Thanksgiving is upon us, and right about now you are sitting down to a table laden with all the fixings: mashed potatoes and gravy, dressing, yams (with mini-marshmallows!), green beans, dinner rolls, cranberry sauce,and, of course – turkey. Thanksgiving would simply not be complete without The Bird.
Turkeys are not just any bird, they are our bird. The Meleagris gallopavo is native to the forests of North America, where it still roams in large flocks – and with an impressive disregard for traffic rules and fences. (I have encountered flocks of several dozen on my lawn.) Ben Franklin proposed the turkey as the official bird of the United States, and it enjoyed the place of honor on royal tables. Each year, at Thanksgiving, one of these magnificent birds receives a Presidential pardon.
Aside from its stature as a bird favored by both Ben Franklin and King Henry VIII, the turkey provides a wide range of health benefits.
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- With over 30g of protein in a 4-oz. serving (65% of the daily requirement for women), turkey is a rich source of protein. (A protein requirement calculator can be found HERE.)
- Turkey is low in fat – provided you don’t eat the skin. White meat has less fat than the dark meat. Domestic turkeys consist of roughly 70 per cent white meat and 30 per cent dark meat.
- Turkey meat is a source of iron, zinc, potassium and phosphorus.
- It is also a source of selenium, which boosts immunity and serves as an antioxidant. Selenium is essential for thyroid hormone metabolism.
- Turkey is source of vitamin B6 and niacin, which are both essential for the body’s energy production.
- Regular turkey consumption can help lower cholesterol levels, and can help keep insulin levels stable.
- Turkey contains the amino acid tryptophan, which is a precursor of serotonin, a neurotransmitter closely associated with mood, sleep and digestion. Serotonin also plays an important role in strengthening the immune system.
- Those with interstitial cystitis should limit their consumption of turkey – as well as all foods high in tryptophan, tyrosine, tyramine and aspartate. Because serotonin irritates the sensitive bladder lining of people with interstitial cystitis, people with this illness may feel an intensification of symptoms after consuming foods high in trytophan – such as turkey.
- Migraine sufferers often have the same, or similar, sensitivities to the foods that exacerbate interstitial cystitis. The most common migraine triggers are foods high in tyramine: aged cheeses, bananas, raisins, chicken livers, nuts, beans, cultured dairy products, soy sauce, processed meats (such as hot dogs and sausages), pickles, and, sadly, chocolate. Turkey can also provoke a migraine, even when it is not processed, so proceed with caution if you are prone to migraines.
- Rosacea, like migraines, can be triggered by certain foods. (The list is quite similar to the migraine list.) Rosacea is a skin condition typified by flushing and the formation of papules (similar to acne). There are a number of triggers that can cause an exacerbation of rosacea, including foods high in histamine. Because both histamine and serotonin increase blood vessel permeability, foods high in the precursors of these neurotransmitters can cause a flare-up.