Fried chicken is a comfort food for many people, but too much of a good thing isn’t always… a good thing. When it comes to chicken, the pieces you eat and how they’re cooked play a major role in how they impact your body and overall health.

Nearly a third of American adults have high cholesterol, and less than a third of them have it under control. Controlling your cholesterol and preventing it from getting too high requires a careful and healthy diet, one that chicken — carefully chosen and cooked — can certainly be a part of.

Health Hazards

Cholesterol is a necessary substance, and all of the cholesterol we need is produced by our bodies. But we also get cholesterol from our foods, namely animal products. Chicken, of course, is one of these animal products, and though it has less cholesterol than other fatty proteins —like bacon or steaks with ribbons of fat — it still contributes to your overall cholesterol levels.

Both cholesterol and saturated fat raise your risk of heart disease, according to the American Heart Association (AHA), though saturated fat is considered more important than cholesterol content.

It’s All About the Cut

How much saturated fat and cholesterol you get in your chicken first depends on whether you remove the skin, and then on which piece (or pieces) you choose. Let’s see how different pieces compare on a rotisserie chicken:

Piece by Piece

With our chicken prepared the same way, and the meat measured in the same amounts (100 grams), we can see that the breast meat contains the least amount of cholesterol. In general, poultry without the skin and white meat cuts contain less cholesterol and saturated fats.

What About Preparation?

So we know that, generally speaking, a piece of chicken breast contains less cholesterol than any other cut. But chicken isn’t served in just one way. Here’s how the cholesterol count varies in a piece of chicken breast (100 grams), based on different preparations.

  • Fried with flour: 89 mg
  • Fried with batter: 85 mg
  • Roasted: 84 mg
  • Stewed, skinless: 77 mg

As you can see, preparation matters. If you typically add things to your chicken — such as gravy — cholesterol can easily increase. Removing the skin will lower the amount of cholesterol and fat you’re taking in.

Likewise, your portions matter. The AHA recommends limiting a single portion to just 3 ounces, which is about half of a large chicken breast.

Lowering Your Cholesterol

There are several ways to lower your cholesterol, and knowing how to enjoy your favorite foods, like chicken, is just one.

According to Mayo Clinic, certain foods can work to lower your cholesterol naturally. By pairing these with the occasional serving of chicken breast, you could be well on your way to lowering your cholesterol numbers. They recommend:

  • high-fiber foods, like oatmeal
  • fish
  • walnuts and almonds
  • avocados
  • olive oil

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A salad made with leafy green vegetables, sliced avocado, a tablespoon of olive oil drizzled over the top, and 3 ounces of grilled chicken breast isn’t just a delicious lunch, it’s also a great way to improve your cardiovascular health.