The Health Benefits of Turkey

By on November 26, 2008
turkeyThe domestic turkey is a descendent of the Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo), and is native to the United States, and the Ocellated Turkey (Meleagris ocellata) is native to Mexico.

The turkey has become synonymous with Thanksgiving in the United States and is becoming more popular due its health benefits.

The health benefits of turkey include reduced LDL cholesterol, mood-enhancing properties, helps prevent cancer, boosts testosterone and immune system.

Health Benefits of Turkey

  • Nutrients
    Turkey is a very good source of protein, selenium, niacin, vitamin B6 and the amino acid tryptothan. It’s a good source of zinc and vitamin B12. The skinless white meat is an excellent high-protein, low-fat food.

  • Reduce LDL Cholesterol
    The Cholesterol Education Program recommends adopting diets that are low in cholesterol, saturated fat and trans fatty acids. Light, skinless, roasted turkey has less saturated fat, less total fat, and less cholesterol than chicken, pork or beef.
  • Cancer Prevention
    The amino acid tryptophan is needed for T cells, a type of immune system cell that kills cancer cells. T cells activated in the absence of free tryptophan become susceptible to death via apoptosis.
  • Mood Enhancer
    Neurotransmitters are made from amino acids, and the neurotransmitter serotonin is made from tryptophan. Serotonin helps to improve mood and eating food such as turkey can improve your mood.

    Fifteen women who had suffered recurrent episodes of major depression received two amino acid mixtures in a double-blind crossover design. One of the mixtures was nutritionally balanced and contained tryptophan and the other was identical except it contained no tryptophan. After drinking the tryptophan-free mixture, ten of the 15 women experienced temporary but clinically significant depressive symptoms. No changes in mood were seen after taking the nutritionally balanced mixture containing tryptophan.

  • Immune Booster
    There is a growing body of evidence indicating that the amino acid tryptophan plays a pivotal role in the immune system. In a study on mice it was found that tryptophan metabolites (molecules formed as the body breaks down the amino acid), work as well as any other existing medicines to alleviate symptoms of the autoimmune disease multiple sclerosis.
  • Testosterone Booster
    The protein from organic turkey will help in maintaining optimum testosterone levels in men. The hormones used in industrial turkey might increase estrogen production and lower testosterone levels. Diets low in protein in elderly men may lead to elevated sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) levels and decreased testosterone bioactivity. The decrease in bioavailable testosterone can result in declines in sexual function and muscle and red cell mass, and contribute to the loss of bone density.
  • Insomnia
    The amino acid tryptophan plays a vital role in sleep and is effective in promoting sleep in cases of chronic insomnia.
1. Turkey contains purines and individuals with gout should limit intake of turkey.
2. Turkey contains small amounts of oxalates, and individuals with oxalate-containing kidney stones should limit their consumption of turkey.
3. Organically grown turkeys are free from hormones and antibiotics.
4. Almost all the fat in turkey is found in the skin, and the dark meat is higher in fat than the light meat.

References:
1. The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods by Michael Murray, Joseph Pizzorno, and Lara Pizzorno.
2. Benders’ Dictionary of Nutrition and Food Technology.
3. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference.
4. Bell C, Abrams J, Nutt D. Tryptophan depletion and its implications for psychiatry. Br J Psychiatry. 2001 May;178:399-405. PMID: 11331552.
5. Demisch K, Bauer J, Georgi K, Demisch L. Treatment of severe chronic insomnia with L-tryptophan: results of a double-blind cross-over study. Pharmacopsychiatry. 1987 Nov;20(6):242-4. PMID: 3432357.
6. Lee GK, Park HJ, Macleod M, Chandler P, Munn DH, Mellor AL. Tryptophan deprivation sensitizes activated T cells to apoptosis prior to cell division. Immunology. 2002 Dec;107(4):452-60. PMID: 12460190.
7. Steinman. TRYPTOPHAN IN TURKEY – BOOSTING IMMUNE SYSTEM. Stanford University Medical Center. 11/3/05 News Release.
8. Longcope C, Feldman HA, McKinlay JB, Araujo AB. Diet and sex hormone-binding globulin. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2000 Jan;85(1):293-6. PMID: 10634401.

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