It’s estimated that each year, there are around 750 million pounds of turkey eaten in the United States alone. When it comes to turkey in America, the first thing that usually comes to mind is Thanksgiving. It’s the holiday when Americans consume nearly 50 million turkeys, with another 40 million combined on Christmas and Easter. While it’s not the national bird, some people might get that impression over the holidays.
However, turkey shouldn’t just be something that you eat on special occasions. Overall, it’s relatively cheap and is commonly available. Above all else, though, turkey is incredibly good for you, and is a choice lean meat in many different ways. So why should you be eating turkey on a weekly basis instead of just a few times per year? Let’s look at the nutritional breakdown and proven health benefits that you get from eating turkey.
Nutrition of Turkey
The reason why turkey is one of the best lean meats is because of the nutrition that it can provide without bringing a lot of unwanted calories. For each 100 grams of turkey breast meat (which is just over three ounces), you only get about 100 calories. In that serving, you’re going for a huge protein punch with more than one third of your daily recommendation. There’s also a small amount of fiber, with very few carbohydrates and under two grams of fat.
Turkey even has some important vitamins that your body needs, including riboflavin with about 20 percent of your daily value. Other vitamins that are around 10 percent daily value include vitamin C, thiamin and vitamin B6. Out of the minerals, selenium is the big one with one third of your value, while you are getting a significant amount of iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc and copper. There is some cholesterol in turkey, but we’ll explain how that affects your body in a moment.
It can be hard to find foods that are packed with protein that aren’t also packed with a ton of calories. Most types of nuts and many other types of meats can give you the protein you need, but also add several hundred calories. That’s not the case for turkey thanks to one-third of your daily protein needs (depending on a few different factors) and only around 10 percent of your daily calories in each three ounce serving.
Protein is important to maintain muscles, but it’s not always about becoming a bodybuilder. Protein also plays an important part in repairing your muscles, tendons, bones and even your hair and nails. There are a lot of people that are already getting plenty of protein, but they’re eating too many calories in the process. Making the switch from red meat to turkey and other lean meats can help you with that.
One of the biggest contributors of heart disease in developed countries like the United States is that we simply eat too much red meat. That can raise your cholesterol levels, and not only lead to heart disease, but also causes heart attacks and strokes. The American Heart Association suggests that you swap out red meat for lean meats such as turkey in your diet, with a few ounces each day.
Turkey does have fat, but it’s also low in saturated fat. Eating a low amount of saturated fat is completely necessary for your body, as saturated fat is needed for several functions of your organs. Turkey is also a friendly food for those that are diabetic or watching their blood sugar. Since it is low on the glycemic index, turkey helps to regulate your blood sugar, which in turn helps your heart.
You might not typically think of turkey as being one of those foods that can help you prevent cancer, but it’s true. Turkey contains a lot of a mineral that’s known as selenium, something that most people don’t even think about. Selenium is essential in helping the metabolic function of your body, especially balancing your thyroid. Thyroid cancer is one of the more common forms out there, and more selenium can help prevent that.
Selenium is one of those antioxidants that fights the free radicals in your body. Free radicals are known to attack your cells, which promote cancer growth. Vitamin C is another big one that not only helps fight off those antioxidants, but it also helps you get through illnesses faster such as the common cold. You normally think of fruit when it comes to vitamin C, but turkey is another good source.
A lot of people out there are looking to drop weight, but don’t want to give up the meat that they love. While there are temptations of eating unhealthy meats like fried chicken or hamburgers, turkey can satisfy most of your carnivorous cravings without packing on the pounds. A big part of turkey being so good for your diet is the fact that it’s so low in calories, so you can eat it on practically a daily basis.
Protein also plays a big part in losing weight since it can help you build muscle. More muscle gives your body the ability to burn fat and calories overall. It also makes it so that you aren’t quite as sore when getting home from the gym, rebuilding and recovering your muscles and tendons much faster. There’s a reason why turkey is a “lean” meat.
Just to top it all off, turkey is a great food to eat if you want to build stronger bones. Protein helps to boost your bone health, and so does the high amount of phosphorus. Phosphorus is one of those minerals that builds up your muscles and teeth. You’ll just want to make sure that you don’t eat too much turkey, since it can cause flare ups if you have pain in the joints, which we’ll discuss in a moment.
Summing it Up
If you’re going to eat breast meat from a turkey, it’s best to get it as fresh as you can, preferably from a deli that slices it. A lot of turkey is packaged with an extraordinarily high amount of sodium compared to some other meats. If you can avoid frozen turkey, it’s highly suggested that you do so, especially in one of those television dinner trays. Not avoiding it can cause an overdose of sodium in the body.
You might also want to limit yourself when eating turkey because it can trigger gout flare-ups for those with gout due to high purines. Despite these minor drawbacks, turkey is still one of the finer lean meats out there, especially if you are avoiding the skin that can bring extra fat and calories. Turkey is thankfully one of those meats that we don’t fry too often, so there aren’t many ways to make it unhealthy. With that said, feel free to use turkey as a common meat that you use in your diet, and you’ll see the great benefits!