by Abby Langer
It’s Nutrition Month and what better way to celebrate than talking turkey? Turkey is a great source of lean protein, which is fundamental for a healthy diet. Not only does protein help build and maintain muscle mass, but it also plays a big role in developing antibodies to fight viruses and bacteria. As an added bonus, when we eat protein, our bodies release hormones that make us feel full for longer.
As a Registered Dietician, I always recommend around 20–25 grams of protein with each meal and, of course, turkey is one of my favourites. Here are five reasons why:
It’s a high-quality, lean protein.
Turkey breast is a high-quality protein, meaning that it can easily satisfy my 20–25 grams recommendation in a reasonable portion size.
A 4oz serving of turkey has 32 grams protein and is low in saturated fat. A lot of people choose turkey breast because it has less fat and fewer calories. But, when you look at the numbers closely, there is little difference. For every ounce, there’s just 1 more gram of fat and approximately 4 more calories in dark meat, compared to white. Dark meat also contains a higher concentration of nutrients, so if you prefer dark meat but have been avoiding it because you think it’s less healthy, you don’t have to do that anymore. Enjoy!
I use turkey for any poultry recipe. Last Thanksgiving, I spatchcocked a whole Butterball turkey but I’ve also done turkey lettuce wraps, turkey burgers, turkey apricot salad sandwiches, Mediterranean turkey breast, turkey tacos and turkey BLT salad. Sometimes, I just roast a Butterball Easy Fresh turkey breast for sandwich meat instead of buying meat at the deli—that way, I can control what goes in and on the meat.
I use a variety of flavours to season turkey breast before cooking it, such as smoky mesquite BBQ sauce or grainy honey mustard. Both are delicious!
You get a lot of bang for your buck.
Roasting a whole turkey is easy (I promise!) and it’s a cost-effective way to feed your family.
Once you roast the entire turkey, use the breast for sandwich meat, the dark meat for casseroles, and the carcass for soup. You can get a lot of meals out of one turkey, and many of them can be frozen for later use.
One of my favorite casseroles to make with turkey is turkey pot pie, which my kids adore!
It’s rich in nutrients.
Turkey is packed with zinc, selenium, B6, B12, niacin (B3) and iron, which are important for many body processes. Let’s take a closer look at what these nutrients actually do:
Zinc helps your immune system and metabolism function. It also helps with healing wounds and may improve your sense of taste and smell.
Selenium is a powerful mineral that plays a critical role in metabolism and thyroid function. As a bonus, it helps protect your body from damage caused by oxidative stress.
B vitamins are the building blocks of a healthy body. They have a direct impact on your energy levels, brain function and cell metabolism.
Iron is essential for the health and development of red blood cells, which carry oxygen from the lungs to other parts of the body. Iron also helps the body develop some important hormones.
It contains tryptophan, which is the precursor to serotonin and melatonin.
Before we get ahead of ourselves, no, turkey dinner will not make you sleepy. But turkey does contain tryptophan—an essential amino acid that our bodies must get from food. Tryptophan from our diet is used to make serotonin and melatonin, which help stabilize mood and contribute to a good night’s sleep. In other words, turkey brings on the good vibes!
Next time you make a poultry recipe, reach for turkey!
Thankfully, there’s Butterball.