Dr. Becky Maes - Is It Bad For You? Approved by Dr. Becky Maes

Are Chicken Gizzards Bad For You?



Short answer

Chicken gizzards are a nutritious option as they are rich in protein, low in fat, and packed with vitamins and minerals like B12, iron, and zinc. Yet, their high cholesterol content (237 mg per 100g) warrants moderate consumption, especially by individuals with cholesterol concerns. When properly cooked to avoid contamination, they can be part of a balanced diet for their nutrient density and culinary diversity.



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Long answer

Nutritional Content of Chicken Gizzards

Chicken gizzards, a type of organ meat also known as offal, are often overlooked when it comes to their nutritional value. Believed by some to be unhealthy due to their origin within the digestive system, these muscular, grain-sized organs actually have a lot to offer nutritionally. Let's break down the essential nutrients found in a 100-gram serving of chicken gizzards.

  • Proteins: Chicken gizzards are protein powerhouses, containing around 17 grams of protein per 100 grams. Protein is crucial for muscle repair, immune system function, and other vital processes in the body.
  • Fats: While gizzards are low in fat, with approximately 3 grams per 100 grams, they do contribute some amount of heart-healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
  • Vitamins: One of the standout features of chicken gizzards is their vitamin content. They are particularly rich in B vitamins, including niacin, which supports enzyme function and energy production; vitamin B12, essential for red blood cell formation and neurological function; and riboflavin, which plays a role in cellular development and metabolism.
  • Minerals: Not to be overlooked are the minerals that chicken gizzards boast. They are a notable source of iron, which is indispensable for transporting oxygen in the blood. They also contain zinc, which is critical for immune system health and cell division. Selenium, another mineral found in gizzards, is key for reproductive health and thyroid hormone metabolism.
  • Cholesterol: Some caution is advised here. Chicken gizzards do contain cholesterol, about 237 milligrams per 100 grams. For individuals with cholesterol-related health concerns, it's essential to be mindful of this amount, as it approaches the daily recommended limit of 300 milligrams for healthy adults.

The role of dietary cholesterol in heart disease is complex and may not be as significant for everyone, depending on individual health conditions and genetic factors. The American Heart Association suggests that the type of fats consumed plays a more critical role in increased cardiovascular risk than dietary cholesterol itself.

When consumed as part of a balanced diet, chicken gizzards can be a nutrient-dense food item. Considering their high protein content and valuable micronutrients, they can offer substantial benefits, particularly for individuals seeking alternative sources of certain vitamins and minerals. It’s also worth noting that they are relatively low in calories, providing about 145 calories per 100 grams, which can be an attractive feature for those monitoring their caloric intake.

In summary, the nutritional profile of chicken gizzards is impressive, encompassing a range of essential nutrients. However, as with all foods, they should be eaten in moderation, particularly by those monitoring their cholesterol intake. When prepared correctly and consumed within the context of a varied diet, there is a place for chicken gizzards on the menu for many looking to expand their culinary experiences and nutrient intake.

Cholesterol and Fat: Misconceptions about Organ Meats

Organ meats, including chicken gizzards, have often been regarded with caution due to their cholesterol and fat content. While it's true that these parts of the chicken are rich in certain nutrients, misunderstanding their nutritional profile can lead to unfounded dietary apprehensions.

Chicken gizzards, the muscular stomach of the bird, are relatively low in fat compared to other cuts of meat. They contain about 2 grams of fat per 4-ounce serving, which can easily fit into a balanced diet. Of this fat content, a minimal amount is saturated fat, the type commonly associated with heart disease. The majority is unsaturated fat, which can have beneficial effects on cardiovascular health.

The cholesterol content in chicken gizzards might raise an eyebrow, with a 4-ounce serving providing around 275 milligrams. While the American Heart Association recommends limiting dietary cholesterol to 300 mg per day to maintain heart health, recent studies suggest that dietary cholesterol's impact on blood serum cholesterol levels is more complicated than previously understood.

A study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition indicates that for most people, consuming foods high in cholesterol does not significantly affect the level of cholesterol in the blood or increase the risk of heart disease. This suggests that the cholesterol in chicken gizzards may not be as concerning as once thought, especially when consumed in moderation within a diverse diet.

