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Let's Talk Turkey

Thanksgiving is coming up this Thursday, way too fast in my opinion. Where did this year go? And we are all set to get together with our families this year, which is a welcome change.

However, I want to talk about what is on the menu. Namely, the Big Bird. If you eat the traditional Thanksgiving meal, turkey is going to be the centerpiece.

Nutritionally speaking, does this mean for us?

Turkey is protein-rich and an excellent source of many vitamins and minerals, especially B vitamins. Protein is necessary for muscle growth, cell regeneration and nutrient delivery throughout our body.

Turkey can help us lose weight and is a healthier alternative to red meat. Two thick slices of turkey represent 48% Daily Value (DV) or 24 grams of protein. To see how much protein you need daily, use this calculator.

And, those same slices attribute to 61%DV for vitamin B3, 49% for B6, and 29% for B12.

B3 is vital for efficient energy production and cell communication, while B6 supports amino acid formation and helps produce neurotransmitters. We need B12 to create red blood cells and for DNA production.

Finally, turkey is not only a great source of high-quality protein and B vitamins, but also selenium, zinc and phosphorus.

Not bad, huh?

And it gets better. Turkey contains tryptophan. And we all know what that does, right? Yep, tryptophan makes us feel drowsy after we eat it. But does it? It may be more likely it is a combination of turkey, fat-rich side dishes, and maybe a cocktail or two that we may imbibe on the fourth Thursday in November. Maybe.

What is more valuable than that afternoon nap is that the tryptophan is an essential amino acid, meaning the body can’t produce it so we must get it from a food source.

Tryptophan, being an essential amino acid, is further broken down in our gut into metabolites which produce melatonin, serotonin and dopamine, all essential for our well-being.

Studies have shown that tryptophan is beneficial to our mood, learning and memory, visual cognition, helps control aggression, and help reduce depression.

Further, kynurenine, is also produced from tryptophan catabolism in the immune system, the brain and liver. When this metabolite’s pathway is dysfunctional, mental health disorders such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression and anxiety can be exacerbated. It has also been linked to Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, and chronic fatigue syndrome.

So you can see that eating some turkey on Thanksgiving starts the chain reaction of a wide variety of metabolic functions in your body.

The good news is that even if you don’t like turkey, you can still get this essential amino acid from other sources of protein, including oats, dried dates, milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, red meat, eggs, fish, quinoa, russet potatoes, poultry, sesame, chickpeas, almonds, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, banana, buckwheat, spirulina, peanuts – even chocolate.

There is something for everyone at this year’s feast!

Happy Thanksgiving!


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