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Food of the month - Turkey

December 2015

It is December, so our food of the month simply has to be turkey!

Here on Laterlife, we did look at this fabulous bird a few years ago but something we didn’t mention was the different breeds of turkey.

Everyone knows a turkey is a big bird, but what is fascinating is that despite all the variations available today, the bird originated from just one species, the meleagris gallopavo or wild turkey which was native to the forests of North America.

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With evolution and careful breeding, the turkeys we eat today at Christmas have changed quite a lot.

One of the oldest turkey breeds we still buy is the Norfolk black. This is a slow growing bird but has a definite turkey flavour with a slightly gamey taste. It is meant to be one of the best birds for cold leafovers because of this rich natural flavour.

A more common bird is the bronze turkey. This was bred from the Norfolk Black to give a slightly more mellow flavour but also something that is truly delicious. The bronze is a top favourite and with its broad breast it offers large quantities of succulent white breast meat. They are allowed to age naturally and this helps them develop a small layer of fat which soaks through the meat during cooking to add to the moisture and flavour of the meat.

Also popular are the broad breasted white birds, a domestic turkey developed with shorter breast bones and larger breasts in order to offer the maximum quantities of white meat. These birds are usually on the big size and are very popular with commercial turkey producers.

Whatever turkey you chose, turkey is a very health meat to eat. It is a very rich source of protein and without its skin, is very low in fat. White meat is generally lower in calories and has less fat than the darker meat, and a typical turkey consists of a high proportion of white meat, often around 70 per cent.

Turkey is also an excellent source of B vitamins, zinc and potassium, essential for cardiovascular health, nerve function, disease prevention and immune system function. Turkey also contains iron, phosphorus and niacin which is essential for the body’s energy production. There are also traces of magnesium and copper in turkey.

Being a low GI food, turkey is useful in keeping insulin levels stable and regular turkey consumption is said to help lower cholesterol levels.

Interestingly, turkey contains the amino acid tryptophan. This produces serotonin which plays an important role in keeping our immune system up to scratch, and it is also a source of selenium, which is essential for thyroid hormone metabolism.

Turkey also contains tryptophan. This has a calming effect and can even help people who have trouble sleeping as well as helping to ease anxiety, panic attacks and other nervous problems.

However, there is a downside.  Turkey can be very high in sodium and turkey skin is very high in fat. Too much tryptophan can make you sleepy.
But prepared properly, turkey can be a really excellent addition to any diet - and of course, for that special Christmas celebration; for many Christmas simply wouldn’t be Christmas without the turkey!

 


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