Furthermore, organ meats like chicken gizzards are a source of lean protein and essential nutrients, which can make them a valuable inclusion in a balanced diet. Dietary diversity is key to acquiring a spectrum of nutrients, and including a variety of meat products, such as organ meats, can contribute to this endeavor.

The table below reflects the general nutritional content of chicken gizzards, showcasing the balance of fat and cholesterol against other beneficial nutrients:

Nutrient Amount per 4-ounce serving
Calories 154 kcal
Total Fat 2 g
Saturated Fat 0.5 g
Cholesterol 275 mg
Protein 27 g

It is worth consulting with healthcare professionals, particularly for those managing conditions such as hypercholesterolemia or cardiovascular disease, to tailor dietary needs on an individual basis. Yet, for the general population, including chicken gizzards in a well-rounded, nutritious diet is not only acceptable but can also be part of a healthy lifestyle.

In short, while meat organ such as chicken gizzards should not constitute the whole of one's protein intake, they should not be reflexively dismissed due to misconceptions about cholesterol and fat. Like all foods, they are best consumed as part of a varied and balanced diet.

Presence of Contaminants and Proper Cooking Techniques

Chicken gizzards, like any other animal organ, can be nutritious but also carry the risk of contamination. Since chicken gizzards function as part of the digestive system in poultry, they can come into contact with potentially harmful bacteria and pathogens. The most commonly associated contaminants include Salmonella and Campylobacter, which can be present in the intestinal tract of birds. A study published in the Journal of Food Protection found that organ meats can harbor high levels of pathogens if not handled and processed correctly.

Another concern when consuming organ meats such as chicken gizzards is the accumulation of heavy metals and other toxins. Research indicates that certain heavy metals can bioaccumulate in the livers and gizzards of poultry, which can lead to potential health risks if consumed in large quantities or without proper precautions.

Nevertheless, proper cooking techniques can significantly reduce the risk of contamination and make chicken gizzards a safe addition to your diet. Here are some recommendations to ensure safety:

  • Temperature Monitoring: It's essential to cook chicken gizzards to an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C) to kill off harmful bacteria. Using a meat thermometer can guarantee you've reached this safe temperature.
  • Separate Preparation: When preparing chicken gizzards, avoid cross-contamination by using separate utensils and cutting boards from those used for other foods, especially those eaten raw.
  • Thorough Washing: Although washing meat is not generally recommended due to the risk of spreading bacteria through splashing, it is crucial to ensure chicken gizzards are free from visible contaminants before cooking. Handle with care and keep the washing gentle and contained.
  • Proper Storage: Keep chicken gizzards frozen or refrigerated until it's time to cook. They should be stored below 40°F (4°C) to inhibit bacterial growth.
  • Cooking Method: Slow, moist heat cooking methods such as braising, stewing, or pressure cooking are not only effective at ensuring thorough cooking but also help tenderize the gizzards, which can be quite tough.

When cooked correctly, chicken gizzards can be a safe and flavorful source of nutrition. Keep in mind that while these techniques minimize the risk of contamination, they do not eliminate it entirely. Always source your chicken gizzards from reputable suppliers who follow stringent handling and processing standards to further reduce potential health risks.

Benefits of CoQ10 in Chicken Gizzards

Chicken gizzards are a type of organ meat that is often overlooked in the realm of poultry products. However, these small muscular organs, which aid in the digestion of food for the chicken, have a nutritional treasure trove hidden within – Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10). This enzyme boasts a range of health benefits that merit attention.

CoQ10, also known as ubiquinone, is a compound that occurs naturally in the body, playing a critical role in the production of energy within cells. It is a powerful antioxidant, working tirelessly to shield the body from oxidative stress and cellular damage. CoQ10 levels in the body can decline with age, and thus, dietary intake becomes increasingly important.

