Protein is essential for building strong bones and lean, healthy muscle. If you don’t get enough protein to support creating new cells in the body, you will struggle to repair tissue, and your hormones could be affected too. Chicken is an excellent protein source, but which part is best?
Depending on your goals, you may choose the lean protein in skinless chicken breast, where 80% of the calories come from protein. If you need more fat in your diet, thighs and drumsticks are about 53% protein from calories. Other sources of protein are chicken liver and gizzards.
Chicken is a staple of many bodybuilders looking to build maximum muscle without gaining excess fat. High-protein also foods help with curbing hunger and reducing the loss of muscle when dieting. That’s why chicken is often top of the diet list as a healthy, protein-packed superfood.
The Best Parts of A Chicken for Protein
If you’re on a Pollotarian diet or one which allows meat—you’ll already know chicken is an excellent source of protein. It’s also relatively cheap compared to other meats, and is versatile in recipes. However, some parts are a better bang for your buck—so which are best for higher protein?
The Lean Chicken Breast
Chicken breast must be added to your diet if you’re trying to build or retain muscle while on a calorie deficit. Ditch the skin to avoid extra fat, and find ways to add chicken breast to your meals to increase the protein.
A cooked skinless chicken breast of approximately 172 grams will give you a massive 54 grams protein. The total calorie count is around 280 calories, and 80% comes from protein. This high protein ratio makes chicken breast a favorite for athletes watching their protein and fat intake.
Don’t Forget The Gizzard
Unless you’re used to Southern cooking, you’ve probably never considered eating chicken gizzards. However, chicken gizzards are a great source of protein and are high in many essential nutrients. Gizzards are tender and tasty if correctly cooked and can easily be added to curries and soups.
Ensure you properly clean gizzards before cooking them, and boil them for about 15 minutes. 100 grams of gizzard will give you 30 grams of protein, making this a powerhouse choice if you’re looking for an extra protein source from chicken.
Drum Up Protein With Chicken Drumsticks
Next on the protein list is the drumstick, which you can eat with or without the skin. Removing the skin will make this chicken part healthier and have a higher percentage of protein. Have a few skinless cooked drumsticks to add up the protein total.
A single drumstick of about 44 grams will give you 12.4 grams of protein, and 70% of the 76 calories in the average drumstick come from protein. If you leave the skin on, the calorie count goes up to 1123, and only 53% of that will be protein.
Succulent Chicken Thighs
Choose the thigh if you’re looking for a cheaper cut with a decent protein punch. Chicken thigh is dark meat compared to white breast, and it has a higher fat content, making it tastier.
Remove the skin to reduce the fat, and improve the protein-to-fat ratio. A cooked, skinless chicken thigh weight about 50 grams will have 13.5 grams of protein. Since 53% of the calories in thighs come from protein, it is not as high as chicken breast.
Iron-Rich Chicken Liver
Chicken liver is a fantastic source of not only protein, iron, vitamins, and selenium. It’s got such a high iron percentage that you don’t need to eat it every day, and you can use it as a change from your regular chicken cuts. It’s also an inexpensive protein source.
Cook up 100 grams of chicken liver to get 16.9 grams of protein. Of the 116 calories, 34% of that comes from protein. Chicken liver is also very rich in vitamin A and vitamin C, making liver an excellent superfood to add to your diet.
Spicy Chicken Wings
Chicken wings are usually served with the skin, so choose these if you need to keep your fat content higher. They’re the smallest meat section, and you’ll need to eat a few wings to get a good amount of protein.
Chicken wings do not have as much meat on them as other parts, and there is a large amount of bone or gristle. A single chicken wing is around 99 calories and about 6.4 grams of protein. Avoid extra dips and batters if you want to keep your meal healthy.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is The Most Nutritious Part Of A Chicken?
Different parts of a chicken will meet different nutritional needs. For example, if you want to add more iron and vitamins to your diet, chicken liver is a good choice, while gizzards are also high in iron and protein.
One of the best chicken protein sources is chicken breast. It is easy to find, low in fat, and is a versatile cut. It also contains vitamin B12, Tryptophan, Choline, Zinc, Iron, and Copper.
Are Chicken Thighs High In Protein?
Chicken thighs are high in protein and a good choice when adding more protein to your diet. However, chicken thighs have nearly three times the fat content of breasts, making them less desirable if you are watching your fat intake.
Some people prefer the taste of thighs and find skinless chicken breast too bland. If you want the rich taste of thigh meat with a lower fat content, you might prefer to swap your chicken thighs out for turkey.
Which Meat Is Highest In Protein?
When looking for the highest protein count in meat, you probably think you’ll need to switch to steak. However, gram for gram, lean chicken breast has the highest portion of protein compared to other meats.
When chicken is cooled in chill tanks, they naturally absorb some water. The USDA regulates how much water can be absorbed; water should not make up more than 8% of their body weight. This water content can affect the percentage of protein in your chicken.
Which Part Of A Chicken Has Less Protein?
Chicken wings will offer you the least amount of protein, and 3.5 ounces will provide under 13.5 grams. Chicken wings are often battered and fried or served with high-calorie, sticky dips and marinades. While they can make tasty snacks, chicken wings shouldn’t be your go-to for a high-protein meal.
Chicken wings are also usually served with the skin still on, which adds to the saturated fat content, making them the least healthy part of the chicken.
Skinless chicken breast is the number one choice for a chicken part that packs the most protein while still being lean and healthy. It’s easy to fit chicken breast into most diets, and it is a versatile meat that can be served cold, roasted, in stews, stir-fries, and curries.
While thighs are also good sources of protein, their high-fat content can make them a problem if you are on a strict diet. Even without the skin, they are a fattier cut than the chicken breast. Consider adding chicken livers and gizzards to your diet, as they are also excellent sources of proteins and vitamins while low in fat.