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All about “Turkey”

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Health profile

The turkey has a low content of fat and saturated fatty acids and could thus be integrated into a diet preventive of cardiovascular diseases. Its high selenium content could also help protect against cardiovascular disease. In addition, eating turkey is particularly beneficial for individuals with food allergies, since turkey protein is rarely an allergen.

Active ingredients and properties

Cardiovascular diseases . Turkey is considered a meat with a low content of fat and saturated fatty acids, these compounds being associated with the onset of cardiovascular disease 1,2,3 . In particular, saturated fatty acids are linked to physiological disturbances that could cause cardiovascular disease, such as a decrease in blood flow 4 or an increase in different markers of inflammation 5 . Eating turkey promotes an improved lipid profile. In an intervention study, hypercholesterolemic individuals following a low-fat diet including daily 170 g (approximately 6 oz) of white meat, such as turkey, saw their LDL cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol) decrease and their HDL cholesterol (” good »cholesterol) increase 6 . However, the link between the consumption of saturated fat and cardiovascular risk has not yet been fully elucidated and has been the subject of controversy in recent years. Indeed, these would not be as bad as has been said for a long time because the scientific data do not support current recommendations to limit consumption 18-19 .

Turkey has an interesting fatty acid profile for health. It is among the meats that contain the least myristic acid , a saturated fatty acid which is particularly harmful to the health of the heart, which gives it a low atherogenic power . Turkey, particularly its brown portion, contains monounsaturated fatty acids known to decrease platelet aggregation (a risk factor for cardiovascular disease). In an intervention study in humans, the results obtained demonstrated that the daily consumption of 175 g to 330 g (or approximately 6 oz to 11 oz) of white meat did not cause platelet aggregation 8 .

Turkey meat also contains a lot of selenium, which has an interesting nutritional advantage since this mineral protects against oxidative stress , the latter contributing to the development of cardiovascular diseases 9 .

Cancer . Unlike other types of meat, the consumption of white meat such as turkey is linked to a decrease in colorectal cancers 10 , an effect which could be explained by its low content of fat and saturated fatty acids . In addition, white meat consumption would not cause the formation of nitrosamines , carcinogenic compounds that form in the intestine 11 . Other epidemiological data have shown that the consumption of white meat has a protective effect against lung cancer 12. It should be noted that this result was obtained by evaluating the diet of a limited number of subjects and that the dietary questionnaire used to establish links between certain foods and the risk of cancer was managed by the subjects themselves. It should also be noted that the results reported above were obtained by associating the consumption of white meat (and not turkey as such) with the risk of certain cancers.

In 2015, a working group of 22 experts commissioned by the International Agency for Research on Cancer examined the scientific literature concerning the consumption of processed meat, and the risk of cancer. According to current scientific literature, processed meat, that is, processed by salting, maturing, fermentation or smoking has been classified as carcinogenic. Unfortunately, turkey can be part of it if it has been processed, for example in the form of cold cuts. Indeed, each 50 gram serving of processed meat consumed daily increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 18% over 10 years 17 .

Other properties

Is turkey antioxidant? Data not available.
Is turkey acidifying? Strongly . The PRAL index for turkey is 9.9.
Does the turkey have a high glycemic load? There is no glycemic load for meats.

Most important nutrients

See the meaning of the nutrient source classification symbols

Excellent source Phosphorus . Turkey is an excellent source of phosphorus (see our Phosphorus nutrient charts ). Phosphorus is the second most abundant mineral in the body after calcium. This mineral plays an essential role in the formation and maintenance of healthy bones and teeth. In addition, it participates among other things in the growth and regeneration of tissues, helps to maintain normal blood pH and is one of the constituents of cell membranes.

Excellent source Iron . Dark turkey meat is an excellent source of iron for men , but only a source for women . White turkey meat is a good source of iron for men, while it is only a source of iron for women., since their respective needs for this mineral are different. Each body cell contains iron. This mineral is essential for the transport of oxygen and the formation of red blood cells in the blood. It also plays a role in the production of new cells, hormones and neurotransmitters (messengers in nerve impulses). It should be noted that the iron present in meats (heme iron) is better absorbed in the body than the iron contained in plant foods.

Excellent source Zinc . Dark turkey meat is an excellent source of zinc. White meat is an excellent source of zinc for women and a good source for men , their respective needs being different. Zinc is involved in particular in immune reactions, in the production of genetic material, in the perception of taste, in the healing of wounds and in the development of the fetus. It also interacts with sex and thyroid hormones. In the pancreas, it participates in the synthesis (production), the storage and the release of insulin.

Excellent source Selenium . Turkey is an excellent source of selenium. This mineral works with one of the main antioxidant enzymes , thus preventing the formation of free radicals in the body. It also helps to convert thyroid hormones to their active form.

Excellent source Vitamin B3 . The white meat turkey is an excellent source of vitamin B3, while the dark meat is a good source . Also called niacin, this vitamin participates in many metabolic reactions and contributes particularly to the production of energy from the carbohydrates, lipids, proteins and alcohol that we ingest. It also takes part in the DNA formation process , allowing normal growth and development.

