During the past few years, we have often heard about avian flu, and chicken is a part of the spreading of this epidemic. Avian flu can actually be fatal, but it seems like chicken meat is just too tasty to pass up. Its popularity is still rising despite all the news about bird flu.
Chicken meat is a healthy kind of protein compared to other kinds of meat (especially red meat like beef and pork). Skinned chicken meat has lower fat content and fewer calories than beef. Chicken breast is the part with the least fat and the least calories. Drumsticks and chicken wings are three times higher in fat than chicken breast, and have 25% higher calories.
Still, I would like to stress that even though fat from chicken meat is better than fat from beef due to being lower in saturated fat, it still has saturated fat, which is bad for your health. Too much of anything is bad for your health.
Unlike consuming beef, there is yet no medical report linking chicken meat consumption to colon cancer. However, the best way to avoid cancer is to eat more fruits and vegetables and reduce meat. Many people are afraid chicken meat will come with unnatural hormones and stimulants used in chicken farming. In many countries, especially in the US, growth hormones or stimulants in chicken farming are prohibited by federal law. However, it is not prohibited to use medication to prevent diseases in chicken, but it has to be given long before they are turned into chicken meat, to make sure that there are no unhealthy chemicals in the meat that we eat. My final word on this is _ farming does not equal natural.
I am not saying that you should give up meat altogether. Moderation is key to everything in life.
Another option is to avoid the skin and internal organs because they are the fattest parts as well as the parts that collect the most chemicals.
When eating chicken meat, other than avian flu, you might also want to be careful about bacteria such as salmonella and campylobacter which cause food poisoning and kill hundreds of people in the US each year. They are frequently detected during slaughter and processing of chicken meat.
As an end consumer, it is hard to tell whether the meat you are about to buy is contaminated. The best way to ensure safety is to cook the meat well and never let water from raw chicken touch other food or utensils. Always wash your hands before and after touching raw chicken meat.
Chicken, whether free range, organic, pastured or farmed, is all the same in terms of nutrients and safety from the aforementioned bacteria. In Thailand, we also have "home grown chicken" or kai baan. Again, for safety, always treat it the same way as mentioned above to avoid food poisoning.
This rule also extends to imported chicken and turkey. Undercooking your food can lead to many health problems. A patient of mine, about 50 years old, came to see me because he felt tight in his chest after dinner every day, and if he went out for a walk, it would just get worse.
I had his heart checked and found that he had myocardial infarction, and he was treated with balloon angioplasty. He got much better after that, but he still felt tight in his chest after dinner. However, this time if he got up to walk, the tightness would go away, which means that it was not a sign of myocardial infarction. I tested his heart again, and like I suspected, nothing was wrong.
So, I asked him about his lifestyle, and he said that to lower his cholesterol, he replaced beef with chicken meat. He always ate deep fried chicken skin, along with his usual dinner. He also added that it tasted so good that he could not stop. Mystery solved!
Dr Nithi Mahanonda is a consultant cardiologist and interventionist at Perfect Heart Institute, Piyavate Hospital. Visit his website at www.drnithi.com.
About the author
- Writer: Dr Nithi Mahanonda