Dr. Thomas Dwan - Is It Bad For You? Approved by Dr. Thomas Dwan

Is Chicken Skin Bad For You?



Short answer

Chicken skin is high in fats, especially saturated fats which could impact heart health if overconsumed. It provides monounsaturated fats and essential fatty acids that are beneficial, and small amounts of protein and vitamins. Balanced consumption within the broader context of a healthy diet could allow for occasional inclusion of chicken skin without significant health risks. Cooking methods also affect its healthfulness; baking or poaching is preferred over frying to minimize harmful compounds and excess fats.



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Long answer

Nutritional Content of Chicken Skin

Chicken skin has been a subject of debate for years, with many espousing the view that it should be avoided due to its fat content. However, to truly understand the health implications, it's essential to examine its nutritional profile. What does chicken skin contain, and how might these components interact with our health? Let's break down the nutritional content of a typical serving of chicken skin (approximately 10 grams).

  • Calories: Chicken skin is calorie-dense. A 10-gram serving contains about 50 calories. For those monitoring their calorie intake, particularly in weight management, this is a key factor to consider.
  • Fat: The majority of the calories in chicken skin come from fat. In a 10-gram serving, there can be around 4.5 grams of fat, of which about 1.2 grams are saturated. Saturated fats have been linked to heart disease when consumed in excess.
  • Monounsaturated Fat: Not all fat in chicken skin is saturated. There’s also a significant portion of monounsaturated fats, such as oleic acid, which is known for its potentially heart-healthy properties.
  • Polyunsaturated Fat: Chicken skin contains polyunsaturated fats, including essential fatty acids like omega-6. The balance of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids is crucial, and high intake of omega-6 fats should be counterbalanced with omega-3s to maintain heart health.
  • Protein: While not as significant as the actual meat, chicken skin does provide a small amount of protein – about 2.3 grams per 10 grams of skin.
  • Cholesterol: Dietary cholesterol, found in animal products, is present in chicken skin. The current view on dietary cholesterol's impact on blood cholesterol levels is evolving, but moderation is generally advised, especially for those with existing heart conditions.

In addition to macronutrients, chicken skin also contains small amounts of certain micronutrients:

  • Vitamin A: A precursor for retinol, vitamin A is important for vision and immune system function.
  • Vitamin E: An antioxidant that helps protect cells from damage.
  • B Vitamins: Including B6 and niacin, which are important for energy metabolism and cognitive health.

It's worth noting that the nutritional content of chicken skin can vary based on several factors, including the diet and breed of the chicken, as well as how the skin is prepared and cooked. For example, the method of cooking, such as frying vs. baking, can alter the fat content significantly. Moreover, seasonings and marinades often used with chicken skin can introduce additional nutrients or non-nutritive substances.

Chicken skin also contains trace amounts of minerals such as zinc and selenium, which are important for functions like DNA synthesis and protecting the body against oxidative damage. However, these are present in much higher quantities in the meat itself.

The takeaway here is that chicken skin is not purely detrimental, nor is it without its nutritional merits. It offers a kind of nutrient diversity that reflects in its content of both potentially beneficial monounsaturated fats and vitamins, as well as less desirable saturated fats and calories – making the overall impact on health more nuanced than a simple good-or-bad verdict.

When considering the inclusion of chicken skin in your diet, it is essential to look at the broader dietary context, individual nutritional needs, and health goals. As a source of additional calories and fats, chicken skin should be consumed with consideration to its place within a balanced and varied diet.

Saturated Fat and Cholesterol in Chicken Skin

When considering the impact of chicken skin on health, two key components to look at are saturated fat and cholesterol. Let's break down the content of these elements in chicken skin and understand their potential health implications.

Saturated Fat: Chicken skin contains a notable amount of saturated fats. Saturated fats are known to increase levels of LDL cholesterol in the blood, which is often labeled as "bad" cholesterol due to its association with increased heart disease risk. The American Heart Association recommends limiting saturated fat intake to less than 5-6 percent of total daily calories for those needing to lower their cholesterol.

The specific amount of saturated fat can vary based on the cooking method and the breed of the chicken, but on average, a 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of roasted chicken skin contains approximately 3.5 grams of saturated fat. This is slightly over 17% of the recommended daily intake based on a 2,000-calorie diet.