Excellent source Pantothenic acid . Dark turkey meat is an excellent source of pantothenic acid, while white meat is only a source. Also called vitamin B5, pantothenic acid is part of a key coenzyme that allows us to adequately use the energy present in the food we eat. It is also involved in several stages of the production of steroid hormones, neurotransmitters and hemoglobin.

Excellent source Vitamin B6 . Turkey is an excellent source of vitamin B6. This vitamin, also called pyridoxine, is part of coenzymes that participate in the metabolism of proteins and fatty acids as well as in the synthesis (manufacture) of neurotransmitters (messengers in nerve impulses). It also contributes to the production of red blood cells and allows them to transport more oxygen. Pyridoxine is also necessary for the transformation of glycogen into glucose and it contributes to the proper functioning of the immune system. This vitamin also takes part in the formation of certain components of nerve cells and in the modulation of hormone receptors.

Good source Copper . Dark turkey meat is a good source of copper, while white meat is a source . As a constituent of several enzymes, copper is necessary for the formation of hemoglobin and collagen (protein used for the structure and repair of tissues) in the body. Several copper-containing enzymes also help the body’s defense against free radicals .

Good source Vitamin B2 . Dark turkey meat is a good source of vitamin B2, also known as riboflavin. White meat is a source . Like vitamin B1, vitamin B2 plays a role in the energy metabolism of all cells. In addition, it contributes to tissue growth and repair, hormone production and the formation of red blood cells.

Good source Vitamin B12 . Turkey is a good source of vitamin B12. This vitamin works together with folic acid (vitamin B9) to make red blood cells in the blood. It also participates in the maintenance of nerve cells and cells that make bone tissue.

What is a “portion” of turkey worth?
Volume / Weight Grilling turkey, white part, roasted / 100 g (about 3 oz) Grilling turkey, brown part, roasted / 100 g (about 3 oz)
Calories 140 162
Protein 30.2 g 28.8 g
Carbohydrates 0 g 0 g
Fat 1.2g 4.3 g
– saturated 0.4 g 1.5g
– monounsaturated 0.2g 1.0 g
– polyunsaturated 0.3 g 1.3 g
Cholesterol 86 mg 112 mg
Dietary fiber 0 g 0 g

Source: Health Canada. Canadian Nutrient File , 2005.

Food allergy

Few cases of allergies to turkey protein have been reported in the scientific literature 13 . Turkey not listed as an allergenic food, so this is one of raw meat that can consume young children when introducing solid foods in their diet 14 .

Is grain turkey better?

Feeding turkeys can affect the fatty acid profile of meat. Some producers use grain mixtures containing flax, among other things, which increases the amount of alpha-linolenic acid (an omega-3 fatty acid of vegetable origin) in the fat of poultry 15 , 16 . This type of diet gives interesting nutritional benefits to turkey meat, since omega-3 is attributed to several health benefits.

Turkey over time

The term ”  turkey  “, which appeared in the French language in 1600, is an abbreviation of ”  Indian rooster  “, by allusion to the fact that this poultry comes from America, which then bore the name of “West India “

It is believed that the turkey has lived on the planet for almost 10 million years. Native to southern North America, it was domesticated by the Native Americans , probably in the first centuries of our era. It was long believed that they were not breeding for its feathers, which were used in the manufacture of their clothes, but the study of ruins of houses dating back to the XIII th  century concluded that the turkey was probably the most important source of animal flesh at the time.

In western society, it was not until about 1935 that the taste and nutritional value of the turkey were discovered, and that it was bred for its flesh rather than for the beauty of its colorful plumage , as c was the case until then.

Introduced in Spain at the turn of the XVI th  century, it quickly spread to the rest of the world that, in many places it has never enjoyed great popularity. In the XVII th  century, in a kind of historical return, the English settlers brought back to North America turkeys belonging to the breeds they had selected in their countries and which already differed somewhat from native bird.

Today, we know about thirty breeds, but it is especially the white turkey which is raised in an industrial way. The United States is the world’s largest producer, while consumption per person is highest in Israel, followed by the United States, France and Italy. Canada ranks seventh. Quite surprisingly, Asian countries (excluding the Middle East) have never adopted this gallinaceous in their diet.

Culinary uses

Choose well

Whether the label says turkey or turkey , it’s the same poultry. Should we choose a small or a large turkey? Opinions are divided: the small ones (5 kg or less) have a softer flesh, but, according to experts, the big ones are tastier.

Commercially, there are turkeys whose flesh is impregnated, by injection, with broth and, depending on the brand, fatty matter in order to soften it and prevent it from drying out too much during cooking. However, the fatty substances used in this type of preparation are not always of the best quality. Instead, choose a natural turkey , preferably organic , and cook it carefully to limit the problem of dryness.


