Chicken breast is one of the most popular sources of lean protein. Many people eat chicken breast because it is low in fat and calories while providing a good amount of protein. But exactly how much protein is in an 8 oz serving of grilled chicken breast?
The Protein Content of Chicken Breast
An 8 ounce serving of boneless, skinless chicken breast contains around 53 grams of protein (1). This is based on data from the USDA FoodData Central database. The exact amount can vary slightly depending on the exact cut and quality of the chicken. However, on average an 8 oz serving provides over 50 grams of high quality protein.
Protein is made up of amino acids, which are the building blocks used to build and maintain muscle tissue. Chicken contains all of the essential amino acids required by the body. It is considered a complete protein food.
The protein content of an 8 oz chicken breast provides over 100% of the recommended daily intake of protein for most adults. The daily value (DV) for protein is 50 grams per day (2).
Benefits of Chicken Breast Protein
Eating adequate protein provides many health and fitness benefits:
- Builds muscle mass – Protein supports muscle growth and maintenance, which improves strength and athletic performance.
- Increases satiety – Eating protein-rich foods can increase feelings of fullness compared to fat or carbs.
- Boosts metabolism – The body burns more calories digesting protein compared to fats or carbs.
- Supports weight loss – Protein increases satiety which can reduce overall calorie intake, supporting healthy weight loss.
- Helps maintain and repair cells – Protein provides amino acids that are used as building blocks throughout the body.
The high protein content of chicken breast can help provide all of these important benefits. That’s why it is one of the most popular protein foods for athletes, bodybuilders, and anyone looking to improve their health and body composition.
Comparing Chicken Protein to Other Protein Sources
The 53 grams of protein in an 8 oz chicken breast is an excellent source of protein. How does it compare to other high protein foods?
An 8 ounce serving of lean ground beef provides around 50 grams of protein, similar to chicken breast. Fattier cuts of beef contain less protein per serving. For example ribeye steak has 36 grams of protein in 8 ounces. Beef is an excellent source of protein but often contains more saturated fat and calories than chicken.
An 8 ounce serving of salmon contains 39 grams of protein. Tuna and halibut contain around 40 grams of protein in an 8 ounce cooked serving. Fish provides high quality protein but the amount is slightly less than chicken or beef in a typical serving.
Eggs and Dairy
Large eggs contain about 6 grams of protein each. An 8 oz serving of plain Greek yogurt provides around 20 grams of protein. Milk, cheese, and other dairy products contain protein but in lower amounts than chicken, fish, eggs, or beef.
Beans, Legumes, Tofu
These plant-based protein sources provide around 15-20 grams of protein per 8 oz serving. Beans, lentils, tofu and tempeh can be part of a high protein diet but contain less protein per serving than animal foods like chicken.
Whey, casein and soy protein powders contain 20-30 grams of protein per ounce. Consuming a protein shake made with 2 scoops (around 50 grams) of powder would provide similar protein content to an 8 oz chicken breast.
In general, chicken breast provides more protein per ounce than most other common high protein foods. Of course exact amounts vary between different cuts and types of meat. But chicken breast is one of the leanest, highest protein options.
Chicken Breast Protein Content Per Ounce
Calculating the per ounce protein content of chicken breast shows just how protein-dense it is:
- 8 oz chicken breast = 53 grams protein
- 1 oz chicken breast = about 6.6 grams protein
This means chicken breast contains over 6 grams of protein in each ounce. Compare this to foods like:
- Lean beef: 7g protein per ounce
- Tofu: 5g per ounce
- Beans: 7-10g protein per cup (16 ounces)
Chicken breast provides more protein per ounce than most other foods. Even very lean cuts of beef contain slightly less protein than chicken breast ounce for ounce.
How Does Cooking Affect Chicken Protein?
Cooking has minimal effects on the overall protein content in chicken or other meats. Raw, baked, grilled, boiled or fried chicken all provide about the same amount of protein by weight when the meat is fully cooked.
However, cooking can cause some water loss in meats which may concentrate the protein slightly. For example baking chicken breast could lead to a slightly higher protein percentage by weight compared to raw chicken. But the difference is small.
Extremely high temperatures from grilling, smoking, broiling, etc can potentially damage proteins. But normal cooking methods like baking, sautéing, boiling, and grilling provide all the benefits of chicken protein without much change to the amount.
Getting the Most Protein From Chicken Breast
Here are some tips to get the maximum amount of protein from an 8 oz chicken breast:
- Weigh raw chicken – 8 oz is the weight before cooking, since cooking can slightly reduce the weight.
- Choose boneless, skinless chicken breasts – Skin and bones weigh less and contain less protein.
- Trim excess fat – The leanest cuts will have the highest protein to fat ratio.
- Bake, grill or sauté instead of frying – Healthy cooking methods avoid excess calories from added oils.
- Eat white and dark meat – Both contain high quality protein, so eat a variety.
