From PCRM's Good Medicine, Spring-Summer 2000
Q: Why has chicken become so popular?
A: Unbeknownst to them, chickens have played center
stage in a grand marketing campaign by the U.S. Department of
Agriculture (USDA) and chicken farmers aimed to promote chicken as some
sort of "health food." With 9 billion chickens eaten each year in the
U.S., it appears many people have been swayed. However, an honest look
at the nutritional value of chicken reveals quite a different picture.
Q: Is chicken really low in fat?
A: Not even close. A 3.5-ounce piece of broiled lean
flank steak is 56 percent fat as a percentage of calories. Chicken
contains nearly the same at 51 percent. Even when the skin is removed,
dark meat is thrown away, and a non-fat cooking method is used, chicken
is still 23 percent fat. Compare that with the fat in a baked potato (1
percent), steamed cauliflower (6 percent), and baked beans (4 percent),
and any ideas that chicken is a health food melt away. Fancy packages
can't disguise the fact that chicken and all meats are muscles, and
muscles are made of protein and fat.
Q: Do I need the protein in chicken?
A: We all need some protein, and there is more than
enough in grains, beans, and vegetables. The amount of protein consumed
by Americans who eat meat has elevated their risks for serious health
problems. Years ago, we believed there was no such thing as protein
overload, but now we know it is a major culprit in calcium loss, causing
osteoporosis. Too much protein also puts a
strain on the kidneys, forcing them to expel extra nitrogen in the
urine, increasing the risk for kidney disease. Also, the combination of
fat, protein, and carcinogens found in cooked chicken creates troubling
risks for colon cancer. A healthy vegetarian diet contains just the
right balance of protein -- not too much and not too little.
Q: What's NOT in chicken?
A: Chicken, no matter how smartly advertised, will never
contain fiber, complex carbohydrates, or vitamin C. Fiber is the
heavy-duty cleanser of the digestive tract, carrying away excess
hormones filtered from the blood, while it lowers cholesterol --
naturally. Complex carbohydrates, found only in plants, are low in
calories and boost metabolism, aiding in weight loss.
Vitamin C and other antioxidants are vital cancer
fighters. When chicken meat takes the place of vegetables, grains, and
fruits on your plate, your supply of vitamins dwindles. Chicken not only
gives you a load of fat you don't want, it displaces metabolism- and
immune-boosting foods that are essential to good health and weight
Q: Where do heterocyclic amines come in?
A: Heterocyclic amines (HCAs) are potent carcinogens
produced from creatine, amino acids, and sugars in poultry and other
meats during cooking. These same chemicals are found in tobacco smoke
and are 15 times more concentrated in grilled chicken than beef.
HCAs may be one of the reasons meat-eaters have much
higher colon cancer rates -- about 300 percent higher compared to
Q: Is chicken . . . poisonous?!
A: With live salmonella bacteria growing inside one in
every three packages of chicken, it is making a lot of people sick.
Although deaths from salmonella poisonings sometimes make the evening
news, millions more cases that cause flu-like symptoms go unaccounted.
Salmonella poisoning can cause vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and
low-grade fever lasting for several days. When it spreads to the blood
and other organs, it can be fatal -- and is, for as many as 9,000 people
The new kid on the chopping block -- campylobacter --
infects as many as two-thirds of all prepackaged chicken. Salmonella and
campylobacter have become increasingly common because modern factory
farms crowd thousands of chickens in tightly confined spaces, where
excrement and other forms of bacteria spread contaminants.
Q: Does chicken have the same amount of cholesterol as
A: Yes, yes, and yes! Four ounces of beef -- just the
size of a deck of cards -- and four ounces of chicken both contain about
100 milligrams of cholesterol, and the cholesterol from chicken does
just as good a job at clogging arteries and causing heart disease. The
human body produces cholesterol on its own and never needs outside
sources. Each added dose contributes to artery blockages, leading to
heart attacks, strokes, and other serious problems.
Spaghetti, tomatoes, baked beans, bananas, broccoli, and
all other plant foods are free of cholesterol and will never contribute
to coronary disease and related illnesses.
Go on to List of
Plants Poisonous to Dogs
Return to 4 June 2000 Issue
Return to Newsletters
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