The Health Benefits of Turkey
If you’re worried about your nutrition, or you’re pursuing some personal health or fitness goals, you’re likely looking on the looming holiday season with a certain amount of dread. Thanksgiving and Christmas, two popular American holidays that are almost entirely centered on unhealthy food, come back to back and create the factors that lead to a few extra pounds around the waistline. Moderation is of course very important, but it’s also important to plan for these holidays and to take some time to enjoy yourself. Self-deprivation is not sustainable in the long run, and you can, with some planning, enjoy the good food that comes this time of year as well as make progress towards your goals. With that being said, turkey does have some surprising health benefits, so it’s beneficial to review some of them to make your Thanksgiving feast seem “less bad”.
A good source of protein.
Protein, along with carbs and fats, are the macro-nutrients that are essential for a healthy diet. Protein is key for muscle-building as well as burning fat, and getting enough of it without consuming too much fat can be difficult. Turkey is often overlooked in favor of chicken breast as a low-fat, high protein food source. However, the protein content of each is comparable, and overall, turkey is a slightly leaner choice than chicken in terms of fat content. If you’re worried about excess fat intake, make sure to remove the skin prior to eating. That Thanksgiving turkey may provide a nice change of pace for hitting your daily protein goals.
Vitamins and nutrients.
Turkey meat also provides a wide variety of vitamins and nutrients essential to a healthy body. Although nutrient content in white or dark meat varies, turkey can provide impressive levels of vitamins B-6, B-12, niacin, choline, selenium, and zinc. These nutrients play a role in cognitive function, the nervous system, the immune system, and skin health, among a host of other benefits. Turkey is a great source of nutrients and vitamins and can help you reach your recommended daily values. It’s healthy!
It can help improve mood.
Turkey contains tryptophan, an amino acid that’s commonly associated with people’s strong desire to take a nap on Thanksgiving. While this may be linked, tryptophan is in such small doses in turkey meat that it likely doesn’t clearly cause drowsiness as much as the overall full stomach brought on by Thanksgiving celebrations. However, tryptophan does appear to have an effect on the body’s serotonin and melatonin levels, which can affect mood and sleep cycles. It may be something of a stretch, but eating that helping of turkey might help you be in a better mood and get a good night’s sleep. It can’t hurt!
You’re probably not thinking about the health benefits provided by your Thanksgiving meal, but it can help to put some of it in perspective. While you’re eating pies, gravy, mashed potatoes, copious amounts of cheese and other sauces, or whatever else you make on that Thursday in November, remember that the turkey you’re eating isn’t necessarily bad for you. Let’s put a positive spin on it and remember that turkey by itself has some excellent health benefits, and is a valuable part of any diet plan year-round.