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Is Chicken Good for Diabetes?

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Is Chicken Good for Diabetes?

Table of Contents

Key Takeaways

  • Chicken is good for diabetes because it is high in protein, low in fat, and contains no carbohydrates. 
  • Eating lean proteins like chicken can help with satiety, blood sugar and cholesterol management, and weight loss efforts in diabetes.  
  • Choose lean cuts and cooking methods for chicken, like boneless skinless chicken breast that is grilled, baked, or boiled. 

If you have recently been diagnosed with diabetes, chances are you are evaluating the foods you eat most commonly. You may wonder if eating chicken is good for diabetes. Chicken can be an excellent staple protein in a diabetes diet because it is high in protein and contains no carbohydrates. 

However, some chicken recipes are prepared with added fat, sugar, salt, and refined carbohydrates. Cooking chicken at home and choosing lean cooking methods can help you manage the fat and nutritional quality of your meals. 

Continue reading to learn more about the benefits of chicken in diabetes and how to prepare chicken in a healthy way. 

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Is Chicken Good for Diabetes?

Chicken is a good choice for people with diabetes because it is a lean protein, low in fat, and rich in vitamins and minerals. When prepared in a way that minimizes added sugars, fats, sodium, and refined grains, chicken can be a healthful staple in a diet for diabetes. 

Animal proteins, like chicken, contain little to no carbohydrates, meaning they don’t contribute to blood sugar spikes. Protein can also help with satiety or fullness levels after eating compared to a meal of only carbohydrates. 

Though there is no ideal protein intake recommended for everyone with diabetes, medical professionals agree that consuming adequate protein in the diet is beneficial for diabetes management. Chicken is protein-dense, containing 60% protein by weight. This means even small amounts of chicken, like a few ounces, will provide a good source of protein.

Chicken meat is considered a high-quality protein, meaning it is easier to digest and absorb. It is considered a complete protein because it contains all the essential amino acids humans need from food. Chicken is also low in collagen, a type of protein that makes meat more challenging to digest. 

Benefits of Chicken for Diabetes

Chicken can benefit blood sugar management in diabetes due to its rich protein content and lack of carbohydrates in its unprocessed form. When added to a high-carbohydrate meal, chicken can help decrease the meal's glycemic load by displacing some of the carbs and helping with satiety.  

Research shows that an eating pattern emphasizing lean proteins like chicken, turkey, and fish, along with whole grains, legumes, nuts, fruits, and vegetables, can help manage diabetes. This type of diet for diabetes is lower in processed foods, refined carbohydrates, and red meats.

Since people with type 2 diabetes are at a higher risk of developing heart disease, lean proteins should be the primary protein sources in the diet. Chicken is lower in total fat than red meat, and it also contains less saturated fat and more polyunsaturated fats. This fat ratio is beneficial for heart health. 

Evidence suggests that eating one serving of poultry in place of a serving of red meat daily can decrease cardiovascular risk by 19%. Research also shows that replacing red meat with chicken in your diet can reduce the risk of diabetic nephropathy, a type of kidney disease that can occur in people with diabetes. 

In addition, chicken is also good for people with diabetes at higher weights because it helps with fullness, is low in calories, and helps maintain lean body mass during weight loss efforts. 

Nutritional Value of Chicken

The nutritional value of chicken varies based on the cut and preparation method. Three ounces of boneless, skinless chicken breast cooked without added fat contains: 

  • 133 calories.
  • 27 grams of protein.
  • 2.75 grams of fat. 
  • 0 grams of carbohydrates.

Dark chicken meat, like drumsticks or thighs, has more fat than white meat. Chicken cooked with the skin has a higher fat content than skinless chicken, increasing the calorie content by 25-30%. A chicken drumstick cooked with the skin (and no added fat) has more than triple the fat of a boneless, skinless chicken breast. 

  • 201 calories.
  • 31 grams of protein.
  • 8.5 grams of fat.  
  • 0 grams of carbohydrates. 