How to Incorporate More Chicken Protein In Your Diet
Here are some tips for getting more protein from chicken breast and other lean meats in your regular diet:
- Have chicken at lunch as well as dinner
- Dice chicken breast to add to salads and wraps
- Add chicken to soups, stews, and casseroles
- Snack on chicken strips or slices instead of less healthy options
- Use lean ground chicken or turkey in burgers or meatloaf
- Replace fatty meats like bacon or sausage with chicken at breakfast
Chicken breast is very versatile and easy to include in most savory dishes. Combining chicken with healthy plant proteins like beans, lentils and nuts can help maximize your total daily protein intake for better health and body composition.
Healthiest Ways to Cook Chicken Breast
Chicken breast can be prepared many ways while still providing all of its high quality protein:
Baking in the oven at 375°F is a simple hands-off way to cook chicken breast. Bake for 30-40 minutes until the internal temperature reaches 165°F. Seasonings like garlic, lemon pepper, or Italian dressing can add flavor.
Sauté chicken breast in a pan over medium-high heat for 4-6 minutes per side, until browned and 165°F internally. Use minimal healthy oil and seasonings. Sautéing provides a fast weeknight dinner.
Grill chicken breast over a hot grill for 6-8 minutes per side. Use just a small amount of oil to prevent sticking. Chicken takes well to bold grill flavors like barbecue, teriyaki, and Hawaiian marinades.
Cut chicken into strips or cubes to stir-fry in a wok or large pan. Cook in batches over high heat for 2-3 minutes just until done. Combine with stir-fry vegetables and seasonings.
Slow Cooker Shredded Chicken
Place chicken breasts in a slow cooker with seasoning and a small amount of liquid. Cook on low for 7-8 hours. The long cooking time ensures tender and shreddable chicken.
Store-bought rotisserie chickens are a convenient pre-cooked option. Without the skin, rotisserie chicken contains the same protein as home-cooked. Use in salads, sandwiches, wraps or on its own.
Make healthy shredded chicken in the crockpot for easy meals throughout the week. Cook 4-6 hours on low or 3-4 hours on high until 165°F.
Nutrition Facts For 8 oz Chicken Breast
The nutrition information for an 8 ounce skinless, boneless chicken breast cooked with no added oils is (3):
- Calories: 238
- Fat: 3 g
- Carbs: 0 g
- Protein: 53 g
- Sodium: 160 mg
Chicken breast is low in fat and carbs while providing a significant amount of protein. An 8 oz portion contains over 50% DV for protein.
Is Chicken Breast Healthy?
Chicken breast is widely considered one of the healthiest high protein foods due to:
- High in protein
- Low in fat and calories
- Rich in nutrients like niacin, vitamin B6, selenium
- Contains no carbs
- All the essential amino acids
- Versatile and easy to cook
Chicken breast provides far more benefits than drawbacks for most people. Unless you are following a vegetarian or vegan diet, chicken breast can be part of a nutritious way of eating.
Health Concerns About Chicken
While chicken breast is very healthy, there are a few potential concerns to keep in mind:
- Bacterial contamination – Raw chicken must be cooked thoroughly to avoid food poisoning.
- High in cholesterol – Chicken contains cholesterol, which should be limited in high blood cholesterol.
- Saturated fat in skin – Chicken skin is high in fat and cholesterol.
- Environmental impact – Meat production contributes to climate change and pollution.
- Ethical concerns – Issues like animal welfare are important to some people.
Proper handling and cooking of chicken along with removing the skin can help reduce any potential negative health effects or ethical concerns.
Is chicken breast the healthiest protein?
Chicken breast is one of the healthiest high protein foods, but there are other excellent options like fish, beans, lentils, eggs and more. Lean red meats like sirloin are also great sources of protein.
What protein has the least fat and calories?
Very lean chicken and turkey breast are tied for the lowest fat protein sources. Also low in fat and calories are egg whites, cod, tuna and low-fat dairy foods like Greek yogurt and skim milk.
Is chicken better for you than steak?
Generally chicken breast is lower in fat and calories compared to most cuts of beef. However, lean steaks such as sirloin can be just as healthy as chicken. Both are excellent protein choices.
Is roasted or grilled chicken breast healthier?
Roasted and grilled chicken breast are nearly equal in terms of fat, carbs and calories. Grilled may have slightly fewer calories if cooked with no oil. Choose the cooking method based on personal taste.
Is fried chicken breast still healthy?
Frying adds significant calories from oil, negating the low-fat advantage of chicken breast. Occasional fried chicken is fine, but grilling, roasting and baking are much healthier cooking methods.
The Bottom Line
Chicken breast is high in protein while still being low in fat and calories when prepared in a healthy way. An 8 ounce serving contains over 50 grams of protein, providing a full day’s protein needs.
Chicken breast can be cooked many ways while retaining the high protein content that makes it valuable for muscle building, weight loss, and overall health. It’s one of the most versatile and nutritious protein sources available.