How Healthy Is Turkey, Really?

Turkey Dinner
25 Nov

Last Updated on November 23, 2016 by Michael Brockbank

During the holidays, one of the most popular dishes is serving up turkey. It’s an iconic food that can baked, fried or even tossed in a deep fryer – which I’m partial to never doing. Not sure how I feel about blowing up my backyard. When you look at the spread on the table, do you consider the health factors of everything you’re eating? Like most meats, turkey has an incredible amount of health benefits.

The Health Breakdown of Turkey

Personally, I’m looking forward to diving into the turkey this year. I am a bit of junky – just like Old Man Parker. To me, there is nothing finer that a well prepared and juicy bird. However, I really didn’t consider the health ramifications when loading up my plate every holiday season. Let’s take a look at the nutrition facts of this favored dish among many – taken from a Riverside Young Turkey at 4oz per serving:

  • Calories: 170
  • Fat: 8g
  • Cholesterol: 70mg
  • Sodium: 270mg
  • Carbohydrates: 0g
  • Protein: 21g
  • Calcium: 2%
  • Iron: 8%

As you can see, a four-ounce helping of turkey has low calories, high protein and a sustainable amount of carbs. This doesn’t include the decent levels of iron. The level of sodium is close to one-tenth of what your maximum should be for any given day. Take into consideration the other foods that are often served with turkey, and the one meal could be dangerously high is sodium.

The level of cholesterol is also a bit high, but nothing that you should be worried about. According to my body type, I need to remain below 300mg of cholesterol per day. This means a single serving of turkey isn’t going to give me a heart attack, but I should still watch the rest of the cholesterol intake for the day – which doesn’t help when my wife whips up deviled eggs…my ultimate weakness during the holidays.

Multiple B Vitamins
Turkey contains a large selection of B vitamins from niacin to B6. This helps in everything from developing red blood cells to brain development. It also contributes to the digestion of all the foods you’re going to eat sitting at the dinner table.

With more than 200mg of phosphorus, this portion size of turkey is almost one-third of what your body needs in any given day. This component plays a part in building bones and teeth as well as regulate proteins and fats.

Since the human body cannot produce this component on its own, we need to consume it from other foods. Tryptophan is used by the body to produce a variety of B vitamins as well as increase levels of serotonin. This helps elevate moods and deliver a higher tolerance for pain. Many people are under the misconception that turkey makes you sleepy due to the levels of tryptophan. I used to believe this as well until I read a WebMD article pointing out that turkey may have slightly less tryptophan in it than chicken.

What Will Eating Proper Portions Do On Thanksgiving?

Proper portions sizes are beneficial for a variety of reasons. However, it may be far more difficult to accomplish this on Thanksgiving or Christmas for that matter. The holidays seem to revolve around food and tasty snacks – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing until you take it too far.

Prevent Weight Gain
A lot of people gain a great deal of weight throughout the holidays. This is partially because fewer people consider portion sizes and the high levels of calories and carbs that are being consumed. Less activity is also a component of this equation as storms and snow may take away from some of the activities you enjoy in the summer. Less activity means less consumption of food necessary to maintain the body.

Prevent Sleepiness
One of the reasons why people feel so sleeping after gorging themselves during the holidays is because it takes a great deal of energy to digest that much food. Essentially, your body is working overtime to process everything you had on your plate. Although serotonin produced by tryptophan does help in sleep cycles, the amount contained may not be more than you normally consume any other time throughout the year. The body is taking up a great deal of your energy stores in order to push the copious amounts of food through your digestive system.

Provide Extra Leftovers
I love leftovers. Sandwiches, soups and more can be whipped up from the bird. Reducing the amount you eat during the holidays gives you more food for a later day.

Health Factors of What Turkey Boils Down To

Turkey is an incredible source of proteins, B vitamins and phosphorus – vastly helping the body in a myriad of ways. In fact, it could be one of the better snacks if you’re into weight training or regular exercise. While the levels of sodium and cholesterol are higher than a lot of other foods, it’s still within acceptable tolerances as long as you don’t go overboard on the side dishes and deserts. If you want to monitor your levels for food intake, I’d suggest using MyFitnessPal or other easy to use app on your smartphone.

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