Turkey is the centerpiece of many holiday dishes. The turkey, scientifically known as Meleagris gallopavo, is a large bird native to North America. However, it is very popular worldwide because its meat is very nutritious and contains many important vitamins and minerals.
Turkey provides the amino acids necessary for muscle growth and repair, and its micronutrients can support brain function, energy production, immune system health, and more. It has a great nutritional profile and offers many health benefits during the holidays and beyond.
Protein is made up of amino acids and fulfills many functions in the body. It acts as a structural support for cells and is essential for the function of many biological systems. Protein is necessary for the transport of various nutrients involved in immune function, energy production and fluid balance throughout the body.
However, protein’s most important role in the body is related to muscle growth and repair. Amino acids are often referred to as the building blocks of life, so protein sources are essential for building muscle.
Turkey is rich in protein. A 4-ounce serving of turkey breast provides about 27 grams (g) of protein and all nine essential amino acids needed for muscle growth. Adding turkey to a balanced diet can be particularly beneficial for those trying to lose weight or increase their muscle mass.
Additionally, research suggests that poultry like turkey may be a healthier source of protein than their red meat counterparts. Unlike red meat, which has been linked to increased cardiovascular and cancer risks, turkey is low in fat. Those with heart problems or at risk of developing cancer may prefer to get their protein from turkey.
B vitamins are involved in many important systems in the body. Turkey contains vitamins B1 and B2, but is particularly rich in vitamins B3, B6 and B12.
- Vitamin B3: Vitamin B3 or niacin is involved in cell communication and energy production. A 4-ounce serving of turkey contains 11.2 milligrams (mg) of vitamin B3 or 70% of the recommended daily 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 contains 0.919 mg of vitamin B6. This is 54% of the highest recommended daily requirement.
- Vitamin B12: Vitamin B12 or cobalamin is essential for red blood cell formation and DNA synthesis. A 4-ounce serving of turkey contains 0.712 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin B12 or 30% of the recommended daily dose.
Increasing vitamin B levels by consuming turkey may benefit people suffering from depression, migraines, and skin lesions, as research has linked vitamins B3, B6, and B12 accordingly. 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, which support many aspects of health.
- Selenium: Selenium is involved in the production of thyroid hormones, which help regulate your metabolism and growth rate. A 4-ounce serving of turkey provides 25.7 mcg of selenium, or 47% of the recommended daily intake.
- Zinc: Zinc is an influential mineral required for many biological processes. It is involved in gene expression, enzyme reactions and protein synthesis. A 4-ounce serving of turkey contains 1.45 mg of zinc, which is about 13% of the recommended daily intake.
- Phosphorus: Phosphorus is required for a variety of processes in the body, including bone mineralization and cell signaling. It is also a crucial component in the synthesis of adenosine triphosphate, the body’s primary energy source. A 4-ounce serving of turkey provides 227 mg of phosphorus, which is 32% of the mineral’s recommended daily intake.
Turkey can support healthy aging through its mineral content and support many physical processes related to health. With a single serving you can meet several of your estimated micronutrient needs. However, people with kidney problems should speak to their doctor or nutritionist to ensure portion sizes and appropriate minerals do not affect their kidney function.
Turkey has an impressive nutritional profile. It is a nutrient-dense food, high in proteins and low in carbohydrates and fat. Additionally, it contains various vitamins and minerals that provide numerous health benefits.
A 4-ounce serving of turkey breast provides:
- Calories: 129
- Fat: 1.67g
- Saturated fatty acids: 0.327g
- Sodium: 128 mg
- Carbohydrates: 0.158g
- Fiber: 0g
- Added sugar: 0g
- Protein: 26.8g
- Vitamin B3: 11.2 mg
- Vitamin B6: 0.919 mg
- Vitamin B12: 0.712 mcg
- Selenium: 25.7 mcg
- Zinc: 1.45 mg
- Phosphorus: 227 mg
As mentioned above, turkey can make a significant contribution to daily nutrient requirements. Additionally, because it is a lean source of protein, it can support weight management goals and overall health without consuming too many calories.
Turkey is a healthy source of protein, but it’s important to consider alternatives for people with dietary restrictions or preferences. Diet plays a direct role in health and influences many biological systems.
For example, gout sufferers need to moderate their turkey consumption because research has shown that poultry can increase the buildup of uric acid, a precursor to the painful condition. Additionally, those with impaired kidney function may need to pay attention to portion sizes since the protein and mineral content must be processed by the kidneys.
It’s also important to know how to cook turkey. 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 can help you create a diet plan that includes turkey and best suits your needs.
Turkey is the center of attention around the holidays, but can be a nutrient-dense addition to a healthy diet year-round. Consider these tips when incorporating turkey into your meals and snacks:
- Keep raw meat separate from vegetables and other foods by using separate cutting boards when preparing ingredients.
- When cooking turkey, the recommended internal temperature is 165 F. Test in three places, including the thickest part of the breast, the inside of the thigh, and the inside of the wing.
- 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 the protein content of snacks.
Turkey’s delicious taste and tremendous nutritional benefits are often highlighted during the holidays. It is an integral part of many traditional festivals. However, turkey meat has a lot to offer all year round. It is a lean source of protein that is low in calories and rich in vitamins and minerals. It contains a significant percentage of the recommended daily allowance for many vitamins, including vitamins B3, B6 and B12.
The body can use the nutrients contained in turkey meat to support energy production, red blood cell formation, and metabolism regulation. In addition, its high protein content is an excellent conductor of muscle protein synthesis. Including turkey in a balanced diet is an efficient way to support muscle growth and repair, especially with regular physical activity.
Of course, nutritional needs are very individual and depend on various factors, including age, physical activity, medical history and health goals. Pay attention to portion sizes and consider how these may affect the daily amount. A registered dietitian can answer questions about turkey and its supposed benefits for your health journey.