Native to North America, wild turkey was a staple in the Native American diet. It was introduced to the early Pilgrim settlers in 1620 when, following an unlucky crop year in the new climate, they began cultivating native eating traditions. They began eating foods like corn, squash and turkey. The first Thanksgiving was celebrated in 1621 at the behest of Governor William Bradford. Native Americans were invited guests of honor and turkey was served.
Thanksgiving became an official holiday in the United States on October 3, 1863; and in Canada on January 31, 1957. The traditional Thanksgiving meal has always been roast turkey, potatoes, stuffing, and cranberry.
Turkey is a healthy, satisfying meal for any time of year. Like chicken, it can be used in soups, salad, sandwiches, casseroles, and pasta dishes to add protein, flavor and nutrients.
Turkey and bean salad: ingredients include spinach, black beans, olives, turkey, avocado, lemon juice, jalapeno pepper, sour cream, tortilla chips, cheddar cheese and Parmesan cheese.
Turkey soup: ingredients include chicken broth, turkey meat, carrots, onions, herbs and celery.
Turkey tetrazzini (casserole): ingredients include linguine pasta, turkey, cheese, chicken broth, mushrooms, cream of mushroom soup, onions, peppers, green peas, Sherry, garlic and herbs.
Turkey spaghetti pie: ingredients include spaghetti, turkey, cream, Parmesan cheese, onion, green pepper sour cream, egg and mozzarella.
Turkey burritos: ingredients include ground turkey meat, hot tomato sauce, corn, onion, re-fried beans, sour cream and cheese tortillas.
Turkey meatloaf: ingredients include turkey sausages, ground turkey, onion, rolled oats, milk, Worcestershire sauce, spaghetti sauce and eggs.
Packed with vitamins and minerals
Along with chicken, turkey is a lean and healthy source of meat protein. Healthier than red meat, poultry contains important vitamins and minerals that are essential to good health. Turkey is part of a group of high protein foods (including tuna and egg whites) that can help keep post-meal insulin levels within a desirable range.
- B-vitamins – B-vitamins found in turkey include vitamins B2, B3, B5, B6, and B12. Each of the B-vitamins perform different tasks within the body.
- Riboflavin (B2) plays an important role in the body’s metabolism of carbohydrates, protein, and fats, while serving an anti-aging function. Also, it assists cellular growth and sexual reproduction. Like Vitamin A, riboflavin also functions to keep the eyes healthy.
- Niacin (B3) is a water-soluble micronutrient which decreases the risk of cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. It provides healthy skin and normalizes the blood circulation process.
- Pantothenic Acid (B5) helps maintain proper metabolism and decreases stress levels. It also contributes to the health of skin and hair.
- Pyridoxine (B6) helps other enzymes in the body regulate specific functions. It builds stamina, helps in carbohydrate energy production and aids in producing serotonin, which assists proper brain function.
- Cobalamin (B12) helps in energizing the body and increases its metabolic rate. It also helps in utilizing minerals such as iron in the body.
- Iron helps red blood cell production, carries oxygen to blood cells, and prevents anemia, chronic diseases, and pregnancy problems. Also, it helps in converting protein to energy for the body.
- Selenium is important for the liver, kidneys, and pancreas. Also, as an antioxidant, it prevents the cellular damage caused by free radicals. Selenium greatly helps in decreasing the risks of heart disease and cancer. This mineral also boosts the immune system.
- Zinc is important for the body’s red and white blood cells, essential to the immune system and in sexual reproduction. It also assists in healing wounds, supporting healthy skin and curing acne.
- Potassium is essential for normalizing blood pressure and blood sugar levels. It also helps reduce the risk of getting diseases and assists the proper function of the nervous system.
- Phosphorus –strengthens the bones and teeth and helps proper body growth. This mineral has many important functions when it comes to digestion, protein formation, energy conversion and utilization of other nutrients.
Mind your turkey portions
Animal proteins are significant sources of dietary cholesterol and saturated fat. These two compounds have been associated with development of various chronic diseases, including heart disease and some forms of cancer. Even lean meat like turkey should be eaten as part of a balanced meal that also contains vegetables, grains and legumes. Portion sizes of any meat, including turkey, should not be more than 3 to 4 ounces.
Turkey contains naturally occurring substances called purines, which are commonly found in plants, animals, and humans. In some individuals who are susceptible to purine-related problems, excessive intake of these substances can cause health problems. Since purines can be broken down to form uric acid, excess accumulation of purines in the body can lead to excess accumulation of uric acid. The health condition called “gout” and the formation of kidney stones are two examples of uric acid-related problems that can be related to excessive intake of purine-containing foods. For this reason, individuals with kidney problems or gout may want to limit or avoid intake of purine-containing foods such as turkey.
Healthy turkey tips
The turkey should be fresh: Turkey can cause salmonella disease if not cleaned and stored properly.
Avoid the skin: Almost all of the fat in turkey is found in the skin, and dark meat is higher in fat than the light meat.
Roast don’t fry: As always, battering and frying in oil significantly increases the fat content in any food.
Turkey is versatile, high in protein and low in fat. Roast turkey is not only festive at holiday time, but appropriate any time of year. Leftovers can easily be incorporated into other turkey-based recipes. Turkey is also a healthy substitute for red meat. Burritos, pasta and hamburger patties can be made with turkey for a lower fat, healthier meal.