Chicken is a great source of protein. But whether it will help or hurt your weight loss goals depends on how it’s prepared. A plain chicken breast weighing 3.5 ounces has 158 calories, 3 grams of fat, and 32 grams of protein (via USDA FoodData Central). That same amount of breaded and deep-fried chicken has 384 calories, 28 grams of fat, and only 14 grams of protein.
In a vacuum, calories from fat aren’t any different from calories from protein. However, the way your body digests them and the effects they have on your metabolism make fats inferior when it comes to weight loss. According to research, protein has a significantly higher metabolic cost. This means your body expends more energy digesting it — as much as 30 times that of fat (via an article in the Journal of Obesity & Metabolic Syndrome).
Fried foods also affect your microbiome, which is the collection of good and bad bacteria in your gut. The microbiome plays an important role in overall health and weight management. Research shows that the saturated fats in fried foods negatively affect the balance of bacteria in your gut and may lead to weight gain (via Nature Communications).
That doesn’t mean you should avoid all fat. Unsaturated fats from fish, nuts, and avocados are necessary for good health. But fried foods contain mostly unhealthy saturated fats that can be harmful to your health. A diet rich in unsaturated fats can actually aid weight loss and maintenance, per a paper in Frontiers in Nutrition.