturated fat. In fact, the majority of fat in chicken skin is unsaturated, according to the Harvard School of Public Health. Consumption of unsaturated fat is believed to be associated with lowered bad cholesterol and blood pressure levels.

However, there is no mistaking that chicken skin is fattening, so, whether or not you are watching your weight, you should not eat too much of it. It’s fine to leave the skin on that broiled or poached chicken breast, because there is very little difference between a 340-gram skin-on piece and a skinless one when it comes to fat content and calories – about 2.5 grams of saturated fat and 50 calories, to be exact. But gorging on large amounts of chicken skin daily is not going to do your heart or waistline any favours.

“A little bit with a chicken-based meal occasionally is fine, but I would not go out of my way to eat a lot of chicken skin,” says Sheena Smith, a naturopath and clinical nutritionist at the Integrated Medicine Institute. “Chicken meat, and in particular the skin of the chicken, has more omega-6 fatty acids than any other meat. Omega-6 is an unsaturated fat that increases inflammation in the body and is the driving force behind cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, and cancer, to name a few diseases.”

How you cook the skin is important, too. If you are going to bread or batter and then deep-fry the chicken, then you are turning this whole food into something positively unhealthy. “Every step of processing usually takes a whole food further and further away from its most healthy state,” Smith explains. “As soon as you bread and deep-fry foods you are simply adding more empty calories.”

You should also ask where your chicken is from, suggests Susie Rucker, a nutritional therapist at Body With Soul in Singapore.

“Back in the day, people ate the whole bird, skin, fat and all, and they did not have any problems. But this was because the chicken was reared well, unlike today, where most chickens available commercially are injected with hormones and antibiotics and are just highly unnatural. And the sad part is that whatever chemicals are consumed by the chicken is stored in the fat,” says Rucker. “Since the skin contains mostly fat, this part of the bird can be highly toxic when eaten. If you know that the chicken has been reared well, however, then go ahead and consume the skin, but do so in small amounts.”