  • Heart Health: Research has indicated that CoQ10 may help improve heart function and reduce oxidative damage within the vascular system. For instance, a study published in the "Journal of Cardiac Failure" has shown that CoQ10 supplementation has the potential to benefit those with heart failure.
  • Exercise Performance: CoQ10 enhances cellular energy production, which can translate into improved physical performance. This is especially useful for people who engage in regular exercise or high-demand physical activities.
  • Antioxidant Protection: As an antioxidant, CoQ10 protects the body's proteins, lipids, and DNA from oxidative damage caused by free radicals, potentially lowering the risk of chronic diseases.
  • Anti-Aging Properties: Given its role in reducing oxidative stress, CoQ10 has also been associated with staving off the signs of aging at the cellular level.
  • Supports Neurological Function: Some studies, like those cited in "The Journal of Mitochondria," suggest CoQ10 may benefit neurological health, possibly playing a role in the prevention of migraine headaches and improving the symptoms of neurological disorders.

Chicken gizzards are a noteworthy source of dietary CoQ10, making them a beneficial addition to the diet, especially for individuals who may need to boost their CoQ10 levels, including older adults, those with specific health conditions, or athletes seeking enhanced physical performance. By including chicken gizzards in a balanced diet, you are not only indulging in a delicacy but also investing a wealth of benefits for your body's energy production and defense system.

While the benefits of CoQ10 are substantial, it is also essential to consume chicken gizzards in moderation as part of a diverse and balanced diet. Pairing gizzards with other nutrient-rich foods can optimize overall health benefits and ensure that you get a wide range of nutrients necessary for optimal health.

It is important to consult with a healthcare provider before making any significant changes to your diet, particularly if you have existing health conditions or are taking medications that might interact with CoQ10. Nevertheless, contemplating the inclusion of chicken gizzards for their CoQ10 content could be a prudent step for many looking to boost their nutritional intake and overall wellness.

Portion Control: Moderation is Key

Discussing chicken gizzards from a nutritional perspective requires an appropriate emphasis on portion control. Like any other food, the health impacts of consuming chicken gizzards can vary greatly depending on the quantity ingested. While gizzards are a source of essential nutrients, it is crucial to pay attention to how much is consumed in a sitting to maintain a balanced diet.

Chicken gizzards are densely packed with protein. Protein is fundamental for muscle repair, immune function, and various biological processes. However, despite their dense nutritional content, gizzards should be consumed in moderation. They also contain cholesterol and sodium, which, when taken in high amounts, may pose health risks, particularly for individuals with hypertension or heart issues.

When it comes to serving sizes, here's a practical guideline:

  • For adults: A standard serving size for cooked chicken gizzards is about 4 ounces (113 grams). This portion provides a substantial amount of protein without going overboard on cholesterol and sodium.
  • For children: A smaller serving size, around 2 ounces (57 grams), is generally suitable for young children, taking into account their smaller dietary requirements and the high protein content of gizzards.

Remember, moderation is also influenced by your overall daily diet. For instance, if other meals in your day are high in protein or sodium, you should consider reducing the portion size of gizzards accordingly. The recommended daily intake of protein varies based on factors such as age, sex, and physical activity level. In general, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggests that women aged 19-70+ should consume 46 grams of protein per day, and men aged 19-70+ should consume 56 grams per day.

It's also worth noting that because chicken gizzards are low in fat, they can fit well into a lean diet when eaten in moderation. However, the way gizzards are prepared can significantly affect their healthfulness. Boiled or stewed gizzards without added salt are a healthier option compared to fried gizzards, which increase the fat and calorie content.

Take into account any special dietary needs or restrictions you may have. For example, if you're on a low-cholesterol diet, you may need to limit your consumption of gizzards further or discuss their inclusion in your diet with a healthcare provider or dietitian.

In summation, while chicken gizzards can be a healthy addition to your diet, they should be consumed in moderation and balanced with other nutrient-dense foods to ensure an overall healthy eating pattern.

Comparing Chicken Gizzards to Other Protein Sources

When it comes to evaluating the merits of chicken gizzards as part of a balanced diet, it's essential to compare them with other protein sources. Protein is a macronutrient that is vital for body growth and repair, and it's important to choose sources that align with one's health goals and dietary preferences.

1. Protein Content
Chicken gizzards are a lean source of protein. In a 100-gram serving, gizzards offer about 17 grams of protein, which is comparable to other lean poultry like chicken breast. However, it may be lower than red meats like beef or lamb but provides a higher protein content compared to some plant-based sources such as lentils or chickpeas.