  • To avoid the risk of bacterial growth, defrosting turkeys should be done in the refrigerator rather than at room temperature, counting 10 hours per kg. It can also be soaked in a basin of cold water by changing the water every half hour; in this case, it takes about an hour per kg.
  • Cooked turkey that has been frozen should be brought to an internal temperature of 73 ºC (165 ºF) when served hot again.
  • For stuffed turkey, health authorities recommend cooking the stuffing separately to avoid the risk of cross-contamination.
  • Health officials also recommend cooking turkey in an oven that is at least 163 ºC (325 ºF) . Cook until the meat temperature, measured in the thigh joint, is 82 ºC (180 ºF) .
  • All in all, including service, the cooked turkey should not stay at room temperature for more than two hours. Refrigerate leftovers immediately .
  • Beware of processed foods sold under the name “sliced ​​turkey” or “slices of turkey” in deli counters, because they are very salty and contain several food additives.

Culinary dishes

Whole roasted turkey

Brine the turkey before roasting, it will be softer and will gain flavor. It takes about 6 hours and the equivalent of half a kilo of salt for 4 liters of water. Or marinate it in a mixture of oil and vinegar, seasoned with herbs. You can also inject the marinade into the flesh using an appropriate utensil. Two-thirds will go to the chest, the last third to the thighs.

In North America, the whole roasted stuffed turkey is the traditional Christmas dishes, but also Thanksgiving ( Thanksgiving ), celebrated in mid-October in Canada and in late November in the US. The stuffing is often composed of bread crumbs, chopped organ meats and spices, including sage. Served with autumn vegetables, the poultry is brought whole to the table and cut on the spot.

To limit problems of dryness , put a little water in the drip pan, baste two or three times during the last hour of cooking and never cook longer than necessary. Contrary to what is often recommended, do not water the bird during its cooking, because the fact of frequently opening the oven has the effect of causing a heat loss, which increases the cooking time.

Fifteen minutes before the end of cooking, glaze with a spicy mixture such as:
– honey-mustard;
– lemon-garlic juice;
– orange juice-maple syrup;
– peach-bourbon juice;
– gadelle orange-jelly marmalade.

In Louisiana, we settle outside to cook the whole turkey in the deep frying .

In Languedoc, we cook the bird with chestnuts .

You can cut the bird in half and grill the two halves on the barbecue by brushing them with a spicy sauce.

Turkey pieces

You can easily find turkey pieces – breasts, drumsticks or wings – fresh or frozen. They can be cooked in the oven or on the barbecue by preparing them like the whole turkey, taking into account the reduced cooking time.

Cut the flesh into cubes and mount on skewers , with onions, peppers and mushrooms.

Cut the flesh into strips and sauté in olive oil with onions. Add other vegetables, if desired, and mix with cooked rice or spaghetti. Season with lemon or lime juice, and a fresh herb – coriander or flat parsley.

In Mexico, the mole poblano is prepared with boiled turkey, then broken into pieces that are sautéed in oil. We then cook for half an hour in a sauce made up of tomatoes, tomatillos, peppers, sesame and pumpkin seeds, almonds and peanuts, garlic, onion and bitter chocolate.

The liver will make an excellent terrine and, if you have the heart, the gizzard and the kidneys, you can also cook them.

And the remains …

The bones and skin of the turkey allow you to make a particularly tasty broth , and it would be a shame to deprive yourself of it. Obviously, we degrease before consumption and we freeze the surpluses in small containers for later use in soups and sauces. As the chemicals linked to breeding are concentrated in particular in the fatty substances of animals – turkeys or others -, we could prefer organic poultry.

Use the leftover flesh cut into bite-size pieces in a salad  :

  • young spinach, sliced ​​celery strips and clementine sections are added to it;
  • or small pasta, such as fusilli, as well as green and red bell pepper in strips;
  • the turkey salad goes well with a creamy sauce, half mayonnaise, half yogurt, with seasonings and, if desired, small pieces of sweet pickle.

Make a few gravy dishes , comforting for winter evenings, which you can easily freeze, then serve with a green vegetable and rice.

Prepare them in fajitas by cutting them into cubes and warming them in a little oil, with onion, red pepper, pieces of mango or avocado, salsa, peppers, cumin, oregano, coriander seeds and cinnamon. Stuff this preparation with wheat or corn tortillas.


In the refrigerator
– cool: a few days, in its original packaging, in the lower part of the refrigerator;
– cooked: three or four days.

In the freezer
– fresh: one year;
– cooked: three or four months.

Ecology and environment

Selected to give a lot of flesh and a large breast, the farmed white turkey is no longer the shadow of what the animal was in the wild. Unable to run or fly, he sometimes finds it difficult to stand on his feet and crash on his stomach at the slightest imbalance. Also because of this overdeveloped chest, the male of this breed is unable to mate with the female to fertilize her, so that artificial insemination is systematically used for its reproduction.

In contrast, the wild turkey – whose flesh is richer in nutrients than that of the commercial turkey – can fly short distances at a speed of 85 km per hour. Almost disappeared from the surface of the globe in the years 1930 due to the degradation of its habitat and hunting, it was reintroduced almost everywhere in America, to the point that its population is today twice as high as it was at the time of the discovery of America by Europeans. However, its reintroduction has not always been done taking into account the various subspecies existing within the species, so that there is a risk of erosion of genetic diversity. Researchers therefore endeavor to find this diversity, because in addition to providing a guarantee against epidemics of all kinds, it is also a precious genetic source for breeders who would like to improve the completely degenerate farmed turkey.

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