A common delicacy to be prepared at barbecues, chicken heart is a nutritious and very versatile food, and can be used in various recipes, such as risottos and baião de dois. Furthermore, it is a low energy density protein and can be consumed by those seeking a balanced diet.
However, due to its soft texture and small size, the meat is often eaten in excess, which can be a problem, as it also contains saturated fat.
“Often the heart is served as an appetizer and people end up overdoing it and consuming much more than recommended, which is up to 20 hearts,” explains Vivian Feddern, doctor of engineering and food sciences at the UFRG (Federal University of Rio Grande) and researcher at Embrapa (Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation).
Next, see the benefits of chicken heart and whether there are any contraindications.
1. Good source of protein
Chicken heart provides all the essential amino acids that our body does not produce and which form proteins, responsible for the health of hair, skin and muscles. Therefore, those who want to lose weight can and must consume this food, since according to a study published in 2016 in the scientific journal Food and Function, protein intake is linked to a sense of satiety and the production and maintenance of muscle mass.
“People who have suffered a burn, for example, should include protein in their diet because it will act in the reconstruction of damaged tissue,” says nutritionist Michelle Galindo de Oliveira, doctor of nutrition and professor at UFPE (Federal University of Pernambuco).
2. Contains a good amount of iron
Like other offal, chicken hearts are made up of a significant amount of iron (16.7 mg), a mineral responsible for transporting oxygen and producing red blood cells. Therefore, it is highly recommended for those suffering from anemia or for women in their menstrual period, when many nutrients are lost.
3. High energy and immunity
Chicken heart contains B vitamins, especially niacin (vitamin B3), which plays a role in cell signaling, metabolism, and DNA production and repair.
The B complex vitamins also have an antioxidant action and prevent premature aging, as well as being related to the proper functioning of the nervous system.
Another component of chicken heart that helps the immune system is zinc. The mineral aids in the fight against invading bacteria and viruses, as well as helping to heal wounds.
4. It has “good” fat.
Meat has unsaturated fats, considered beneficial, as they contribute to the reduction of “bad” cholesterol levels, LDL. They are divided into monounsaturated (when a fat molecule can have only one carbon unsaturation) or polyunsaturated (more than two molecules).
Furthermore, some vitamins present in chicken hearts are fat-soluble, i.e. they depend on fat to be absorbed. This is the case, for example, of vitamin A, which plays an important role in eye health and which is found in the child in question.
5. Rich in minerals
Chicken heart has good amounts of:
- potassium (243 mg): responsible for the correct functioning of the airframe;
- phosphorus (367 mg): it has a structural role in the body, being one of the main components of bones and teeth;
- magnesium (36.9 mg): affects the function of all cells in the body, important for muscle and bone formation, teeth, antibodies and participation in the immune system.
- calcium (35.1mg): has structural and functional functions, such as formation and maintenance of the skeleton, strengthening of bones and teeth, helps in the stiffness of the plasma membrane, acts as a barrier against the entry of allergic cells, improves brain functioning and helps in contraction muscle and blood clotting, tissue repair.
Instinctively, Brazilians already prepare the chicken heart in the best way, which is on the grill. In this way, the fat present in the food is reduced from 18% to 12%, on average, per 100 grams.
But food can also be prepared in the air fryer or pressure cooker. In the latter, however, the heart does not lose as much fat as in the grill.
Although we are used to consuming the whole heart, it can also be shredded or even cut into small pieces, composing regional dishes.
“It can be put in risottos, sandwiches, tomato sauce, on beans. With flour and coalho cheese, it gives another flavor to the baião de dois,” suggests nutritionist Michelle Galindo by Oliveira.
Whatever the combination, it is necessary to remove the arteries surrounding the heart, which are fatty. Give preference to natural seasonings with herbs and spices and, when possible, leave the heart to marinate in white or red wine. “This process adds even more flavor to the food,” guarantees Letícia Mazepa, a nutritionist who is studying for a doctorate in pharmaceutical sciences at UFPR (Federal University of Paraná).
Anyone who already has high cholesterol or tends to form fatty plaques should prefer leaner meats. Similarly, patients who have recently undergone gallbladder removal surgery should also avoid consuming chicken heart, precisely because it is a more fatty meat.
Also, some women, after menopause, have high amounts of iron and therefore need to limit foods rich in this mineral. Consumption by people suffering from uric acid (gout) should also be limited, as chicken heart is rich in purines, compounds that cause hyperuricemia.
According to the TBCA (Brazilian Table of Food Composition), of the USP (University of São Paulo), in 100 grams of roasted chicken heart (without salt and without oil) there are:
- 11.4 g of carbohydrates
- 39g of protein
- 12.1 g of lipids
- 35.1 mg of calcium
- 16.7 mg of iron
- 13.5 mg of zinc
- 243 mg of potassium
- 367 mg of phosphorus
- 36.9 mg of magnesium
- 0.59 mg of vitamin B6
- 12.2 mcg of vitamin A
- 369 mg of cholesterol
Sources: Letizia Mazepanutritionist and doctoral student in pharmaceutical sciences at the UFPR (Federal University of Paraná); Michael Galindo de Oliveiradoctor of nutrition and professor at UFPE (Federal University of Pernambuco); Vivian FedernPhD in engineering and food science at UFRG (Federal University of Rio Grande) and researcher at Embrapa (Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation).
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