Ah! Chicken salad. How can something that tastes so good be so bad for you? The mayonnaise-y concoction conjures up nightmares of artery clogging, heart-stopping cholesterol, saturated fats and sodium. Surprisingly, chicken salad can be healthy and nutritious when made from the right ingredients. Pay attention to what’s in the recipe at your favorite restaurant. Better yet—make chicken salad at home to be sure it's beneficial, not detrimental, to your health and well-being.
Chicken Nutrition Facts
Chicken is high in protein, but also high in cholesterol. Chicken is low in sodium and is a good source for blood-building vitamin B6, bone-strengthening phosphorus and cell-protecting selenium. A cup of diced, roasted chicken meat has about 231 calories; 45 calories come from fat. This serving size provides 96 percent of the daily value of vitamin B3, or niacin, an energy producer that aids the digestive and nervous systems.
Celery and Onions
Chopped celery and onions add many nutritional benefits to chicken salad. These vegetables provide dietary fiber and contribute a healthy mix of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, vitamin B6, folate, manganese and potassium.
The nutrition culprit in chicken salad is the condiment mayonnaise, which is traditionally made with egg yolks and oil. Reduced calorie, or diet mayonnaise is a slightly healthier alternative. Still high in calories—a cup has 769 calories, mostly from fat—diet mayonnaise is low in cholesterol. The 8-ounce serving size adds over 70 percent of the daily values of vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant, and Vitamin K, a blood-clotting agent. Eight ounces is enough to make a bowl of chicken salad.
Fruit and Nuts
Many chicken salad recipes call for sliced apples or grapes and almonds or walnuts. Fruits add additional sugar (and calories), dietary fiber and vitamin C. Nuts are cholesterol free and full of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E.
There are plenty of ways to add greater nutritional benefits to chicken salad. Alter the cholesterol content by reducing the amount of chicken in the recipe and increasing the amounts of vegetables and fruits. Use yogurt dressing instead of mayonnaise to lower calories and fat. Add crunchy chopped lettuce, cucumbers, shredded carrots, or alfalfa sprouts as extra health enhancers. Spice it up with a sprinkle of heart-healthy cayenne pepper--but remember, a little goes a long way.
Rae Casto began writing professionally in 1982. She writes on a variety of topics including health, nutrition, art and culture for various websites. Casto holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology and art from Guilford College and a Master of Public Administration in health administration from the University of North Carolina at Pembroke.
Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of Steven Depolo