The nutrients in turkey depend on the cut. For example, dark meat, which is found in active muscles such as the legs or thighs, tends to have more fat and calories than white meat — whereas white meat contains slightly more protein.
Furthermore, turkey skin is high in fat. This means that cuts with the skin on have more calories and fat than skinless cuts.
Keep in mind that the difference in calories is small. What’s more, fat can help you feel full after meals.
Potential health benefits
Turkey has several potential health benefits.
Healthy source of protein
Turkey is a protein-rich food.
Protein is important for muscle growth and maintenance. It gives structure to cells and helps transport nutrients around your body.
Additionally, a high-protein diet may even support weight loss by promoting feelings of fullness.
Just 2 thick slices (84 grams) of turkey pack 24 grams of protein — an impressive 48% of the Daily Value (DV), the percentage of each nutrient in a serving of the food.
What’s more, turkey may be a healthier alternative to red meat, as some observational studies link red meat to an increased risk of colon cancer and heart disease.
Loaded with B vitamins
Turkey meat is a particularly rich source of B vitamins, including B3 (niacin), B6 (pyridoxine), and B12 (cobalamin).
Two thick slices (84 grams) of turkey pack 61% of the DV for vitamin B3, 49% for vitamin B6, and 29% for vitamin B12.
These B vitamins have many benefits:
- Vitamin B3 (niacin). This vitamin is important for efficient energy production and cell communication.
- Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine). This vitamin supports amino acid formation and helps produce neurotransmitters.
- Vitamin B12. B12 is vital for DNA production and the formation of red blood cells.
Furthermore, turkey is a good source of folate and vitamins B1 (thiamine) and B2 (riboflavin).
Rich source of minerals
Turkey is loaded with selenium, zinc, and phosphorus.
Selenium helps your body produce thyroid hormones, which regulate your metabolism and growth rate.
Zinc is an essential mineral needed for many different bodily processes, such as gene expression, protein synthesis, and enzyme reactions.
Additionally, turkey provides small amounts of magnesium and potassium.
Processed varieties may be high in sodium
Although this meat has many benefits, it’s important to limit processed turkey products, as these items can be loaded with salt.
Processed varieties, such as turkey ham, sausages, and nuggets, may harbor large amounts of salt. Sodium is usually added as either a preservative or flavor enhancer.
Research shows that consuming excess salt may increase your risk of stomach cancer. Conversely, cutting back on your salt intake may reduce high blood pressure.
Some processed turkey products like salami and pastrami hold up to 75% of the DV for sodium per 3.5 ounces (100 grams). The same portion of turkey sausage supplies over 60% of the DV.
In comparison, 3.5 ounces (100 grams) of unprocessed, cooked turkey provides just 31% of the DV for sodium.
Therefore, to minimize your salt intake, choose unprocessed turkey over processed forms.
How to add it to your diet
You can include turkey in your diet in endless ways. It is often roasted in the oven but can also be slow-cooked using a slow-cooker or crock pot until tender.
You can add it to the following dishes:
- Salads. Add it hot or cold to salads as a good protein boost.
- Curries. Turkey can be used instead of chicken in curries.
- Casseroles. This meat works perfectly in casseroles.
- Soups. Not only is turkey meat great in soups, but you can also make your own stock from turkey bones.
- Sandwiches. Combine with your favorite toppings and spreads, such as lettuce, tomato, mustard, or pesto.
- Burgers. Ground turkey can be mixed with stuffing or breadcrumbs to make burger patties.