Are Chicken Thighs Bad For You?

What's for dinner? Likely, chicken. According to SF Gate, Americans consume an average of 93 pounds of chicken per year. We're amazed by its versatility, and at times, a little overwhelmed. Able to be thrown into salads, pastas, rice dishes, and more, Pinterest alone features over 900 recipes containing this popular protein.

Not only is it tasty, but chicken also comes with some pretty great health perks. According to WebMD, this protein-rich bird can help boost bone and muscle health, lower our chances for cardiovascular disease, and may even improve our mood. However, while chicken may have the reputation for being one of the healthier dinner proteins, that doesn't mean every part of the bird should be treated as such. Take the thighs for example. There appears to be a bit of a gray area over how healthy they actually are. This is likely because they contain a higher amount of fat than other parts of the chicken. So, are chicken thighs good for us?

Nutritional Info

A 3.5-ounce serving of chicken thigh meat with the skin intact contains 229 calories (via Medical News Today). It also comes with 25 grams of protein, 15.5 grams of fat, 84 milligrams of sodium, and 1.3 milligrams of iron. Yet these numbers begin to change once we remove the skin. According to LiveStrong, a 3-ounce skinless serving of roasted chicken thigh contains 180 calories, 22 grams of protein, 80 milligrams of cholesterol, and 10 grams of fat.

LiveStrong notes that chicken thigh meat can also provide you with a healthy dose of vitamins and minerals including 30% of your recommended daily intake of niacin — also known as vitamin B3 (per Healthline). You'll also cover 15% of your daily value of vitamin B6, zinc, and phosphorous, as well as 10% of your recommended daily riboflavin intake. Otherwise known as vitamin B2, riboflavin is instrumental in our body's ability to produce energy, according to experts at LiveScience. It also supports the health of our skin and blood cells, as well as our most essential organs.

Are chicken thighs healthy?

According to SF Gate, the chicken thigh contains two types of fat. The healthy fat, monounsaturated fat, is found in the chicken thigh's meat. The American Heart Association (AHA) states that monounsaturated fats can benefit our cardiovascular health by lowering levels of bad cholesterol. Subsequently, this decreases one's chances of stroke or heart disease. 

Conversely, chicken thigh skin is home to saturated fat — the type of fat you want to enjoy at a minimum. Poultry with the skin left on can increase its fat content by as much as 35%, reports LiveStrong. So while the skin may be a delicious part of your glazed honey and lemon chicken dinner, keeping the skin intact causes you to ingest unhealthy fats.

To keep chicken dishes on the healthier side, SF Gate suggests trimming away the skin after it's been cooked. This way, you can still preserve that great flavor! Additionally, baking or grilling are considered healthy ways to cook chicken, notes Healthline

Are chicken thighs or chicken breasts healthier?

When it comes to which part of the chicken has the most to offer us in the way of our health, experts at WebMD are in support of the chicken breast. Perhaps one reason is that the chicken thigh contains more fat than the breast (via LiveStrong).

However, both the chicken breast and the thighs can be classified as "heart-healthy" proteins, regardless of differences in their nutrition facts. As previously mentioned, a 3-ounce serving of skinless roasted chicken thigh measures in at 180 calories, 22 grams of protein, 80 milligrams of cholesterol, and 10 grams of fat. In comparison, the same size serving of skinless roasted chicken breast meat has 140 calories, 26 grams of protein, 70 milligrams of cholesterol, and 5 grams of fat. 

You may also remember that chicken thighs come with a variety of vitamins and minerals. On the one hand, chicken thighs contain greater amounts of zinc and riboflavin than the breast, but chicken breast wins out when it comes to higher levels of niacin, vitamin B6, and phosphorous (per LiveStrong). Overall, there are health benefits to be gained from both parts of the chicken, although WebMD does recommend opting for the breast if you have to pick just one.

Chicken thighs vs other meats

If you're interested in how chicken thighs compare nutritionally to other types of meat, we did some digging. For instance, a 3.5-ounce serving of broiled ground beef containing 10% fat is made up of 217 calories, 26.1 grams of protein, 11.8 grams of fat, as well as 0 grams of sugar or fiber (via Healthline). Comparatively, a little over 3 ounces of fresh raw pork shoulder contains 186 calories, 17.4 grams of protein, and 12 grams of total fat (per LiveStrong). As a reminder, a 3-ounce serving of skinless roasted chicken thigh measures in at 180 calories, 22 grams of protein, and 10 grams of fat (via LiveStrong).

Whether or not you derive your protein from meat sources is a personal choice. The same goes for which types of meat you may or may not wish to incorporate into your diet based on your unique health needs. For example, if you're looking to up your protein intake, ground beef or skinless chicken thighs might be a more optimal choice over pork. Alternatively, if you're looking to keep fat intake low, you may opt for skinless chicken thighs over beef or pork.

In general, the AHA recommends choosing skinless poultry (such as chicken or turkey) instead of red meat. If you do decide to go for red meat, you should opt for the leanest cuts available. When it comes to meat, how you prepare the dish will also influence its nutritional value.