2. Fat Content
One of the advantages of chicken gizzards is their low fat content. Unlike certain cuts of red meat, which can be high in saturated fat, chicken gizzards contain less fat, making them a healthier option for individuals watching their heart health. It's worth noting, however, that they do contain some cholesterol and should be consumed in moderation.

3. Vitamin and Mineral Profile
Gizzards are not only about protein; they offer a range of vitamins and minerals that are essential for health. They are particularly high in iron and zinc, both of which are crucial for immune function and metabolism. Compared to plant-based proteins, the iron in gizzards is in the heme form, which is more readily absorbed by the body.

4. Amino Acid Composition
The quality of protein in chicken gizzards is notable because it includes all nine essential amino acids required by the human body. This makes it a complete protein, similar to other animal proteins, and superior in this regard to many plant-based proteins that need to be paired to form a complete amino acid profile.

Here's a comparative table highlighting the differences between chicken gizzards and other common protein sources:

Protein Source Protein (per 100g) Fat (per 100g) Saturated Fat (per 100g) Notable Nutrients
Chicken Gizzard 17g 4g 1g Iron, Zinc, Vitamin B12
Chicken Breast 23g 1g 0g Niacin, Vitamin B6
Lean Beef 26g 10g 4g Iron, Vitamin B12
Lentils 9g 0.38g 0.05g Fiber, Folate
Black Beans 9g 0.5g 0.13g Fiber, Potassium

While this table highlights key macronutrient comparisons, it's important to mention that dietary choices should be made in the context of an individual's overall diet, health goals, and nutritional needs. For someone with iron-deficiency anemia, the high iron content in chicken gizzards might be beneficial, whereas for someone with a high cholesterol concern, moderation would be advisable.

Moreover, the preparation methods can significantly alter the nutritional profile of chicken gizzards. For instance, stewed or boiled gizzards may retain most of their nutrients, while deep-frying them can increase fat and calorie content, detracting from their healthfulness.

Consumers should also consider the broader aspects of their diets, such as balancing animal-based proteins with plant-based sources, ensuring a variety of nutrients, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle overall. As with any food, moderation and a holistic view of the diet are key to ensuring that chicken gizzards can be a healthy part of one's protein intake.

Frequently asked questions

Chicken gizzards can be suitable for a weight management diet as they are low in calories and fat while being high in protein, which can promote satiety. However, portion control is essential to avoid excessive cholesterol intake, and they should be prepared using healthy methods, such as boiling or stewing, instead of frying.

Yes, chicken gizzards are a good source of heme iron, a type easily absorbed by the body, making them beneficial for individuals seeking to improve their iron levels, such as those with iron-deficiency anemia. It's advisable to eat them alongside vitamin C-rich foods to enhance iron absorption even further.

To incorporate chicken gizzards into a heart-healthy diet, consume them in moderation due to their cholesterol content, prepare them using low-fat cooking methods, and accompany them with plenty of vegetables, whole grains, and other foods rich in unsaturated fats to balance the meal.

Pregnant women can safely eat chicken gizzards if they're thoroughly cooked to an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C) to prevent foodborne illness. Chicken gizzards are rich in essential nutrients like protein, iron, and B vitamins, which can be beneficial during pregnancy. However, it's best to consult with a healthcare provider for personalized advice.

Ask a question about Chicken Gizzards and our team will publish the answer as soon as possible.

Possible short-term side effects

  • bacterial contamination if not cooked properly
  • high cholesterol intake
  • cross-contamination during meal prep

Possible long-term side effects

  • increased risk of heart disease with high cholesterol diet
  • potential heavy metal accumulation

Ingredients to be aware of

  • cholesterol
  • sodium
  • possible contaminants like salmonella, campylobacter
  • heavy metals


  • high in protein
  • low in fat
  • rich in b vitamins, iron, zinc, selenium
  • contains coq10 with benefits for heart health, exercise performance, antioxidant protection, anti-aging, neurological function

Healthier alternatives

  • lean poultry like chicken breast
  • plant-based proteins like lentils, chickpeas
  • other meats with lower cholesterol content

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Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 01-24-2024

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 01-24-2024

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