Poultry in Motion-the Chicken & the Egg
by Staci Hendrickson, MS, RDLD, CSCS
Let's start with the humble egg. The egg is one of nature's most nutrient dense foods. One hard-boiled egg contains about six grams of protein, 1.5 grams of saturated fat (the "worst" fat), 2 grams of monounsaturated fat (the "best" fat), 0.7 grams of polyunsaturated fat (the "OK" fat), and zero carbohydrates. It also contains almost every vitamin and mineral (the exception being Vitamin C because chickens make their own) making it one of nature's most complete foods.
Eggs got a bad rap several years ago because of their high cholesterol content (about 300 mg per egg). But, recent research has supported that eggs can be included in a heart healthy diet. If you are practicing heart healthy cooking, the National Cholesterol Education Program recommends limiting egg yolk consumption to three per week (the yolk has all the choleasterol, but it also contains most of the vitamins and minerals so it pays to eat a few). The white does not contain fat or cholesterol, so you don't need to limit your intake of egg whites.
Another heart healthy option when it comes to eating eggs is to buy eggs from chickens fed a special diet. This special diet causes the eggs to be high in omega 3 fatty acids - the same desirable fatty acids found in fish and flax seed. Look for labeling noting the presence of omega 3¿s (Eggland's Best is one such brand).
When cooking with eggs, you can generally substitute two egg whites for one whole egg in recipes - the exception being custards. Eggs can be poached, hard-boiled, fried, scrambled, and baked to name a few. They are also inexpensive. Most people associate eggs with breakfast - but because of their versatility they can be served any time of the day.
So, what about chicken? The nutritional value of chicken can vary greatly depending on how it is prepared. A broiled, skinless chicken breast will contain about 284 calories, 53 grams of protein, 0 carbohydrates, and 6 grams of fat (1.8 grams saturated, 2.2 grams monounsaturated, and 1.3 grams polyunsaturated). A fried chicken leg, on the other hand, can have 11 grams of fat. In general, light meat without the skin is the leanest choice.
Chicken is a good source of iron. Iron deficiency is the most common nutrient deficiency in the United States. Menstruating women are at greatest risk, and female athletes are at a higher risk than sedentary women. Iron is lost in sweat and pounding activities (such as running) can destroy red blood cells, thus increasing iron needs. Men's iron needs are not as high and iron deficiency is rare among men. One average chicken breast provides about 2mg of iron, or about 11% of a female runner's daily needs. As protein sources go, chicken is relatively inexpensive. New packaging takes a lot of the work out of preparing chicken. Just open, bake, and eat!
Don't fly the coop without checking out our egg & chicken recipes.
About the Author: An RAC member since 1992, Staci Hendrickson MS, RDLD, CSCS is a dietitian and personal trainer in private practice in Lawrence, Kansas. She specializes in sports nutrition, eating disorders, and pediatrics and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.