No doubt you'll be eating a good amount of turkey over the Christmas Season. Does that mean you'll be waiting until next Thanksgiving or Christmas for another turkey feast? Why wait that long? Turkey,...
No doubt you’ll be eating a good amount of turkey over the Christmas Season. Does that mean you’ll be waiting until next Thanksgiving or Christmas for another turkey feast? Why wait that long? Turkey, as well as chicken, is fair game every season.
Lean cuts of poultry are an excellent choice for health-conscious eaters for a variety of reasons.
First, they have no carbohydrates when eaten alone which is excellent for those who must maintain a low carbohydrate diet.
Secondly, they are lower in fat and calories than most other sources of protein. Since some fat is necessary for your body to store fat-soluble vitamins, to support healthy cell walls and to store energy, you can’t eliminate all sources of fat in your diet.
So, just choose foods with a lower fat content. Skinless turkey or chicken breast is lower in fat than most other kinds of meat, including: sirloin steak; pot roast; beef tenderloin; pork chops; ham; and even 90% lean hamburger.
Even though the fat in turkey and chicken is less saturated than in beef, cooking poultry with the skin on increases the amount of fat that gets absorbed into the meat. To maintain the healthiest way of preparing poultry, I recommend removing the skin before cooking. After doing this, keep the meat moist by adding a half-inch of water to the bottom of the pan and covering the dish or wrapping the meat in foil. This will prevent the natural juices from escaping or evaporating.
Even though turkey and chicken thighs stay more moist, people often avoid eating them and choose the leaner breast section instead.
This makes sense because thighs have twice the fat as breast meat. However, the fat content of turkey or chicken thighs is still lower than that of an equal portion of beef, lamb or pork. So, it won’t hurt you to indulge in a succulent thigh every once in a while.
Also, they are an efficient source of protein. Nine ounces of turkey or chicken breast delivers a day’s supply of protein. This is significant because your body needs protein to grow and repair damaged cells, organs, blood and skin, as well as to digest food.
Recent studies have shown that eating enough protein can markedly reduce bone loss in older people. One study of 70-to 90- year-olds found that the individuals who consistently ate the highest percentage of protein consistently retained the highest level of bone density.
Turkey and chicken are also good sources of the B vitamin, Niacin. Research published in the August, 2004, issue of the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry reported that regularly eating niacin-rich foods like turkey and chicken can help people keep their minds sharp as they age, protecting them from Alzheimer’s and age-related mental decline.
Another advantage of Niacin is that it is also considered a cancer-protective vitamin. A healthy level of Niacin is vital for avoiding a type of genetic damage which leads to cancer formation. Just four ounces of turkey or chicken provides 72% of your daily Niacin requirement.
Another ingredient found in turkey and chicken that fights cancer is the mineral selenium. Selenium is necessary for proper metabolism. Because your thyroid, immune system and anti-oxidant system all depend on selenium, lower levels of selenium have been linked to higher incidences of cancers affecting these areas. Four ounces of turkey or chicken supplies 40% of your daily selenium need.
Turkey and chicken are also good sources of vitamin B6. Vitamin B6 supports energy metabolism throughout the whole body by maintaining enzyme levels that control metabolic reactions.
Maintaining appropriate enzyme levels allows your body to maintain a constant energy level. Vitamin B6 also contributes to maintaining healthy artery walls, reducing your risk for heart disease. A four-ounce serving of turkey or chicken supplies 32% of the daily need of Vitamin B6.
At home, turkey and chicken are healthy and versatile main dish options. Both can be roasted, grilled, poached or boiled. By combining herbs and spices when cooking, they can be dressed up to suit any taste.
On the road, there are also many healthy and not-so-healthy options.
Avoid fried chicken, either original or extra-crispy; teriyaki wings; popcorn chicken; or a chicken and biscuit bowl. Pass up a side of Caesar salad, fries and extra butter, gravy or sauces. Instead, choose a skinless chicken breast without breading or a honey BBQ chicken sandwich. Then, add a side of salad and a baked potato with very little butter, sour cream or gravy.
As well, many grocery stores now offer hot roasted chicken from the deli all day long. They also carry healthy frozen entrees, as does M&M Meat Shops. Stock up on these for future microwaved meals.
When considering your health in the year 2009, now is a good time to talk turkey. •
-Karen Bowen is a professional health and nutrition consultant and she can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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