Turkey is the centerpiece of many holiday meals. The turkey, scientifically known as Meleagris gallopavo, is a large bird native to North America. However, its popularity extends worldwide because its meat is highly nutritious and contains many essential vitamins and minerals.
Turkey provides the amino acids needed for muscle growth and repair, and its micronutrients can support brain function, energy production, immune health, and more. It has an excellent nutritional profile that offers many health benefits during the holidays and beyond.
Protein, which is made up of amino acids, performs many roles in the body. It acts as a structural support for cells and is essential for the functioning of many biological systems. Protein is essential for transporting various nutrients throughout the body involved in immune function, energy production, and fluid balance.
However, the most notable role of protein in the body is related to muscle growth and repair. Amino acids are often called the building blocks of life, so sources of protein are essential for building muscle.
Turkey is rich in proteins. One 4-ounce (ounce) serving of turkey breast provides approximately 27 grams (g) of protein and all nine essential amino acids needed for muscle growth. Adding turkey to a well-balanced diet can be especially beneficial for those trying to lose weight or increase their lean muscle mass.
Additionally, research shows that poultry, like turkey, can be a healthier source of protein than its red meat counterparts. Turkey is low in fat, unlike red meat, which is associated with cardiovascular and cancer risks. Those with heart health concerns or a risk of developing cancer may prefer to get their protein from turkey.
B vitamins are involved in many important body systems. Turkey contains vitamins B1 and B2, but is especially rich in vitamins B3, B6 and B12.
- Vitamin B3. Vitamin B3 or niacin is involved in cellular communication and energy production. A 4-ounce serving of turkey provides 11.2 milligrams (mg) of vitamin B3 or 70% of the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA).
- Vitamin B6. Vitamin B6 or pyridoxine plays a supporting role in the formation of amino acids and the production of neurotransmitters. A 4-ounce serving of turkey provides 0.919 mg of vitamin B6. which is 54% of the highest RDA.
- Vitamin B12. Vitamin B12, or cobalamin, is important for red blood cell formation and DNA synthesis. A 4-ounce serving of turkey provides 0.712 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin B12. or 30% of the RDA.
Boosting vitamin B levels by consuming turkey may benefit those with depression, headaches, and skin lesions, as research has linked vitamins B3, B6, and B12, respectively. However, it should not replace regular medical care from your doctor.
In addition to its powerful vitamin profile, turkey contains minerals such as selenium, zinc, and phosphorus that promote health in many ways.
- Selene. Selenium is involved in the production of thyroid hormones that help regulate metabolism and growth rate. One 4-ounce serving of turkey provides 25.7 mcg of selenium, or 47% of the RDA.
- Zinc. Zinc is a powerful mineral required for many biological processes. It participates in gene expression, enzyme reactions and protein synthesis. A 4-ounce serving of turkey provides 1.45 mg of zinc, which is approximately 13% of the RDA.
- Phosphorus: Phosphorus is necessary for the assembly of various processes in the body, including bone mineralization and cell signaling. It is also an important component in the synthesis of adenosine triphosphate, the body’s primary source of energy. A 4-ounce serving of turkey provides 227 mg of phosphorus, which is 32% of the RDA for the mineral.
Turkey can support healthy aging through its mineral content, supporting many bodily processes related to health. One serving can help you meet your estimated micronutrient needs. However, those with kidney problems should talk to their doctor or registered dietitian to make sure their dosages and appropriate minerals do not conflict with their kidney function.
Turkey boasts an impressive diet. It is a nutrient-dense food that is high in protein and low in carbohydrates and fat. In addition, it contains various vitamins and minerals, offering a wide range of health benefits.
4 ounces of turkey breast provides:
- Calories. 129:
- Fat. 1.67 g
- Saturated fats. 0.327 g
- Sodium. 128 mg
- Carbohydrates. 0.158 g
- Fiber. 0 g
- Added sugars. 0 g
- Proteins: 26.8 g
- Vitamin B3. 11.2 mg
- Vitamin B6. 0.919 mg
- Vitamin B12. 0.712 mcg
- Selene. 25.7 mcg
- Zinc. 1.45 mg
- Phosphorus: 227 mg
As mentioned above, turkey can significantly contribute to the daily needs of many nutrients. What’s more, because it’s a lean protein source, it can support weight management goals and overall health without excess calories.
Turkey is a healthy source of protein, but it’s important to consider alternatives for those with dietary restrictions or preferences. Diet plays a direct role in health by influencing many biological systems.
For example, those living with gout may need to moderate their turkey intake, as research has shown that poultry can increase the build-up of uric acid, a precursor to the painful condition. Also, those with impaired kidney function should pay attention to their portion sizes, as protein and mineral content must be processed by the kidneys.
It is also important to be aware of how the turkey is prepared. Many store-bought options are high in sodium, which can affect blood pressure and increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. A doctor or registered dietitian nutritionist can help develop a nutritional care plan that includes turkey and will best meet your needs.
Turkey gets all the hype around the holidays, but it can be a nutritious addition to a healthy diet year-round. Consider these tips when incorporating turkey into your meals and snacks:
- Keep raw meat separate from produce and other foods by using different cutting boards when preparing ingredients.
- The recommended internal temperature when cooking a turkey is 165 F. Check in three places, including the thickest part of the breast, the inside of the thigh, and the inside of the arm.
- Try seasoning the turkey with herbs and spices instead of salt.
- Turkey pairs well with whole grains and vegetables for a hearty meal. However, small portions of leftovers can easily boost protein in snacks.
The delicious taste and tremendous nutritional benefits of turkey are often highlighted during the holidays. It is a vital part of many traditional holidays. However, turkey meat has a lot to offer year-round. It is a source of lean protein that is low in calories and rich in vitamins and minerals. It contains a significant percentage of the RDA for many vitamins, including vitamins B3, B6 and B12.
The body can use the nutrients found in turkey meat to support energy production, red blood cell formation, and metabolic regulation. In addition, its high protein content is an excellent promoter of muscle protein synthesis. Including turkey in a well-balanced diet is an effective way to promote muscle growth and recovery, especially when exercising regularly.
Of course, nutritional needs are highly individualized based on a variety of factors, including age, physical activity level, medical history, and health goals. Be aware of portion sizes and consider how they may affect your daily total. A registered dietitian can answer questions about turkey and its purported benefits on your health journey.
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