WHY I EAT THE CHICKEN SKIN
It’s somewhat controversial that as a yoga teacher I am not a vegetarian.
We are taught a yogic principle called Ahimsa – often translated to mean non-harming. This is interpreted in many ways and often, rightly so, it’s interpreted as non-harming to all other living beings – animals most definitely are included.
But there is also another layer to Ahimsa and that is ensuring you aren’t harming yourself – through negative thoughts, behaviour, diet, attitude, lifestyle, relationships – everything, in fact. And for me, including meat – not as regularly as most people – is my way of looking after my health and therefore my happiness.
Coming from a middle eastern culture, meat was always included in our diet, although in somewhat small portions blended with a heavily vegetarian diet – it was always there.
I spent some time exploring the idea of being a vegetarian, and heavily reduced my consumption. To the point where I don’t think I’d eaten red meat for almost a year. However, over time I slowly injected meat back into my diet.
Today, red meat features in my diet minimally, perhaps 3-4 times a month at most. With a heavy vegetarian diet with fish and chicken thrown in weekly. This is what works for me and my body.
When it comes to Ahimsa, I make the conscious choice to eat grass-fed or pastured produce from farms that ensured a happy life and a good diet for their stock. I don’t eat anything that is mass-produced – i.e. cows raised in a feed lot – or pumped with drugs, antibiotics, hormones, grain and corn. I’m not perfect, sometimes I can’t get the produce that I want. I either go without or follow my instincts.
But, today I want to talk about one of my favourite things. Chicken skin. Have you ever pulled a freshly roasted chicken out of the oven and not been able to stop yourself from hovering over it and picking at the skin – juicy, crispy, fatty deliciousness? No… well, I have. It brings me such pleasure. Truly it does.
And what also brings me such pleasure was the affirmation that my instinct to eat chicken skin is based on good health. Chicken skin = fat = vital macro nutrient.
Fat is such a dirty word.
But fortunately for us through the work of pioneers such as Weston A Price, Sally Fallon, Mary Enig and more, the world is starting to slowly realise that fat is best. Eating traditionally, which includes every part of the animal with a particular focus on the fat, is slowing coming back in fashion. And there is a reason for that.
Let’s go back to chicken for a moment. Chicken is mostly monounsaturated (oleic acid – like olive oil) fat but also contains a few saturated and polyunsaturated fats too. It really depends on the way the chicken was bred and its diet, but that is the general make-up. This high portion of monounsaturated fat lowers LDL (aka the ‘bad’ cholesterol). And it’s not just chicken. Pork fat is also high in monounsaturated fat, just like olive oil and also beef contains stearic acid which also lowers the dreaded LDL
Within the monounsaturated fat found in chicken fat is also palmitoleic acid which is anti-microbial. Chicken fat – particularly the skin – is what helps to fight infections as a powerful immune booster.
Have you noticed that sometimes a piece of skinless chicken breasts just doesn’t taste that good? Well, because that protein heavy breast needs its skin! The fat is there to help absorb any fat-soluble vitamins but also to fill you up and satiate you. And being satiated is vital. When we are full and satisfied we tend to not reach for snacks and sugary treats – which are the real culprits when it comes to obesity and weight gain.
Not to mention how vital fat is for women’s vitality and fertility! Fat is integral to a properly function reproductive system and the health of unborn babies. In fact, it’s so vital we should be put on a fat diet when preparing for pregnancy, during and after.
Eat that chicken fat, cook up soup on the bone and do so guilt-free knowing that you are nourishing your body (and soul!)