Cholesterol: Cholesterol in food has less of an impact on blood cholesterol levels than previously thought, which has led to changes in dietary guidelines. However, for individuals with existing high cholesterol or those who are at risk of heart disease, it's still vital to monitor dietary cholesterol.

Chicken skin is relatively high in dietary cholesterol, with the same 3.5-ounce serving holding about 80 milligrams of cholesterol. To put this into perspective, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans no longer set a specific daily limit for dietary cholesterol for the general population but advise people to eat as little dietary cholesterol as possible while consuming a healthy eating pattern for those with cardiovascular concerns.

  • High cholesterol may not impact everyone the same way. Individual tolerance can vary based on genetics and overall diet quality.
  • A balanced diet that includes a variety of different foods can help mitigate the effects of higher cholesterol intake from foods like chicken skin

Overall, while the intake of saturated fat and cholesterol from chicken skin should be considered for those with heart disease risks or high cholesterol levels, it's also crucial to look at the total dietary pattern. Moderation is key, and for some individuals, enjoying chicken skin in small amounts as part of a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins might not pose a significant health risk.

When deciding whether to include chicken skin in your diet, consider the following:

Nutrient Amount in 3.5 oz of Chicken Skin % Daily Value
Saturated Fat 3.5g 17%
Cholesterol 80mg Not established*

*The % Daily Value for cholesterol is not established, as current guidelines focus on dietary patterns rather than specific limits for most of the population.

For a personalized recommendation, consult with a healthcare provider or a registered dietitian who can help you determine the right balance for your health needs.

Role of Chicken Skin in a Balanced Diet

When discussing a balanced diet, considering the role of every food item, including chicken skin, is crucial. While some advocate for avoiding chicken skin due to its fat content, others emphasize the benefits of including various types of fats in moderation within a diet. Here, we'll delve into the nutritional aspects of chicken skin and how it might fit into a balanced diet.

Nutritional Content: Chicken skin contains a combination of unsaturated fats, which are beneficial to health, and saturated fats, which should be consumed in moderation. Unsaturated fats can help to reduce cholesterol levels and lower the risk of heart disease. Additionally, chicken skin provides a source of dietary collagen and elastin, which are important for skin and joint health.

Caloric Considerations: The caloric content of chicken skin is higher than that of the meat itself due to its fat content. Individuals counting calories or trying to lose weight may want to limit their intake of chicken skin. Nevertheless, in the context of an individual's total daily caloric intake, a small amount of chicken skin could be permissible without significantly impacting overall dietary goals.

Satiety Factor: The fats in chicken skin contribute to the sensation of satiety, which can help prevent overeating. Including a small portion of chicken skin with a meal might lead to increased fullness and reduced total calorie intake throughout the day.

Flavor and Enjoyment: From a culinary perspective, the skin contributes flavor and texture that can enhance the overall eating experience. A balanced diet should not only focus on health but also on the enjoyment of food, and the pleasure derived from eating can be a part of healthy eating habits.

Dietary Diversity: A diet that incorporates a wide variety of foods is more likely to provide all the necessary nutrients. Inclusion of chicken skin, in moderation, can add to the diversity of fats and other nutrients consumed, contributing to a more holistic approach to nutrition.

Portion Size: Portion size is key when integrating chicken skin into a balanced diet. A small amount can provide the benefits of flavor and satiety without excessive intake of saturated fats or calories.

It's important to consult with healthcare providers or nutritionists when making significant changes to your diet, especially if you have underlying health conditions or specific dietary goals. Individual dietary needs can vary greatly, and what constitutes a balanced diet for one person may be different for another.

By understanding these elements, we can better consider how chicken skin might fit into our own balanced diet. Recognizing that moderation and overall dietary context are essential can help guide our choices regarding chicken skin and our health.

Comparing Cooking Methods: Impact on Health

When we discuss the health implications of chicken skin, it's essential to consider how various cooking methods can alter its nutritional profile. The preparation of chicken skin can significantly affect not only its taste and texture but also its healthfulness. Here's a closer look at how different cooking techniques can impact the health aspects of chicken skin.

