The practice of raising chickens for food is ancient, with the first domestication of poultry thought to have occurred in southern Asia over 4,000 years ago. Chicken is one of the most common ingredients in many recipes because it is high in protein and tastes great. Besides being a great source of protein, which is essential for growth and an important component for weight loss, chicken is a great source of various B vitamins, including niacin and vitamin B6, both of which help with metabolizing energy in the body. In addition, phosphorous, good for teeth, bones, liver, and the central nervous system, can also be obtained from chicken. It is also rich in potassium, calcium and contains no carbohydrates. The nutritional makeup of chicken makes it a healthy, filling food option. This decreases your likelihood of snacking on unhealthy foods later in the day.
Whether purchasing a whole chicken or chicken parts, the chicken should feel pliable when gently pressed and it should not have an ‘off’ smell. Do not buy chicken if the use-by date on the label has already expired. If purchasing frozen chicken, make sure that it is frozen solid and does not have any ice deposits or freezer burn. Also, avoid frozen chicken that has frozen liquid in the package as this may indicate that it has been defrosted and refrozen. If possible, purchase chicken that has been organically raised or that is ‘free range’ since these methods of poultry raising are both more humane and produce chickens that are tastier and better for your health. Organically grown chickens have been fed an organically grown diet and have been raised without the use of hormones or antibiotics. Free-range chickens are allowed access to the outdoors as opposed to being confined to the henhouse.
Chicken should be stored in the coldest section of your refrigerator. Refrigerated raw chicken can keep for two to three days. To freeze chicken, remove it from its packaging, wash it and then pat it dry. Using either aluminum foil or plastic freezer bags, wrap and seal the chicken parts carefully so that they are as airtight as possible. Well-wrapped frozen chicken can keep for about one year.
Although chicken is a naturally healthy food, it is easy to mistakenly consume unhealthy chicken dishes. Chicken is so versatile, there are many healthy ways to cook it – grill, bake, roast, poach or stir fry. If you would like to marinate the chicken beforehand, avoid fatty dressings and instead try just a little bit of lemon juice, salt and pepper. If you need to use oil to prevent the chicken from sticking to the pan, it is best to use a little olive oil or a light coating of nonstick spray. Whether it is chicken pieces mixed with vegetables to make a stir fry, a roasted chicken in the oven, chicken casserole, grilled chicken in a salad or poached chicken, one thing to make sure of is that the chicken is cooked thoroughly and that it does not come into contact with other foods, especially uncooked ones. Wash your cutting board and knife after cutting chicken to prevent cross contamination and poisoning.
Chicken is so delicious, nutritious, and can be prepared in a multitude of ways. Add some variety to your diet today with a little chicken.