Having been branded as high-fat, high-calorie, and high-cholesterol foods, many people have steered clear of chicken when trying to follow a ketogenic diet. But is chicken that bad?
What about other poultry such as turkey, duck, goose, and even ostrich? Is any of it keto friendly? The short answer is yes – but there are some important caveats.
What's so bad about chicken?
Let's clarify – there's nothing wrong with the chicken itself. It's a delicious and nutritious option for any diet. But what people have done to the chicken has caused all the problems. Consider the following facts: A chicken's natural lifespan is just one year.
Producers have to artificially increase the growth rate to make that chicken last until it can be sold. It is done by giving the chickens high-intensity antibiotics to help them fight infections from other chickens.
The chickens are also fed a diet of mostly corn, soybean, and cottonseed that has been genetically modified to resist pests. They're also injected with soybean oil, artificial dyes, and preservatives.
These chemicals and ingredients harm your health but can be especially troublesome for people on a ketogenic diet. That's because many of these chemicals are polyunsaturated fats which can increase inflammation and interfere with the body's ability to burn fat.
Why is chicken sour on a keto diet?
The fact that chicken is terrible on a keto diet has more to do with what we've done to chicken than the chicken itself. There are three main issues with chicken on the keto diet (although the same could be said for other poultry).
The first issue is that most of the meat on the chicken is white. It is the same issue with turkey, which is almost all white meat. White meat doesn't have a lot of fat in it, meaning that you won't be able to eat much of it on a ketogenic diet.
The second issue is that many people fry their chicken in unhealthy oils such as canola or soybean. These oils are high in polyunsaturated fats, which are inflammatory and harmful to people on a ketogenic diet.
The third issue is that many people season their chicken with unhealthy ingredients. Common seasonings for chicken include:
- MSG - Sugar (in the form of honey, maple syrup, and other syrups)
- High fructose corn syrup
- Soybean oil
- Refined flours
- Artificial dyes
- Artificial flavors
- Trans fats.
The best way to avoid all these problems is to choose your chicken wisely and prepare it as simply as possible.
Is Chicken Skin Keto?
Chicken skin is a keto nightmare. It almost lacks any nutritional value and is packed with saturated fat. It also contains a high amount of sodium. The good news is that a simple way to remove the skin from the chicken before cooking is to use a pair of kitchen scissors.
With the skin removed, the fat content in the meat is reduced significantly, and the skin can be used in keto-friendly recipes. You can even bake it until crisp or fry it in coconut oil.
Can you eat chicken on a keto diet?
As long as you are smart about selecting your chicken (and other poultry), you can eat chicken on a keto diet. Make sure you remove the skin and any visible fat from the meat. Avoiding that part of the chicken is probably best if you can't see any fat.
The legs and thighs of the chicken have more fat than the breast, and you can eat as much as you want of those parts. It's important to note that most of the fat on the chicken will be monounsaturated fat, a healthy type of fat you can eat as much as you'd like.
When preparing your chicken, permanently remove the skin and any visible fat. Ensure to avoid frying your chicken in oils high in polyunsaturated fats, such as soybean oil or canola oil. Stick to coconut oil, butter, or ghee instead.
Avoid seasonings such as MSG and high fructose corn syrup. Eat your chicken plain or with a bit of salt and pepper.
Is Chicken Breast Keto?
Yes, chicken breast is keto friendly (as long as you remove the skin and visible fat). Chicken breast is one of the most nutritious meats you can eat. It is rich in protein, vitamin B6, selenium, niacin, zinc, and iron.
Vitamin B6 is essential for the proper functioning of our nervous system, blood glucose regulation, and metabolism. If you carefully select the correct type of chicken breast and prepare it properly, it can be a healthy and nutritious addition to your keto diet. J
ust remember that not all chicken breasts are created equal. If you're buying pre-packaged chicken breast, read the labels. You want to look for "100% breast meat" options with no additives or fillers. Avoid any chicken breast that has sodium or other additives.
Is Chicken Thigh Keto?
Yes, chicken thighs are keto friendly as long as you remove the visible fat. The key to making this work is selecting the correct thigh type. You want to look for thighs labeled "with skin" or "with bone."
Avoid thighs labeled "skinless" or "boneless," as those are often processed with additives. Once you have your thighs, you can bake them or cook them in the slow cooker.
Is Dark Meat Keto?
Yes, dark meat such as chicken thighs and legs are keto-friendly, but you must be careful to remove the visible fat. A dark heart is healthier than white meat, but avoiding eating the skin is best.
Dark meat also tastes better if it is simmered. You can make a dim meat dish in a slow cooker or stovetop.
Ostrich, Duck, and Game Meat
Ostrich, duck, and game meat such as pheasant, venison, and rabbit are all keto friendly. Just be sure to remove the visible fat before cooking. These types of meat are shallow in fat (good) and calories (better).
They are also high in protein, B vitamins, selenium, and iron. However, they contain a lot of cholesterol, so be careful not to overeat. Permanently remove the visible fat from any of these meats before cooking. And remember that these meats probably won't come with a nutrition facts label, so measuring the serving sizes is essential.
Bottom line: Should you eat chicken on a ketogenic diet?
Chicken can be an excellent addition to a ketogenic diet when consumed in moderation. Be sure to select the correct type of chicken and remove the skin, visible fat, and unhealthful seasonings.
You can eat as much chicken as you'd like, but try not to eat it more than once a week. Between the antibiotics and the cholesterol in the meat, it can be a bit too rich for frequent consumption.