  • Baking: Oven-baking chicken with the skin on tends to preserve moisture and flavor while avoiding the need for added fats. It allows the fat in the skin to render out, which can be drained away, reducing the overall fat content consumed. However, high temperatures may lead to the formation of potentially harmful compounds like advanced glycation end products (AGEs), which have been associated with increased oxidative stress and inflammation. Studies, such as those published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, suggest that dietary AGEs can have multiple negative health effects.
  • Grilling: Grilled chicken skin develops a desirable crispy texture and smoky flavor, but this method can also lead to the production of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and heterocyclic amines (HCAs), especially if the skin is charred. Both PAHs and HCAs are recognized as carcinogenic substances by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. The Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry highlights that marinating chicken can reduce HCA formation, and thus may mitigate some health risks associated with grilling.
  • Frying: Pan-frying or deep-frying chicken skin results in a very crisp texture, which is often a crowd-pleaser. However, frying is associated with significantly higher calorie and fat content due to the oil absorption. Furthermore, high-temperature frying can encourage the formation of trans fats, especially if the oil is reused or overheated. Trans fats, as repeatedly documented in publications such as the New England Journal of Medicine, raise bad cholesterol levels and lower good cholesterol levels, increasing the risk of heart disease.
  • Boiling/Poaching: Boiling or poaching chicken with the skin can lead to a softer texture and can provide the benefit of reducing fat content, as some of the fat renders into the water. Though the resulting dish may have less flavor, it's a healthier option recommended by entities like the American Heart Association, as it avoids the formation of harmful compounds and excess fat associated with high-temperature cooking methods.
  • Roasting: Similar to baking, roasting chicken skin can also render fat while allowing the skin to become nicely browned and flavorful. Utilizing a rack when roasting allows fat to drip away from the chicken, potentially lowering the fat content that is consumed. Moreover, the use of lower roasting temperatures can lessen the production of harmful compounds.

In conclusion, each cooking method has its unique impact on the health properties of chicken skin, affecting both its fat content and the potential formation of harmful compounds. Considering these factors, cooking methods that use lower temperatures and allow for fat to be rendered and drained, such as baking, roasting, and poaching, can be considered healthier options. Nonetheless, incorporating marinades and avoiding char can improve the safety profile of higher-heat methods like grilling.

Chicken Skin and the Risk of Heart Disease

When discussing whether chicken skin could potentially affect heart disease risk, it's essential to consider both its nutritional content and the broader picture of an individual's overall diet and lifestyle. Chicken skin contains a mix of unsaturated fats and saturated fats, which have different implications for heart health.

Saturated Fats and Cholesterol Content: Historically, saturated fats and dietary cholesterol found in foods like chicken skin have been thought to increase the risk of heart disease by raising low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, also known as the "bad" cholesterol, in the blood. According to the American Heart Association, it's recommended to limit saturated fat to no more than 5-6% of total daily calories for those needing to lower their cholesterol. Given that chicken skin is high in saturated fat, regular consumption may not align with these guidelines.

The Role of Unsaturated Fats: Not all fats in chicken skin are a cause for concern. It also contains unsaturated fats, which can be beneficial for heart health when they replace saturated fats and trans fats in the diet. The presence of these fats is a point of consideration, as they can contribute to a healthier lipid profile when consumed in moderation.

Recent Research Insights: It's worth noting that more recent research offers a more nuanced view of the role of saturated fat in diet and heart disease. Some studies suggest that the relationship might not be as straightforward as previously thought, and the overall pattern of one's diet plays a significant role. For instance, a comprehensive review published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that there wasn't enough evidence to support the recommendation to eat low amounts of saturated fat to prevent heart disease.

Portion Size and Preparation: The impact of chicken skin on heart health can also depend on how it's prepared and how much is consumed. For example, chicken skin that's fried or cooked with additional fats can increase its calorie and unhealthy fat content. Baking or grilling might be healthier alternatives that reduce added fats.

Conclusion on Overall Diet: The decision to include chicken skin in one's diet should be made in the context of overall dietary patterns. Those with a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein may not need to worry as much about the occasional piece of chicken skin. However, for individuals with a diet high in saturated fat and cholesterol, or for those with existing heart health issues, limiting chicken skin might be advisable.

Expert Dietician Views: Most dieticians and health professionals still advise moderation when it comes to foods high in saturated fat. They recommend paying close attention to portion sizes, frequency of consumption, and the overall balance of the diet instead of focusing on individual foods in isolation.

Studies and Guidelines: The continued evolution of guidance on dietary fats and heart disease means that recommendations may eventually shift as more research becomes available. For now, following current heart health guidelines — which prioritize unsaturated fats over saturated fats — is the most widely supported approach among health professionals.

