Turkey has a place at the holiday table in many countries. In the United States, Thanksgiving is celebrated with a turkey on the table, and in Europe, it is the main meal for Christmas. But is turkey healthy for you? I keep asking myself this question every Thanksgiving, and recently I decided to research this.
Turkey is an excellent source of proteins, it is low in fat provided you don’t eat the skin, and it is rich in vitamins and minerals. It is rich in B-complex vitamins niacin, B6 and B12 and the essential nutrient choline. It is also a good source of magnesium and phosphorus in addition to iron, potassium and zinc. It is also high in selenium which helps support the immune system.
Dark meat has slightly more fat and calories than white meat, but it is not as significant as meat with skin compared to that without skin. A 3-ounce serving of roasted turkey breast with skin has 4.5 grams of fat and 139 calories. The same size without skin has 1.8 grams of fat and 125 calories. The same size serving of dark meat with skin has 8.5 grams of fat and 175 calories. Without skin it has 5.1 grams of fat and 147 calories.
How you prepare the turkey also matters, as adding seasonings and marinades will add salt. If you decide to fry it, most of the oil is absorbed by the skin. For frying, try to use healthy fats such as peanut and canola oil, and don’t allow the turkey to soak in oil after cooking. Regular consumption of fried food has been linked to cardiovascular disease.
Turkey is a famous source of the essential amino acid tryptophan, which helps the body synthesize protein. Unfortunately, it has incorrectly been blamed for the post feast sleepiness some people feel. Roasted skinless turkey has levels of tryptophan that is close to that in roast beef or a can of tuna, and less per ounce than cheddar cheese. Typically, the large amount of carbohydrate in the meal provides sleepiness, not the tryptophan.
So turkey is certainly healthy, provided that you choose the low fat meat, which does not have the skin. Of course, portion control during the Thanksgiving or Christmas meals would fit nicely with the healthy holiday eating.