Aside from the occasional sandwich, many people think turkey is solely for the Thanksgiving dinner table. However, turkey is much more than a holiday centerpiece. Anyone concerned about healthy eating would be wise to learn more about the health benefits of turkey and find ways to include it in their diets throughout the year.
Turkey is low in fat and high in protein, making it an important source of nutrition. One piece of turkey breast without the skin measures up at 160 calories, four grams of fat and a whopping 30 grams of protein, according to the USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory. Dark meat and turkey legs are higher in calories but boast similar amounts of protein.
The average portion of turkey is 100 grams, or 3.5 ounces of meat. This is about the size and thickness of a deck of cards. A single serving of turkey can provide around 65 percent of the recommended daily intake of protein.
But turkey is more than just a low fat source of protein. The meat is rich in niacin (B3), which may help increase HDL cholesterol, widely known as the ‘good’ form of cholesterol. Niacin, in addition to helping balance cholesterol levels, can lower a person’s risk for cardiovascular disease by reducing atherosclerosis, which is a hardening of the arteries. The resource Healthline also says niacin may help reduce inflammation and symptoms of arthritis.
Turkey also is rich in vitamins B6 and B12. B6 helps keep red blood cells healthy and reduce fatigue, while B12 can decrease levels of homocysteine that can contribute to cognitive decline.
Turkey is also a good source of selenium, which helps to keep hair and nails healthy while serving as an immune system booster that protects against damage to cells and tissues. Around 20 percent of the recommended daily amount of selenium can be obtained from a single serving of turkey.
Turkey is lower in calories and fat and higher in protein than chicken. Those who routinely consume chicken as part of a healthy diet can substitute it for turkey for even greater nutritional benefits. Turkey is particularly low in saturated fat, which may contribute to increased levels of the LDL, or ‘bad’ cholesterol.
Turkey also is versatile, as it can be baked, boiled, stir-fried, grilled, ground, chopped for salads, and sliced for sandwiches. Turkey can be served for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Home chefs often find they can substitute turkey for any meat in a recipe with good results because turkey’s mild taste takes on the flavor of other ingredients.