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Chicken and Poultry

Chicken and PoultryPoultry and chicken have been staples of most human diets ever since the building blocks of modern cookery (namely fire) were laid. With the exception of some vegetarian cultures, like the Buddhists and devout Rastafarians, fowl is generally not subject to religious dietary restrictions and is an affordable item in many parts of the world. Chicken and poultry, a term which applies to most birds but is most commonly associated with turkey, duck, goose, squab, ostrich or emu, are popular parts of healthy, balanced diets and are excellent sources of lean protein.

Why Poultry?

Poultry most notably provides the essential nutrient protein, a vital part of a balanced diet. An important nutrient which helps to build healthy muscle, tissue, hair and nails, protein cannot be stored by the body the way fat is, meaning that it must be eaten daily to replenish levels within the body. While some plants and legumes provide protein, the best sources are animal based: milk, cheese, yogurt, and, of course, meat. However, with the protein found in animal sources comes the addition of fat, some of which (specifically the saturated variety) can clog arteries and lead to heart disease (untrimmed beef is one example). Lean protein (protein that has reasonable or negligible fat content) is therefore a building block of a healthy diet, and chicken/poultry are reliable sources. White meat is the leanest part of the bird; dark meat has more fat, but can be a good source of iron. Additionally, chicken and other fowl have a low cholesterol content, making them a particularly functional option for those combating or preventing heart disease with diet.


While some argue that chicken can be bland, boring or simply common, the bird has a celebrated history in the food world and is part of some of the most famous dishes in history. Chicken Marengo, fried and cooked with wine, tomatoes, garlic, and mushrooms, was allegedly prepared for Napoleon after his victory at Marengo; Coronation chicken (a combination of cold chicken, apricots, and curried mayonnaise), a dish created for the crowning of Queen Elizabeth II in the 1950's, and still appears on menus in Western cuisine; southern fried chicken is arguably one of the most definitive symbols of American cuisine on record, and is wildly popular even beyond US borders.

Chicken, along with fish, is considered a top alternative to fattier meats. 3 oz. of skinless white-meat chicken provides 120 calories, 1.5grams of fat, .5 grams of saturated fat, 70mg of cholesterol, and 24 grams of protein; ground beef, by comparison, has 210 calories, 11 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 85mg of cholesterol, and 27 grams of protein. Chicken can also provide additional nutrients like B vitamins, niacin, and zinc.


While it is true that chicken can be bland, the meat and skin respond well to marinades, herbs, and flavor producing cooking methods. Battering and deep frying, popular in Southern cooking and fast food chains, does produce a remarkably juicy and tasty piece of meat. However, the fats and oils contributed during cooking ultimately negate the healthful properties of the lean meat. Heavy butter or cream based sauces can also make a healthy entree a dietary nightmare. Braising, baking, grilling, and roasting are better alternatives and still produce extremely palatable results. Marinating with citrus juices or liquids like soy sauce or balsamic vinegar can also enhance flavors.

ยท Note: Skinless chicken has less fat and saturated fat than chicken with the skin. Trimming excess fat and removing the skin before cooking can reduce the fat content significantly. Skinned chicken, however, is less juicy and more prone to dryness. Try cooking with the skin on, then removing the layer before eating.

Other Poultry

Duck, goose, and turkey meat is most often associated with the term "poultry". However, the word seems to apply more broadly to most of the winged/feathered fowl that play a role in food, including more exotic varieties like squab, quail, pheasant, and ostrich. These birds are also good sources of lean protein, and can be rotated with chicken or fish to keep healthy diets from becoming boring. Turkey serves up B vitamins, iron, zinc, and potassium, and has approx. 140 calories per 3 oz. serving. Duck, a good source of iron, B vitamins and niacin, has roughly 170 calories per 3 oz. serving. The tender meat, which cooks up redder than chicken and can be an impressive entree visually, is fattier than some other fowl, be sure to remove the skin if eating as part of a lower calorie/low fat diet. Goose is similar, providing B vitamins, zinc, magnesium and potassium, and offering approx. 200 calories per 3oz. serving. Because of the higher fat and calorie content, pay close attention to portion size when eating goose.

Again, the healthy preparation rules for chicken apply to other fowl. Stick with marinades and herbs for flavor rather than heavy sauces and try roasting, baking, grilling and braising as opposed to frying. Goose, which can be tougher than other birds, lends itself particularly well to both brining and braising techniques, which produce juicy, tender meats.
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