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More Turkey Please! The Health Benefits of Eating Turkey

I’ve always wondered why turkeys are the bird of choice for our annual Thanksgiving dinner, and seeing as one of our most important national holidays will be celebrated tomorrow, I thought I’d satisfy my curiosity. I also discovered, to my surprise, that there are some terrific health benefits offered by a Thanksgiving turkey.

 

The History of the Thanksgiving Turkey

It’s actually debatable whether Turkey was served or not during the First Thanksgiving of 1621, because colonist Edward Winslow’s account of the harvest feast at Plymouth simply mentions that pilgrims gathered “wild fowl”, which means they were just as likely to have feasted on ducks or geese as turkeys.

More than 200 years passed before turkey gained traction as the staple Thanksgiving meal. It was the rediscovery in 1856 of colonist William Bradford’s lost journal that marked the beginning of turkey becoming the Thanksgiving meal of choice. In his journal, Bradford made references to wild turkey being hunted in the fall of 1621.

This was further enshrined in American culture when President Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863. So there you have it! That’s how we all came to eat turkeys with our families every fourth Thursday of November.

The good news is that although we may eat a little too much each Thanksgiving, eating turkey has numerous health benefits. Before we get to them, here’s why you should go organic this Thanksgiving:  

 

Going Organic

Buying an organic turkey for your Thanksgiving meal means you’ll avoid unwanted and harmful additives that are likely to be present in turkeys raised by factory farming methods. Factory-farmed turkeys are usually administered growth hormones and antibiotics while being fed GMO corn and soy.

In addition to avoiding all of the health hazards above and benefiting from a higher nutritional value by going organic, you can have some peace of mind that the turkey you’re about to eat has been raised on organic feed and was allowed to roam free and live normally. This is without mentioning that organic farming is much kinder to the environment. 

Key Nutrients Found in Turkey

Here are the nutrients a three-ounce serving of turkey contains:

 

  • Over half the recommended daily protein amount for women, and just under half the recommended daily amount for men, while consuming fewer calories and less fat than a serving of beef of the same size.
  • Approximately half of the daily recommended amount of selenium, which is important for thyroid hormone metabolism and reproduction. Selenium also has antioxidant properties.
  • Approximately one-third of the daily recommended amount of phosphorus, which is vital for good bone and tooth health. Phosphorus also plays an important role in the body’s protein production, as well as in how it uses carbs and fats.
  • Niacin, B6 and riboflavin. Niacin helps the body convert digested food into usable energy, B6 assists immunity and metabolism, and  riboflavin contributes to red blood cell production.
  • You’ll also ingest a small amount of the essential amino acid, tryptophan, which helps with the production of niacin and serotonin. The latter is known as the brain’s “happy chemical”. It elevates your mood and keeps you more alert.
  • Last but not least, you’ll ingest a good amount of the essential minerals potassium, iron and zinc.
 

8 Health Benefits of Eating Turkey  

1. Keep Insulin Levels Stable

Turkey meat helps with stabilizing blood sugar levels because it is rich in protein. Protein also takes a relatively long time to digest, and this means that glucose absorption also slows down. That’s why some doctors recommend turkey as a good dietary choice for diabetics.

2. Strengthen Your Immune System

A recent study has shown that tryptophan metabolites contained in turkey are effective in reducing the symptoms of multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disease. This means there’s tangible evidence for tryptophan’s important role in immune system health.

 

3. Boost Your Defense Against Cancer

Just as tryptophan helps the immune system fight off autoimmune diseases, it also stimulates T cell production. These cells are your immune system’s natural weapon for fighting off cancer. Furthermore, a trace element in the body called selenium has also been observed to kill cancer cells in various studies. While selenium takes on many different forms, the three main forms with anticarcinogenic properties are sodium selenite, L-selenomethionine, and selenium-methyl L-selenocysteine.

4. Take in Less Saturated Fat Than Other Meats

The form of cholesterol which isn’t good for your body is called low-density lipoprotein, or LDL. Consuming too much saturated fat triggers increased LDL production in the liver. It collects in your blood vessels when consumed in excess, leaving you at greater risk of heart disease. Turkey contains significantly less saturated fat in comparison to beef or pork.

5. Boost Your Metabolism

Turkey is a lean, complete protein ideal for building muscle and increasing metabolic function. Having a high metabolism is good for hair and nail growth and avoiding illness.  

6. Enhance Your Mood

Eating turkey on a regular basis will have a positive effect on your mood, because tryptophan increases serotonin production in the brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that contributes to feelings of well-being and happiness.

7. Lose Weight

Lean protein, as found in turkey meat, contains important amino acids and helps you feel fuller for longer. Replacing other meats you eat with turkey will likely see you shedding a few pounds sooner rather than later.

8. Boost Your Energy

B vitamins are excellent for producing long-lasting energy, and turkey contains an extensive amount of them. Niacin is particularly good for converting carbohydrates, proteins and fats into efficient fuel for your body.

Happy Thanksgiving! 

 

Sources: mentalfloss.com, app.com, huffingtonpost.com, mtstandard.com, canceractive.com, undergroundhealthreporter.com, webmd.com 

 

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