Chicken is rated as a very good source of protein, providing 67.6% of the daily value for protein in 4 ounces. The structure of humans and animals is built on protein. We derive our amino acids from animal and plant sources of protein, then rearrange the nitrogen to make the pattern of amino acids we require.
A Very Good Source of Protein
People who are meat eaters, but are looking for ways to reduce the amount of fat in their meals, can try eating more chicken. The leanest part of the chicken is the chicken breast, which has less than half the fat of a trimmed Choice grade T-bone steak. The fat in chicken is also less saturated than beef fat. However, eating the chicken with the skin doubles the amount of fat and saturated fat in the food. For this reason, chicken is best skinned before cooking.
Protein Protects Against Bone Loss in Older People
Studies show that some sections of the population, especially older people, have poor protein intake. But protein may be important in reducing bone loss in older people. In one study, the 70- to 90-year-old men and women with the highest protein intakes lost significantly less bone over a four-year period than those who consumed less protein. Animal protein, as well as overall protein intake, was associated with preserving bone.
With data from 615 participants in the Framingham (MA) Osteoporosis Study, researchers examined the relationship between protein intakes in 1988-1989 and changes in bone mineral density four years later. They accounted for all factors known to increase risk of bone loss.
Participants who reported the lowest daily protein intakes—roughly equivalent to half a chicken breast—had lost significantly more bone in the hip and spine four years later than those with the highest intakes—equivalent to about 9 ounces of steak and 1 cup of tuna salad. The group with the next lowest intake—equivalent to about 2 cups of cottage cheese—also lost significantly more bone than the highest protein intake group, but only at the hip.