Chicken Breast Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

Chicken breast annotated

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Chicken breast is an excellent source of lean protein (protein without a lot of accompanying fat). That means most of the calories in chicken breast come from protein. People who eat enough protein are more likely to maintain muscle mass and preserve a healthy metabolism. Since chicken breasts are versatile and relatively inexpensive, it is smart to include chicken in a balanced, healthy eating plan.

Chicken Breast Nutrition Facts

One 3-ounce (85g) serving of boneless, skinless grilled chicken breast contains 128 calories, 2.7 grams of protein, and 2.7 grams of fat with 0 g of carbohydrates. Note that many commercially packaged chicken breasts are much larger than 3 ounces. So if you eat a single breast, you’re probably eating more than a single serving.

  • Calories: 128
  • Fat: 2.7g
  • Sodium: 44mg
  • Carbohydrates: 0g
  • Fiber: 0g
  • Sugars: 0g
  • Protein: 26g

Carbs

Chicken breasts contain no sugar or starch (unless prepared with breading or seasonings), so they have no carbohydrates. The estimated glycemic load of chicken breast is zero.

Fats

Skinless chicken breast contains a small amount of fat, fewer than 3 grams. It is mostly unsaturated fat (there is less than 1 gram of saturated fat in a 3-ounce portion of skinless chicken breast).

If you keep the skin on your chicken breast, the fat, calorie, and protein counts will all be higher. A 3-ounce (85g) serving of roasted, broiled, or baked chicken breast with skin on provides 166 calories, 6.6 grams fat, and 25 grams protein.

Preparing your chicken breasts also often adds fat. If you use olive oil in a pan, for example, the olive oil increases the amount of fat in your final prepared dish. Olive oil contains monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat, both of which provide health benefits.

Protein

Chicken breasts are a good source of lean protein. For people who eat meat, consuming chicken is a simple way to meet some of your body's protein needs without consuming a lot of fat. Depending on the cooking method you choose, chicken breasts are also naturally low in sodium.

Vitamins and Minerals

Chicken breast is a very good source of selenium, phosphorus, vitamin B6, and niacin. Selenium is important for thyroid function and making DNA. Niacin and B6 are both in the family of water-soluble B vitamins that play an essential role in cellular functioning.

Calories

A full 80% of the calories in chicken breast come from protein. The rest comes from fat, as chicken breast has no carbohydrates. There are 128 calories in a single 3- ounce serving of skinless chicken breast.

Health Benefits

The low-fat protein in chicken breast can offer many significant advantages, making this food a helpful addition to many eating plans. Specifically, the nutrients in chicken breast can help with muscle mass, bone health, appetite control, and even mood and sleep.

Builds and Maintains Muscle Mass

Protein helps your body maintain muscle mass and also helps build muscle in conjunction with a strength training program. Because chicken breast is high in protein, it is part of a diet that can help you build muscle mass. Research shows that losses in muscle mass and strength are directly associated with mortality rates in older people. So even if you aren't trying to bulk up your muscles, preventing muscle loss is important regardless of age.

Strengthens Bones

Scientists and doctors once believed that a diet high in animal protein could reduce bone density and increase the risk of broken bones. However, more recent research shows that protein works with calcium to help protect bones. It's crucial to consume enough protein to keep bones strong and healthy.

Reduces Appetite

Consuming protein helps you feel full, which can help reduce food cravings and prevent overeating. One small study of overweight men on reduced-calorie diets, for example, found that those who ate more protein showed "improved appetite control and satiety." The amount of protein in chicken breast makes it a good choice for you if you're hoping to boost your satisfaction with meals.

Boosts Serotonin and Melatonin

Chicken breast contains tryptophan, an essential amino acid that helps regulate protein synthesis. Tryptophan also contributes to your brain's ability to synthesize serotonin. People with inadequate serotonin may experience symptoms of depression or have trouble with memory. Tryptophan also plays a role in melatonin, an important hormone for sleep.

Allergies

Poultry allergies are rare but are certainly possible. Doctors suggest that an allergy to poultry is about as common as an allergy to red meat (but being allergic to one kind of meat does not mean you will be allergic to other meats). Sometimes people with egg allergy have a secondary allergy to poultry. In this kind of allergy, reactions usually happen when coming into contact with raw meat and not consuming cooked meat.

Adverse Effects

People with kidney disease need to be cautious about consuming too much protein, especially in large portions. If you have kidney disease, talk to a healthcare provider about the best protein sources and amounts for you.

Since it is an animal protein, chicken breast is unsuitable for people on a plant-based (vegetarian or vegan) diet.

Varieties

You can purchase chicken breasts that are pre-trimmed and ready to use. In many grocery stores and bulk warehouses, you might also find chicken breasts that are frozen and individually wrapped. If you buy one of these convenient options, be sure to check the nutrition facts label. These varieties of chicken breast may contain more sodium.

You may also see various labels on chicken marketing it as organic, antibiotic-free, etc. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulates these terms:

  • Free range: "Producers must demonstrate to the Agency that the poultry has been allowed access to the outside."
  • Natural: "A product containing no artificial ingredient or added color and is only minimally processed. Minimal processing means that the product was processed in a manner that does not fundamentally alter the product. The label must include a statement explaining the meaning of the term natural (such as "no artificial ingredients; minimally processed")."
  • No hormones: "Hormones are not allowed in raising hogs or poultry. Therefore, the claim 'no hormones added' cannot be used on the labels of pork or poultry unless it is followed by a statement that says "Federal regulations prohibit the use of hormones."
  • No antibiotics: "The terms 'no antibiotics added' may be used on labels for meat or poultry products if sufficient documentation is provided by the producer to the Agency demonstrating that the animals were raised without antibiotics."
  • Organic: There are specific rules about how chickens must be raised and cared for in order to be labeled organic. For example, they must be given 100% organic feed.

Storage and Food Safety

Raw chicken can harbor bacteria, such as Campylobacter and Salmonella, that can cause illness. Cooking chicken to at least 165 degrees F will kill the bacteria, but safe handling of the raw meat during preparation is important. Never wash or rinse raw chicken, and always thoroughly clean hands, utensils, and surfaces after handling raw chicken.

Both uncooked and cooked chicken should be kept in the refrigerator, where it will keep for a few days. Refrigerate or freeze leftover chicken within two hours of serving. Both raw and cooked chicken can also be frozen for up to nine months.

How to Prepare

How you prepare chicken breast can significantly change your meal's fat and calorie count. Roasting, broiling, poaching, and grilling are generally the healthiest preparation methods if you want to limit fat in your meal. Breading your chicken, frying or sautéing it in butter or oil, or adding condiments such as barbecue sauce will add fat and calories. 

14 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Malia Frey
 Malia Frey is a weight loss expert, certified health coach, weight management specialist, personal trainer​, and fitness nutrition specialist.