June 14, 2024
Money blog: Why you should consider swapping chicken breasts out of your shopping basket | UK News

It can be hard to balance the demands of eating well without spending a lot.

In this series, we try to find the healthiest options in the supermarket for the best value – and have enlisted the help of Sunna Van Kampen, founder of Tonic Health, who went viral on social media for reviewing food in the search of healthier choices.

In this series we don’t try to find the outright healthiest option, but help you get better nutritional value for as little money as possible.

Today we’re looking at chicken. 

“When it comes to healthy eating, the first thing that often springs to mind is chicken breast,” Sunna says. 

That’s mainly because it is lean, versatile, and packed with protein, making it a staple in many health-conscious kitchens.

“But what if we told you there are even better options for your wallet and your health?” Sunna says. 

Cost savings

Chicken breast fillets can be pricey – sitting at an average of around £8.33 per kilogram. 

In contrast, chicken thighs usually come in at about £3.30 per kilogram. 

“That’s over half the price,” Sunna says.

“To put that into perspective – over the course of a year this can save you over £261.56, assuming you consume 1kg per week in your household. Well worth the saving.”

Nutritional value

Many people gravitate towards chicken breasts for their lean protein, but chicken thighs have their own set of nutritional benefits. 

“While they have more fat, it’s important to note that they contain more healthy monounsaturated fats, which are good for heart health,” Sunna explains. 

“Plus, they’re richer in iron, zinc and B12 by at least double.”

These are essential minerals that help boost your energy and general wellbeing.

Much of this goodness is down to thighs having more joint cartilage and tendons – which naturally boost the collagen content of the chicken – helping to feed your hair, skin and nails.

“Chicken thighs are not only nutritious but also renowned for their flavour,” Sunna points out.

“When slow cooking chicken thighs with bones, you are also getting the benefits of bone broth in the stew which is a great source of collagen, calcium, and magnesium, as well as glycine, arginine and proline which are anti-inflammatory amino acids.”

A hidden gem

If you’ve got the stomach for it, there is one cut of chicken that is ultra affordable and is officially one of the most nutrient-dense foods in the world. 

“Chicken livers are one of the most economical protein and nutrient sources out there,” Sunna says.

“At £3.42 per kilo, they’re a similar price to thighs but pack a more powerful nutrient punch.”

Chicken livers should really be touted as a superfood due to their high nutrient density, in Sunna’s view.

“They are an exceptional source of vitamin A, which is crucial for vision, immune function, and skin health. 

“They also boast high levels of B vitamins, particularly B12, which is vital for brain health and energy production.

“Additionally, chicken livers are rich in folate and iron.”

While you might be hesitant about the taste or texture of chicken livers, they are incredibly versatile and can be prepared in ways that make them more palatable. 

Sunna’s go to is to simply fry the livers quickly with onions, mushrooms and a spicy sauce like a peri-peri.

“Swapping chicken breasts for thighs or livers isn’t just a cost-saving measure; it’s a health upgrade. 

“By embracing these underrated parts of the bird, you’ll enjoy richer flavours, diverse nutrients, and significant savings.”

A note on organic

“The health of the bird and its quality of life will directly affect the nutrition and quality of the meat you consume, and as such, if you can afford it, always opt for free range or organic chicken.”

The nutritionist’s view – from Nichola Ludlam-Raine, dietitian at nicsnutrition.com…

“When it comes to budget-friendly eating, chicken thighs significantly outshine chicken breasts.

“While chicken breasts are renowned for their lean (ie low in calorie and low in fat) protein content, chicken thighs do indeed offer great nutritional benefits such as the presence of more connective tissue in thighs boosts collagen intake, which is beneficial for skin, hair, and joint health. 

“As I dietitian I would recommend skipping the skin though, to lower intake of saturated fat – as the preferred type of fat for health is unsaturated, which is found in higher levels in plant foods such as olives, nuts, seeds and avocados.

“Chicken livers are high in vitamin A, essential for vision, immune function and skin health, and also boast significant levels of B vitamins, iron, and folate, supporting brain health and energy production. 

“Due to its vitamin A content though, liver, as well as pate, should be avoided during pregnancy (note that plant-derived vitamin A i.e. beta-carotene, does not need to be avoided).

“When it comes to diet, balance and variety is key, and while including richer sources of meat such as chicken thigh and liver may be a good idea from time to time, I would recommend including other cheaper and leaner protein sources too including lentils, beans, chickpeas, tofu, eggs as well as tinned oily fish – the latter for their omega 3 fatty acid content too.”

Read more from this series… 

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