Chicken is also a valuable source of many essential vitamins and minerals. The micronutrients in meat and poultry are more bioavailable or easier for the body to absorb than many plant proteins. A three-ounce portion of chicken breast provides: 

  • 0.4 milligrams of iron.
  • 205 milligrams of phosphorus. 
  • 292 milligrams of potassium. 
  • 0.8 milligrams of zinc. 
  • 99 milligrams of choline. 
  • Small amounts of B vitamins, vitamin K, and vitamin A. 

Best Chicken Recipes for Diabetes

If you want to incorporate more chicken into your diabetes diet, look for recipes with minimal added fat and sugar to optimize the benefits of this lean protein. But eating chicken doesn’t have to be boring. Here are some diabetes-friendly chicken recipes and tips that are delicious and nutritious. 

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Shredded Chicken

A great way to keep meals interesting is to prepare a batch of unseasoned shredded chicken at the beginning of the week. Then you can flavor it differently each day and pair it with various sides. You can have chicken tacos for dinner and a chicken sandwich for lunch the next day. 

Lemon Chicken

When meal planning, aim to make one-quarter of your plate protein, one-quarter high-fiber carbohydrates, and one-half non-starchy vegetables. For example, this simple baked lemon chicken recipe would pair well with roasted broccoli and potatoes for a zesty and flavorful balanced plate.

Grilled Chicken 

Try making a quick chicken marinade in the morning for an easy yet flavorful grilled chicken dinner. Look for recipes that have limited amounts of sugary ingredients in the marinade. Serve with grilled vegetables over a side of quinoa to balance out the protein. 

Chicken Stir Fry

To replace takeout, consider making a chicken and vegetable stir fry at home. This recipe makes managing the amount of added fat, sugar, and salt easier but still comes together quickly in less than 15 minutes. Serve with brown rice for some extra fiber and nutrition.

Air-Fryer Chicken

If you’re craving fried chicken, try this air-fryer recipe for crispy and flavorful chicken without the extra fat. With seven grams of carbohydrates and just over three grams of fat per four-ounce serving, this recipe would make a great staple in a diabetes-friendly diet. 

Best Way to Prepare Chicken for Diabetes

It’s important to be mindful of how you prepare chicken if you have diabetes. It’s best to choose boneless skinless chicken breast most of the time. This cut of meat is the lowest in fat, and removing the skin reduces the fat content further. However, all cuts of chicken are lower in fat than red meat, making chicken the better choice for diabetes. 

Cooking Method

The cooking method you select can also help reduce the fat and calorie content of the prepared chicken. Try baking, boiling, or grilling chicken rather than frying. Fried chicken is high in saturated fat and contains simple carbohydrates from flour in the batter. Chicken prepared in this way may be counterproductive to your blood sugar and cholesterol goals. 

Methods like using a pressure cooker, slow cooker, or air fryer can help you cook chicken in a way that retains moisture and flavor without the added fat.  

Flavoring

Chicken prepared with sauces and marinades containing added sugars can lead to unexpected blood sugar spikes. Foods like orange chicken, barbecue sauce, or teriyaki chicken are examples of this. Try flavoring chicken with herbs, spices, and broth, or make homemade sauces to reduce the amount of simple carbohydrates in a recipe. 

The best way to prepare chicken for diabetes is at home. Chicken from fast food or restaurant meals is often cooked with extra fat, sugar, and salt, making it higher in calories and more likely to negatively impact your blood sugar levels.

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Managing Diabetes with an RD 

The American Diabetes Association emphasizes the importance of medical nutrition therapy (MNT) in the management of diabetes. Registered dietitians use MNT to give up-to-date and evidence-based dietary recommendations to help you improve your blood sugar control and help you meet other health goals. 

Your dietitian will consider your lifestyle and food preferences while developing a blood sugar-friendly plan that feels sustainable for you. Eating a combination of lean proteins, high-fiber carbohydrates, healthy fats, fruits, and vegetables will help you feel your best and manage your blood sugar levels.  

Nourish offers virtual, one-on-one appointments with registered diabetes dietitians. You’ll receive compassionate, evidence-based, individualized care to help you optimize your diet for diabetes.

Find a dietitian near you that accepts insurance using Nourish.

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