While removing the skin of your chicken before eating it may have some advantages, it isn't always necessary. Eating chicken skin does add extra calories to your meal, but benefits exist for keeping the skin on the chicken as well.
Benefits of Chicken Skin
It's true that chicken skin mainly consists of fat. However, while many times the fat found in animal foods is saturated fat -- which can increase your cholesterol and heart disease risk when eaten in excess -- the majority of fat in chicken skin is actually heart-healthy unsaturated fats, according to Harvard School of Public Health. The U.S. Department of Agriculture(USDA) National Nutrient Database reports that 1 ounce of chicken skin contains about 3 grams of saturated fat, but provides 8 grams of unsaturated fat.
Furthermore, Harvard School of Public Health notes that cooking chicken with the skin on it helps keep the chicken moist and flavorful. So if you're cooking chicken dinner for guests and want to avoid bland, dry-tasting chicken, consider keeping the skin on your chicken.
Drawbacks of Eating the Skin
The main drawback of keeping the skin on your chicken is that it adds extra calories and saturated fat to your meal. The USDA reports that 1 cup of cooked chicken breast without the skin contains 231 calories, but a cup of cooked chicken breast with skin contains 276 calories. While the majority of fat in chicken skin is unsaturated fat, the skin does contain 3 grams of saturated fat per ounce -- which is the same amount present in 1 cup of cooked chicken breast. The American Heart Association suggests limiting saturated fat in your diet to 5 or 6 percent of your total daily calorie intake, which equates to about 13 grams of saturated fat daily when eating 2,000 calories.
Benefits and drawbacks exist for removing the skin on your chicken before eating it. The bottom line is that keeping the skin on your chicken won't drastically increase your calorie intake or your risk for heart disease when eaten in moderation as part of a well-balanced meal plan. Chicken skin has gotten a bad rap because it's high in fat. But because chicken skin contains more heart-healthy unsaturated fat than saturated fat, it's not as bad as you may think.
An experienced health, nutrition and fitness writer, Erin Coleman is a registered and licensed dietitian and holds a dietetics degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She also has worked as a clinical dietitian and health educator in outpatient settings. Erin's work is published on popular health websites, such as TheNest.com and JillianMichaels.com.