Turkey - what's so good about it?

When you hear about healthy eating, you’re often told what you should cut down on: eat less salt, less saturated fat, less sugar, and so on.

How about we turn it around and look at all the good nutrients that you should have more of? Wouldn’t it be nice to think about food being good for you, as something to be enjoyed and savoured?

Staying in optimum health is all about balance – eating a range of varied foods and incorporating regular physical activity into your lifestyle. Choosing a healthy diet can help you keep an eye on your weight and can provide a wide range of vitamins and minerals that keep your body working at its best. Turkey is one of those tasty meats that are positively good for you as it has essential nutrients that are good for the whole family.


Lots of good stuff

1. Protein
Whether you’re a child going through a growth spurt or a woman over 50, you need enough protein to nourish every cell of your body. Protein helps build muscles and bones, so is essential for childhood development. But you may not be aware that it’s also needed to stop muscle wasting, so is crucial as you get older too.

When you look at a portion of turkey on your plate, you can be assured that around a third of it is protein, so it’s a rich source. And here’s an added benefit: many protein-rich meats can also be high in unhealthy saturated fat, but amazingly turkey breast has less than 1% saturated fat.

2. B vitamins
You need B vitamins to unlock the energy from food and you can get them from foods like fortified breakfast cereals, whole grain breads and meat. It’s best to get your vitamins and minerals from a varied and balanced diet rather than from supplements, and a 100g/4oz serving of grilled turkey breast is a source of vitamin B6, which helps keep your red blood cells healthy and reduce tiredness and fatigue.

3. Selenium
This is an essential mineral that, according to the National Diet and Nutrition Survey (published in 2010), we may not be getting enough of in the UK. Selenium helps keep your hair and nails healthy, is needed to keep your immunity topped up, and is also vital as a protection against damage to your cells and tissues. You get around 20% of your selenium needs from a 100g/4oz portion of turkey, so simply top this up with brazil nuts, eggs, other lean meats and fish.

4. Phosphorus
This mineral is needed for normal growth and development of bones and it is found in everyday foods such as meat and poultry, dairy foods, rice and grains. Phosphorus also helps to release the energy from food. One 100g/4oz serving of turkey is a rich source of phosphorus, giving you a third of your daily needs.


Less of the not-so-good stuff

1. Low in saturated fat
Certain types of fat that you eat will have an effect on your blood cholesterol. There is good cholesterol (HDL) and bad cholesterol (LDL). The key is to choose those fats that help to lower your LDL levels.

Saturated fat raises your bad LDL cholesterol levels so it’s best to eat less of foods containing high amounts/doses of these. Saturated fats are usually found in fatty meat, full fat dairy products, butter and lard. The good news is that turkey breast meat is exceptionally low in saturated fat. Check out the Meat Chart below to see how it compares with other meats.

2. Low in calories
Turkey wins again! You get around 150 calories in a 100g/4oz portion of cooked turkey breast. That’s lower than almost every other meat. If you’re watching your weight, try grilling turkey kebabs, stewing turkey chunks in their own juices, or pan-frying turkey escalopes in a drizzle of oil.

The Meat Nutrition Chart

Meat

Fat
(g per 100g)

Saturated Fat
(g per 100g)

Protein
(g per 100g)

Calories
(per 100g)

Turkey

 

 

 

 

Dark meat, raw

2.5

0.8

20.4

104

Light meat, raw

0.8

0.3

24.4

105

Meat average, raw

1.6

0.5

22.6

105

Breast fillet, grilled, meat only

1.7

0.6

35.0

155

Roast, dark meat

6.6

2.0

29.4

177

Roast, light meat (breast)

2.0

0.7

33.7

153

Roast, meat average

4.6

1.4

31.2

166

Chicken

 

 

 

 

Dark meat, raw

2.8

0.8

20.9

109

Light meat, raw

1.1

0.3

24.0

106

Meat average, raw

2.1

0.6

22.3

108

Breast fillet, grilled, meat only, average

2.2

0.6

32.0

148

Roast chicken meat, average

7.5

2.9

27.3

177

Pork

 

 

 

 

Lean, average, raw

4.0

1.4

21.8

123

Grilled lean chops

6.4

2.2

31.6

184

Grilled, lean and fat chops

15.7

5.6

29.0

257

Meat

Fat
(g per 100g)

Saturated Fat
(g per 100g)

Protein
(g per 100g)

Calories
(per 100g)

Roasted leg, average

10.2

3.6

30.9

215

Lamb

 

 

 

 

Leg, raw

12.3

5.4

19

187

Chops, grilled, lean

10.7

4.9

29.2

213

Shoulder, raw

18.3

8.5

17.6

235

Roast lamb, meat, average

14.2

5.7

28.1

240

Beef

 

 

 

 

Lean, raw

4.3

1.7

22.5

129

Braising steak, lean, cooked

9.7

 

34.4

225

Braising steak, lean and fat, cooked

12.7

5.3

32.9

246

Rump steak, grilled lean

5.9

2.5

31.0

177

Roast topside beef, average

12.5

5.2

32.8

244

Source for the meat nutrition chart – Food Standards Agency McCance and Widdowson’s The Composition of Foods Sixth Summary Edition (2002).