Faith in Fitness: Let’s talk turkey

Published on: May 11, 2016

Rosie Korfant

Rosie Korfant

Parrish resident; Activities Coordinator JSA Medical Group, a Division of DaVita HealthCare Partners Inc.

Yep, right in the beginning of summer we’re gonna talk about our favorite fall fowl! It would be hard to imagine a Thanksgiving meal without the statuesque bird gracing our humble table. Why, I wonder, don’t I ever think of offering turkey as a “regular” meal option at other times of the year?

Hmmmm, how many are with me here? If you are, read on. If not, consider yourself blessed with one of America’s most popular fowls. In fact, the U.S. is the world’s largest producer of turkey meat at 2.5 million tons per year.

Recent studies show eating about one to four ounces daily is associated with decreased risk of pancreatic cancer when it’s eaten with the skin removed.

Turkey also contains selenium, essential in a healthy thyroid, immune system, and in limiting cancer-producing free radicals. Turkey now shares the spotlight with other high-in-protein foods like tuna in helping to keep post-meal insulin levels at a safe range.

Now, let’s mention here that this is turkey without the skin, of course. Though cooking it (preferably baking) with the skin on for added flavor is desirable, it is wise to remove all the skin  — which holds the fat content — before biting in.

Imagine the clout of 34 grams of protein in one 4-ounce serving of skinned baked turkey breast! (Consuming the dark meat, like the thigh, wing or leg, drops the protein level to about 21 grams.) In addition, turkey wins the prize for mineral content and eight of the vitamin Bs. Studies are beginning to show that eating turkey regulates the blood sugar levels and insulin metabolism — this, in turn, manages the blood sugar content, always good for my pancreas and yours!

These truly Native American birds are our friends as far as meals go. However, avoid contamination by thoroughly washing everything (hands, cutting board and utensils) with soapy water after preparation.

I’m not sure how much of an adventurous spirit you have, but it has been suggested to “talk personally with your turkey farmer.” A big red flag went up because I don’t even know a turkey farmer! My next-best option was the meat cutter at my local grocery store for questions about how the turkey may have been raised and was it true organic, not just “range-free and “cage-free.” Learning all these different terms was empowering for me as I am not the cook of the house. (This way I could “strut my stuff,” along with the turkey.)

So when your pals say, “Let’s go out for a burger,” your next question should be, “Where do they serve turkey burgers?” A 4-ounce turkey burger has about 200-250 calories and 30 grams of good ol’ protein to help build and maintain lean muscle. (Those prone to a condition known as gout, beware! Too many purines, which are found in turkey, can trigger it.)

Tryptophan, found in turkey, is used by the brain to produce serotonin, which calms the mood and helps against insomnia. Thus, the well-known Thanksgiving nap!


Megan Ware, RDN, LD, registered dietitian and nutritionist