It’s difficult to imagine a Thanksgiving meal without turkey. Turkey is a favourite meal at some times of the year, whether you’re thinking of Thanksgiving or Christmas.
Turkey is a common sandwich meat and an alternative to ground beef throughout the year, but it is especially popular during the holidays. Turkey meat is produced in the United States, which is the world’s largest producer.
Every year, approximately 250,000,000 turkeys are raised for consumption.
This article from the NCM Knowledge Center is part of a series on the health benefits of common foods.
It includes a nutritional rundown of turkey as well as an in-depth look at its potential health benefits, what kind of turkey to buy, healthy turkey recipes, and any potential health risks associated with eating the meat of this common bird.
Important facts about turkey you should know
- Dark turkey meat contains more vitamins and minerals, but also more fat and calories, than white turkey meat.
- Cook the turkey until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Turkeys raised on pasture have a higher omega-3 content than turkeys raised in factory farms.
- Removing the skin of a turkey also removes much of the fat content.
According to the National Nutrient Database of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), 3 ounces (85 g) of non-enhanced, roasted turkey breast contains:
- 135 calories
- 3.26 g of fat
- 0 g of carbohydrate
- 24.70 g of protein
In addition, the same quantity of dark roasted turkey meat has the following nutritional value:
- 173 calories
- 5.13 g of fat
- 0 g of carbohydrate
- 23.55 g of protein
Turkey also contains:
- vitamins B-6
- vitamin B-12
The dark meat of a turkey contains more vitamins and minerals than the white meat, but it also has more fat and calories.
Tryptophan is an amino acid found in turkey. People are said to want to sleep after a big Thanksgiving dinner because of this.
Although turkey does contain tryptophan, it is not in sufficient quantities to induce sleepiness. Tryptophan is used in all meats. Turkey on Thanksgiving does not make you sleepy any more than a pork chop on a regular evening.
High-protein foods, such as turkey, help to improve satiety, or the feeling of being satisfied for a longer period of time.
Protein aids in the maintenance of lean muscle mass and the control of insulin levels after meals. Protein, on the other hand, is the one nutrient that most meat eaters already consume in adequate quantities.
Keep in mind that the amount of protein you consume at each meal is important. You can only take in so much information at once. At – meal, provide a lean protein source and spread your intake throughout the day. Other good choices for protein include nuts, fish, eggs, dairy, soy, and legumes.
Since the skin contains a lot of the fat in turkey, it’s simple to extract it and eat a leaner, less fattening dish as a result.
Turkey’s tryptophan content can aid in maintaining healthy serotonin levels in the body, which promote alertness and a positive mood. This is a potential advantage of consuming turkey, if the amounts are small.
The turkey breast is lower in fat and calories than most other cuts of meat. However, just because a food is made from turkey does not mean it is healthier. Depending on how much dark meat is used in the ground turkey, a burger made from ground turkey will contain about as much saturated fat as a beef burger.
Be sure to compare items and check the fat content or leanness on the package.
Processed turkey in the form of deli meats, hot dogs, and turkey bacon, all of which are high in sodium, should be limited or avoided. Even pre-packaged frozen turkey burgers can contain added salt and preservatives.
Choose young, lean, organic, pasture-raised turkey that has been raised without antibiotics in humane conditions. To prolong shelf life and reduce costs, factory-farmed and conventionally raised turkeys are often injected with salt, water, and other preservatives during processing. Turkeys raised on pasture with access to plants have a higher omega-3 content than turkeys raised in factory farms.
Heritage turkeys are raised in smaller flocks, given access to the outdoors, and allowed extra time for growth. They produce meat with more flavour and are free of salt and preservatives.
To minimise the risk of foodborne illness, cook the turkey until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
Try these delicious Registered Dietitian-created recipes:
Processed turkey products can have a lot of sodium in them, which is bad for your health.
Many processed meats are smoked or contain sodium nitrites as a preservative. These react with naturally occuring amines in meat to form N-nitroso compounds, which are known carcinogens.
Processed meats have been related to the development of cancer in studies.
The mineral selenium is found in Turkey. Higher selenium intakes have been linked to a lower risk of colorectal, kidney, lung, bladder, scalp, oesophageal, and gastric cancers in some studies.
The most significant factor in achieving and maintaining good health is the overall diet. It’s safer to consume a variety of healthy foods in moderate quantities rather than focusing on a single nutrient as the key to good health.
- Basic report: 05176, turkey, whole, meat only, cooked, roasted. (2016, May)
- Is turkey good for you?. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/285736
- Basic report: 05184, turkey, dark meat from whole, dark meat, cooked, roasted. (2016, May)
- Cai, X., Wang, C., Yu, W., Fan, W., Shan, W., Shen, N., … & Wang, F. (2016). Selenium exposure and cancer risk: An updated meta-analysis and meta-regression [Abstract]. Scientific Reports, 6, 19213
- Jenkins, T. A., Nguyen, J. C. D., Polglaze, K. E., & Bertrand, P. P. (2016, January). Influence of tryptophan and serotonin on mood and cognition with a possible role of the gut-brain axis. Nutrients, 8(1), 56
- Selenium. (2016, February 11)
- The link between sodium nitrites and cancer. (2013, May 31)
- Turkey facts. (n.d.)
- Turkey, pasture-raised. (n.d.)