Is Chicken the New Health Food?

Monday Oct 26 | BY |
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Screenshot 2015-10-08 17.11.42

In the past few years, chicken has acquired a sort of “health food status”. Poultry is no longer a delicacy to be eaten on special occasions, such as Thanksgiving turkey, but rather a new healthy food to be consumed daily and of particular special importance for those trying to lose weight (which is just about everybody).

Chicken consumption has been rising steadily over the past couple of decades, as consumers have accepted the concept that chicken is healthier than beef. Now, for the first time ever, Americans eat more chicken than beef.


9 billion chickens are eaten in the US every year.

The average American eats over 60 pounds of chicken per year. 

Everywhere you go, there’s chicken. In sandwich shops, deli’s and in most restaurants, the health food option is often a chicken dish.

What are some consequences of eating all this chicken?

Here are the reasons why I believe chicken should not be on your list of “health” foods.

1) Cholesterol.

Chicken breast is considered a low fat meat, but it is packed with just as much cholesterol as other types of meats. In fact, 200 grams of chicken breast, which is the typical amount consumed, contains 165 grams of cholesterol.

I know many of my readers subscribe to the theory that dietary cholesterol has no negative impact on health — because that’s what some of the recent studies are trying to prove. However, the big flaw in those studies is the fact that beyond a certain cholesterol level — it is true that eating more cholesterol does not affect cholesterol levels very much.

If you have a typical American cholesterol level, which is over 200 mg/dl — eating more chicken may not affect you levels much. But, if you were to cut out all cholesterol sources from your diet, you would see a much bigger drop.

However, if you truly have a healthy cholesterol level — which has to be defined as less than 70 mg/dl of LDL cholesterol — even eating the lowest-fat chicken breast is going to significantly increase your total cholesterol.

LDL cholesterol is the building block of heart disease.

It’s been found that it’s virtually impossible to develop arteriosclerosis, if your total LDL cholesterol is below 70 mg/dl. Traditional societies, where LDL cholesterols are low, don’t experience any heart disease, even when they engage in other risky behaviors, such as smoking.[1]

Chicken breast is also relatively fatty. It contains 7 to 15 grams of fat in a typical chicken breast and 2 to 5 grams of saturated fat.

2) Chicken meat is nasty meat.

Consider the following:

  • A training video from the poultry industry obtained under the Freedom of Information Act shows that chicken are soaked into cold water — a so called “Fecal Soup” for up to one hour after being slaughtered.[2]

  • Once chicken are slaughtered, they are tossed into a chlorinated bath or sprayed with industrial-grade chemicals— to make them clean.[3]
  • In spite of this, 48% of chicken is samples taken by the New York Times in 2012 were found to be contaminated with E. Coli, which is an indicator of fecal contamination. [4]
  • Chicken were given a drug containing arsenic, which the FDA has recently pulled off the market. By the FDA’s own admission: “The scientific understanding at the time of approval was that the organic arsenic in 3-Nitro® (Roxarsone) would be excreted as organic arsenic, which is not known to be a carcinogen. Until recently, scientific evidence indicated that animals exposed to organic arsenic rapidly excrete the compound in its original form–as organic arsenic.” [5]

Given these facts, buying organic chicken is a smarter choice than commercially-raised chicken. However, organic chickens are slaughtered in the same way as commercially-raised chicken. The disinfectants used may be different.

3) Studies show that chicken consumption is linked to weight gain.

A recently published study that had numerous controlled factors such as, people in this study were consuming the same number of calories and doing the same amount of exercise. They controlled for those factors but found that meat consumption was linked to weight gain. The worst offender was chicken meat. [6]

4) High Risk of Human Exposure to Antibiotic-resistant Bacteria 

Chickens raised for human consumption are often packed by the thousands into massive sheds, or cages (yes, even the “free range” chicken are not as free as you would be lead to think). They are fed large amounts of antibiotics and drugs to keep them alive in conditions that would otherwise kill them. Although most antibiotics must be administered under the supervision of a veterinarian, when organic methods of keeping a chicken healthy are not working, many are added to their feed to bring them back to “optimal health”.

Recent documents created by the Food and Drug Administration[7] and made available as a result of a Freedom of Information Act request revealed that “none of these [antibiotic feed additives] would likely be approvable … for … livestock use if submitted today, under current FDA guidelines.”

Eighteen of the 30 reviewed feed additives were deemed to pose a ‘high risk’ of exposing humans to antibiotic-resistant bacteria through the food supply.”

This reckless use of antibiotics makes drugs less effective for treating humans by speeding up the development of drug-resistant bacteria. So far to date the FDA has not enacted any new laws to curb or prevent the use of these eighteen feed additives that were deemed “high risk”.

Conclusions: Skip the Chicken Meat

So I don’t know how we got to the point where the number one food we are supposed to eat for weight loss and health is chicken breast.

Consider the following:

There’s not a single independent study (not funded by industry) showing that eating more chicken leads to positive health outcomes. And the only positive studies (all funded by industry) only compare chicken meat to beef — to conclude that it is healthier than beef. 

Most chicken are raised in horrible conditions, contributing to destructive consequences for the environment and human health.

There’s not a single gram of fiber in chicken.

Health foods  are rich in antioxidants — chicken contains no significant quantity of them.

Organic chicken is, in many ways, a less damaging product than conventional chicken. But it is still high on the food chain, therefore most likely concentrated in environmental chemicals. And of course, full of fat and cholesterol, without any fiber or antioxidants.


[1] Optimal low-density lipoprotein is 50/70 mg lower
[2] Fecal Soup – the Physicians Committee
[3]European Activists Say They Don’t Want Any U.S. “Chlorine Chicken”
[4] In small sample, E Coli Found in 48% of Chicken in Stores – The New York Times
[5]Questions and Answers Regarding 3-Nitro
[6] Meat consumption and prospective weight change in participants of the Epic-PANACEA Study
[7] Antibiotic Resistance, Antibiotic Feed Additives

Frederic Patenaude

Frederic Patenaude has been an important influence in the raw food and natural health movement since he started writing and publishing in 1998, first by being the editor of Just Eat an Apple magazine. He is the author of over 20 books, including The Raw Secrets, the Sunfood Cuisine and Raw Food Controversies. Since 2013 he’s been the Editor-in-Chief of Renegade Health.

Frederic loves to relentlessly debunk nutritional myths. He advocates a low-fat, plant-based diet and has had over 10 years of experience with raw vegan diets. He lives in Montreal, Canada.

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