Nutrition

Is It Healthy to Eat Fish or Chicken Skin?

Evidence Based Article 📄
This article has been based on relevant and up-to-date scientific studies. Our writers are unbiased and objective and present the facts as they are known. Numbers in brackets within the article refer to sources included in the reference list at the end of the article.

Some people eat fish or chicken and throw away its skin because they think it’s not healthy. Studies after studies have been conducted to find out whether fish or chicken skin is healthy to consume, yet the findings are still controversial. Today, we’re going to review fish skin and chicken skin and the benefits and risks of eating them.

Is fish skin safe to eat?

Fish is one of the richest sources of omega-3 fatty acids and that’s the major reason why people love this food. When buying fish, you can either choose a filet fish or fish with skin. Many people typically buy filets, thinking that it’s a healthier option.

Some scientists believe that fish skin might be unsafe to consume as it collects different contaminants and toxins, which tend to accumulate in streams, rivers, and even oceans. The flesh and fat of fish can also contain toxins but at very low levels.

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Fish can contain harmful metals and metalloids, including cadmium, lead, mercury, and arsenic, which all can be toxic to your health – particularly if you eat fish in large quantities. (1) On the other hand, fish skin can be healthy if you choose low-mercury fish and clean and fully remove the outer scales.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), fish with high mercury content are tile fish, swordfish, shark, marlin, and king mackerel.

The snapper, mahi-mahi, halibut, grouper, and carp have medium mercury content. The fish with low mercury content include tilapia, salmon, pollock, flounder, cod, catfish, and canned tuna. (2)

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Not all canned tuna has low mercury content, though. Albacore (canned white tuna) has mercury levels nearly 3 times higher than light tuna products like the smaller skipjack tuna.

Eating fish that has the lowest mercury content can be beneficial to your health. The skin of such fish packs omega-3 fatty acids, protein, taurine, selenium, iodine, vitamin E, and vitamin D, among others.

Some of the most prominent fish skin health benefits include improving skin health, maintaining heart health, enhancing brain function, strengthening the immune system, and preventing premature aging.

Is chicken skin safe to eat?

Gone are the days where nutritionists and medical experts recommended removing the skin before cooking chicken. In reality, chicken skin isn’t as harmful as once believed. It can even benefit your health.

Chicken skin contains healthy, unsaturated fat that is good for heart health. Of course, it depends on how you cook chicken. If you fry it in the oil, there might be zero health benefits in chicken skin. The same goes for baking, you might not want to eat over-baked chicken skin.

The unsaturated fat found in chicken skin can contribute to blood pressure regulation and reducing cholesterol. At the same time, chicken skin, as well as chicken meat, have a higher content of omega-6 fatty acids when compared to other types of meat.

The high consumption of omega-6s has been associated with increased inflammatory processes, which can result in different inflammatory diseases. (3) People suffering from medical conditions like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, should watch their omega 6s intake, in particular.

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Chicken skin also contains a small amount of omega 3s, but the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids is unbalanced. That’s why you should eat both chicken meat and skin in moderation.

If you worry about calories, chicken skin isn’t high in calories, albeit skinless chicken can contain less than 50 calories than chicken with skin. Again, you should choose the healthiest way to cook chicken. If you fry chicken in the bread crumbs, for example, you might experience insulin response after eating it.

When cooking the chicken, its skin acts as a barrier, preventing the oil absorption. The skin contains the natural oil that helps it be crispy. So, you don’t need too much oil to cook chicken. Try to avoid the bread crumbs and too much salt.

Health experts claim that moderate consumption of chicken skin won’t trigger serious health issues. (4) Frequent consumption can potentiate inflammation, though. The quality of the chicken you purchase is critically important here.

The final word

It’s up to you whether you want to eat fish or chicken skin or throw it away. Overall, fish and chicken skins are safe to consume, but only in moderation. Just ensure you cook them well to eliminate any contaminants found in the skin.

Since chicken skin may contain more omega 6s than omega 3s, try to serve it with some meal high in omega 3s to balance the ratio. Fish skin is a great source of nutrients, but make sure you stay away from fish with high mercury content.

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