Not just reserved for Thanksgiving dinner any longer, turkey is a rich source of essential nutrients that makes it a healthy choice any time of year.
Many people once considered turkey as just a centerpiece of Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, only to be eaten once a year. With less saturated fat and calories than red meat and its delicious taste, turkey is becoming more popular as a healthy alternative to red meat. Turkey is available year-round in multiple varieties and cuts. In addition to being a rich source of sleep-promoting tryptophan, turkey is a good source of many essential vitamins and minerals.
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Turkey Nutrition Facts
One three-ounce serving of light turkey meat has 132 calories and three grams of fat. Turkey is a good source of protein, with 24 grams of protein per three-ounce serving. Turkey contains no carbohydrates. In addition, turkey is a good source of selenium, vitamin B6, niacin, and tryptophan. Turkey contains trace amounts of vitamin B12, iron, magnesium, zinc, thiamin, riboflavin, and copper.
Health Benefits of Turkey
Turkey is a rich source of tryptophan, the amino acid that makes you sleepy after eating turkey. The body uses tryptophan to make serotonin, the feel-good chemical that boosts mood, reduces sugar cravings by regulating appetite, and regulates sleep patterns. Tryptophan is also converted to niacin in the body, helping to reduce niacin deficiency symptoms.
Niacin, or vitamin B3, not only helps the body convert carbohydrates, fats and protein to fuel, but also improves circulation and can lower cholesterol in the blood. Niacin is also important for healthy skin and hair. Vitamin B6, also found in turkey, also plays a role in energy production, may reduce inflammation, and is important for a healthy nervous system.
The selenium found in turkey acts as an antioxidant. Antioxidants help prevent cellular damage caused by free radicals. Selenium also boosts immune health and plays a key role in metabolism. Selenium may also reduce the risk of developing heart disease.
Reducing the Fat in Turkey
Although turkey is rich in essential nutrients, the skin is what holds most of turkey’s fat. To lower the fat content of turkey, purchase skinless turkey breast or remove the skin of sliced whole turkey before eating. While the dark meat is higher in iron, it also contains more fat than the lighter turkey meat.