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Turkey Talk: Gobbling Up the Health Benefits of Turkey

The Outpatient Nutrition Clinic at Milton Hospital has provided the following facts about the star of the Thanksgiving feast.

Thanksgiving dinner is typically looked at as a guilty treat, filled with pounds of stuffing, endless fixings and more desserts than your stomach can hold.  However, most people may not realize turkey meat – the star of most holiday dinners – is actually packed with rich, healthy nutrients and can protect against certain types of cancer and diseases.

Nutritional Benefits

Turkey is low in fat and high in protein, and is an inexpensive source of iron, phosphorus, potassium and B vitamins. It is also filled with zinc and selenium, which helps with cell and tissue repair and growth. Selenium is also essential to the thyroid and immune system and plays a crucial role in our antioxidant defense system, helping to eliminate free radicals in the body that are linked to cancer.

According to a Harvard Health Letter newsletter, “A three-ounce serving of skinless white meat (which is about the size of a woman's palm) contains 25 grams of protein, barely 3 grams of fat, and less than 1 gram of saturated fat.”  Although turkey meat has endless health benefits, try to stay away from the skin. As crunchy and tasty as it can be, it is loaded with bad fats.

White Meat vs. Dark Meat

There are two types of meat contained in turkey: white and dark. For those who are watching their fat intake, they should stick to white turkey meat. The white meat of turkey is generally considered healthier and leaner than dark meat because of its lower fat content. Dark meat pieces are filled with more calories per serving and are higher in cholesterol. It also has high levels of saturated fat. However, dark meat is packed with iron.

Does it Really Make Me Sleepy?

We’ve all heard it before: the tryptophan in the turkey is making me sleepy.  While turkey does contain high levels of tryptophan, a certain amino acid said to cause drowsiness, the amount is comparable to that contained in most other meats. Furthermore, holiday dinners are typically large meals served with carbohydrates, fats, and alcohol, which is most likely the culprit of the post-meal drowsiness on Thanksgiving.

Go Organic

Farm-fresh, grass-fed turkeys which are raised organically contain the most nutritious ingredients, offer the most health benefits and are overall recommended over a “caged” bird. Organic birds are not given antibiotics and have access to a free pasture (“free-range birds”).  They also have naturally enhanced flavor and juiciness.

Although turkey is widely consumed in the U.S. during the month of November, it does make for a flavorful, appetizing and nutritional meal year-round.  So, load up on turkey this Thanksgiving and know you are feeding your body essential nutrients 

If you have any nutritional questions or would like to make an appointment with a Milton Hospital nutritionist, please call 617-296-4819.

The above release was submitted by Milton Hospital’s Outpatient Nutrition Clinic.

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