By Lisa Metzgar, PhD, Nutrition Tidbits –
Christmas turkey was made popular by King Edward VII with over 45 million pounds a year in the US consumed for the festive meal. Ben Franklin was so impressed with the bird that he proposed it be our national bird.
Turkey has one of the highest protein contents of any meat measuring in at 26 grams per 3 oz. serving,beating out beef and it’s cousin the chicken. The breast is very low in fat and an excellent source of lean protein to include in a healthy diet. It contains a good source of iron, zinc, phosphorus, potassium, and Vitamin B.
Protein is important in stimulating production of neurotransmitters in the brain. Neurotransmitters affect our mental outlook and make us productive and alert. It helps to enhance our moods especially in the winter months when the days are shorter.
There is a rumor that turkey is responsible for making us sleepy after the big holiday meal. It is true that tryptophan, an amino acid found in turkey, does enhance sleep but it has to be taken separate of other protein and in amounts greater than found in turkey. Tryptophan is metabolized into serotonin and melatonin in the body which help induce sleep. It is most likely the carbohydrate load of the meal that is responsible for the lethargic feeling. That and just the fact that we eat so much and all our energy has to go to digest the huge meal. Carbohydrates increase insulin levels. When this happens the amino acids that compete with tryptophan leave the blood and enter the muscle tissue. This increases the concentration of tryptophan in the blood which increases serotonin levels.
To combat overeating high carbohydrate loads, try eating your turkey and vegetables first leaving less room for the high sugar foods. Then eat the high sugar foods in moderation.
Turkey is great anytime of year. I cook up a turkey breast and my family will get several meals out of it. It is great on sandwiches, in soups, even scrambled in eggs. It is economical and easy to prepare. If you are trying to eat healthy,you can’t get a better source of protein.
Have a Happy Holiday!
LisaMetzgar, PhD,she received her BA in Biology from UCSD, is a certified Holistic Health Practitioner, and received her Ph.D. in Holistic Nutrition.
Lisa has taught body mind retreats in San Diego, Seattle, and Australia and currently has a practice in Reno, NV where she does nutrition counseling.Lisa's passion is to educate families about a healthy lifestyle.
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