Ask the Provider
Kristy Peterfeso, CNP, Family Medicine
at CentraCare Health - Monticello Medical Group
Is Turkey Healthy?
Question: I am trying to stay healthy this holiday season but it seems that turkey is served at every gathering. Is turkey a healthy choice for me?
Answer: Food is a part of many holiday celebrations and during this time of year turkey is a popular menu item. The good news is that unlike many traditional holiday food items, turkey has several health benefits.
Turkey is packed with protein. In one 4-ounce serving, which is about the size of a deck of cards, there are 32 grams of protein. Think about it, one serving of turkey makes up 65 percent of your recommended daily protein intake.
Eating foods high in protein can help to make you feel fuller longer. Protein is also required to maintain lean muscle mass and keep insulin levels stable after meals.
Turkey is known to have minerals that aid in cancer prevention. Selenium is one of the minerals found in turkey that works as an antioxidant to boost immunity. By having a high functioning immune system, this allows our body to fight off those cancer happy cells. Higher intakes of selenium have been found to decrease the risk for colorectal, prostate, bladder, skin, lung, gastric and esophageal cancers.
Turkey is also packed with all the B vitamins. Vitamin B6 works to maintain steady blood sugar levels while niacin (B3) and vitamin B12 are important for processing fats. Turkey also contains zinc, copper, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium and iron. Omega 3 fats are also found in turkey meat. The amount of omega 3 varies by the type of diet the turkey was consuming. Pasture raised turkeys are able to eat the omega 3 containing plants that are in the natural environment allowing for there to be higher levels of omegas 3s within the meat.
In addition, turkey contains tryptophan, an amino acid, which is used by our brains to produce serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter which aids in giving us a calm mood, feelings of being relaxed, and a sense of well-being. Many people say that tryptophan is what makes us sleepy after eating a large turkey meal. Contrary to belief there is not enough tryptophan in turkey to make us sleepy but it will relax us enough to take a nice nap.
Long story short, don’t fret about the New Year’s resolutions. The turkey consumed throughout the holiday season has many benefits to our body system. Please keep in mind it is always important to eat in moderation.