Personal Health Profile: It's important to consult with a healthcare provider before making dietary changes, especially for those with cardiovascular concerns. A personalized assessment can help determine the appropriateness of including chicken skin in a heart-healthy diet.

Contribution to Flavor: Culinary Benefits vs. Health Trade-offs

When considering the indulgence of chicken skin, it's essential to balance culinary pleasures with potential health implications. Chicken skin adds a rich texture and a depth of flavor to dishes that is hard to replicate with skinless meat. It provides a crisp contrast to the tender meat beneath, which is why it's often left on during roasting or grilling.

In terms of culinary benefits, the skin of the chicken is prized for its ability to retain moisture. As the chicken cooks, the fat under the skin begins to melt and render down, acting as a natural basting agent. This process keeps the chicken meat juicy and flavorful, resulting in a more palatable and satisfying meal. The skin also contributes to the overall presentation and can be seasoned in various ways to enhance the final dish.

  • Flavor Enhancement: The skin holds seasonings well, creating an opportunity for a crispy, flavorful outer layer.
  • Moisture Retention: It prevents the meat from drying out, ensuring a tender bite.
  • Visual Appeal: A well-browned, crispy skin adds a gourmet touch to a home-cooked meal.

However, when we pivot to the health trade-offs, chicken skin's high content of saturated fats comes into play. Consuming too much saturated fat is linked to increased cholesterol levels, which is a risk factor for heart disease. A single ounce of chicken skin contains approximately 8 grams of fat, of which about 2 grams are saturated fat. It's important for individuals who are monitoring their cholesterol or managing weight-related issues to consider these factors.

Let's take a closer look at the nutritional impact:

Nutrient Content in One Ounce of Chicken Skin Recommended Daily Intake
Total Fat 8g Varies based on individual dietary needs
Saturated Fat 2g Less than 10% of total daily calories
Calories 88kcal Varies based on individual dietary needs
Cholesterol 26mg Less than 300mg per day

Experts suggest that moderation is key. For instance, a study published in the European Journal of Nutrition has indicated that it may not necessarily be the intake of saturated fat itself, but the overall dietary pattern that impacts heart health. Health-conscious individuals might opt for occasional consumption of chicken skin while maintaining a diet abundant in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins.

Furthermore, the method of cooking can also greatly affect the healthiness of chicken skin. For example, when grilled or roasted without additional oil, chicken skin may not add as much fat to your meal as when it is fried or cooked with butter. Yet, even with these considerations in mind, it's imperative to weigh the desirability of flavor and texture against the importance of a heart-healthy diet.

Ultimately, the decision to include chicken skin in your diet is a personal one, influenced by cultural, gastronomic, and health considerations. Balance and moderation, in combination with an informed approach, lead to making choices that suit both your palate and your wellbeing.

Frequently asked questions

Grilling chicken skin at high temperatures can further lead to the formation of AGEs (advanced glycation end products), which have been associated with increased inflammation and oxidative stress, contributing to chronic diseases. It is beneficial to use marinades and avoid excessive charring to reduce these health risks.

Moderately including chicken skin in a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins might not significantly impact heart health for individuals without heart disease risk factors. For those with a history of heart disease or elevated cholesterol levels, limiting chicken skin to reduce saturated fat intake is advisable. Always consult with a healthcare provider for tailored advice.

Yes, chicken skin contains fats that can help increase feelings of fullness or satiety. Including a moderate serving of chicken skin in a balanced meal may enhance satiety and prevent overeating, but it should be consumed thoughtfully given its high-calorie and fat content.

Boiling or poaching chicken skin can reduce its fat content since some of the fat renders into the water, making it a healthier cooking option by minimizing the addition of extra fats and reducing the formation of harmful compounds found in high-temperature cooking methods.

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

Possible long-term side effects

  • increased ldl cholesterol
  • heart disease
  • weight gain

Ingredients to be aware of

  • saturated fats
  • cholesterol
  • potential formation of ages, pahs, hcas
  • trans fats in fried skins


  • source of monounsaturated fats
  • protein source
  • contains vitamin a, e, b6, niacin
  • dietary collagen
  • satiety
  • flavor enhancement

Healthier alternatives

  • baking
  • roasting
  • poaching
  • including skinless chicken
  • balanced diet with fruits, vegetables, lean proteins

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  • Maple Bacon flavor
  • Vegetarian-friendly
  • 18g Soy Protein
  • Gluten-free
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Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 02-13-2024

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 02-13-2024

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