Chicken is one of the most versatile foods. It can be cooked in a wide range of ways, and almost every part of a chicken is edible. Even the bones and carcasses can be used to make stock, broth, and soup, and chicken feet are something of an oriental delicacy.
Most dieters know that chicken breasts are low in fat and calories but often overlook chicken legs and thighs, which are often referred to as drumsticks.
That’s a shame because, as they’re not so popular, chicken legs are often cheaper and are often tastier too. Yes, chicken legs DO contain a little more fat than breast meat, but there really isn’t that much in it.
In this article, we’re going to take a look at chicken leg nutrition, so you can decide if they deserve to be part of your diet. Needless to say, deep-fried chicken legs ARE delicious and are fine as an occasional treat but, generally, there are healthier ways to cook your chicken legs!
Chicken Legs – Nutrition Facts
Chicken is very popular meat. It’s usually considered to be healthier than red meat because it’s lower in fat. The nutritional breakdown of chicken leg meat looks like this:
Per 100 grams, raw, meat only (no bone and skin removed)
- Calories – 168
- Protein – 18.6 grams
- Fat – 12.1 grams
- Saturated fat – 3.4 grams
- Cholesterol – 83mg
- Carbohydrates and sugars – 0 grams
Chicken legs also contain very small amounts of several vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A and C, thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, phosphorous, magnesium, and zinc.
Are Chicken Legs Healthy?
Chicken and chicken legs are an excellent source of protein. Protein is a vital nutrient. Your body uses protein for muscle repair and growth, and it’s important for things like skin, nail, and hair health too.
In addition, protein is a useful nutrient during weight loss. Eating high protein foods like chicken can help keep you feeling fuller for longer and also boost your metabolism for easier fat loss.
Because chicken is low in fat, it’s also lower in calories than higher-fat protein sources, such as beef, lamb, and pork. Because it’s low in fat, chicken is also considered more heart-healthy than most red meats.
Chicken does not contain an abundance of vitamins and minerals. While it does provide some, the amounts are too low to be considered beneficial. You should consume chicken with a big side dish of veggies if you want to cover all your nutritional bases.
The bones in chicken legs are also a valuable source of nutrition. Gently boiled for several hours, you can make a probiotic chicken stock that is also high in collagen. Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body and has many health benefits.
So, are chicken legs healthy? Yes! However, if you want to consume more protein and less fat, you should remove the skin as that’s where the fat is mainly stored.
Health Risks of Consuming Chicken Legs
Despite being healthy, there are a few health risks associated with eating chicken legs.
Breaded, battered, and deep-fried chicken legs are high in calories and fat and may contain trans-fat. Eating this kind of chicken leg more than occasionally will invariably lead to weight gain and could contribute to heart disease.
Chicken is also a leading cause of salmonella poisoning. Salmonella is a bacteria that can cause serious medical problems. The symptoms of salmonella include:
- Abdominal cramps
Eating spoiled chicken and reheating it are common sources of salmonella.
In addition, some chicken is raised using hormones and antibiotics. Humans then ingest these substances. Hormone-fed chicken can lead to things like estrogen dominance and weight gain, while the routine consumption of antibiotics can cause antibiotic resistance, making some diseases harder to treat.
The good news is that, while it is a little more expensive, organic free-range chicken is free from these harmful substances.
Some people are susceptible to chicken allergies and react badly when they touch or eat any part of a chicken, including the skin and feathers. If you are allergic to chicken, you should not eat chicken legs. People who allergic to chicken are often allergic to duck, turkey, goose, and other fowl.
Finally, chicken leg bones can become brittle and splinter after cooking, making them serious choking hazards. You should not eat cooked chicken bones. However, boiled chicken bones become very soft and can be mashed to make a bone meal.
Food Safety and Preparation
It’s generally best to wash chicken before cooking it. The cooking process should kill any germs but won’t remove other contaminants. Washing is the only way to remove visible and invisible dirt.
Once you’ve cleaned your chicken legs, the best (healthiest) ways to cook them are:
- Stir-fry (meat only – remove the bones/skin)
You should generally avoid fried chicken legs and legs from store-bought rotisserie chickens.
If you eat meat but want to consume less fat, making the switch to chicken can help. It’s high in protein but lower in calories and fat, making it ideal for weight loss diets. Chicken breasts are often expensive and aren’t always that tasty. Chicken legs and thighs contain a little more fat, but that tends to mean they are moister and far tastier.
Of course, the way you cook your chicken legs is also important. While a bargain bucket of takeout chicken drumsticks will provide you with lots of protein, it will also contain a whole lot of fat and carbohydrate. Plus, it’s doubtful that takeout chicken is organic or free-range.
Chicken legs are potentially healthy and can make for a nourishing meal or tasty snack. That said, for optimal health, you should rotate your protein sources to avoid nutritional shortfalls and getting bored of the same old meals. Food rotation will also help prevent intolerances. Most food intolerances are caused by overconsumption.