Body & Fitness

Talking turkey

The health benefits of our traditional festive food

Why you should tuck into turkey this Christmas:

  • It’s a great source of lean protein. You need protein to grow, maintain and repair every cell in your body, plus it helps us to digest food and fight infection. It’s also important to be getting enough in your diet if you are trying to lose weight, as it helps you to feel full for longer.

  • It’s low in fat. An 85g serving will contain around 3g of fat, with less than 1g of that saturated fat. That’s almost half the amount of saturated fat found in the same sized serving of some red meats.

  • It contains two important B vitamins, niacin and B6. our body needs them to produce energy. Niacin helps to turn carbohydrates, proteins and fats into energy we can easily use. It also helps to regulate blood sugar.

  • It’s a source of zinc, potassium and folic acid. Folic acid does a variety of jobs, including helping with reproduction, forming red-blood cells and making sure your nervous system works properly. You need zinc for growth and fighting infections, while potassium keeps your heartbeat regular and your blood pressure on an even keel, as well as being involved in sending messages between your brain and muscles.

  • It’s rich in selenium. This trace mineral is believed to boost the immune system and some studies suggest it may play a part in preventing cancer as well as premature ageing.

  • It’s a good source of tryptophan, an essential amino acid used by our bodies to make serotonin. This chemical, often dubbed “nature’s prozac”, helps regulate moods, sexual desire, appetite, memory and sleep. A shortage of serotonin, or the tryptophan needed to make it, is believed to contribute to depression, anxiety, panic disorders and anger problems.

  • Turkey contains arginine, an amino acid our bodies use to make protein.

Food safety The last thing you want is to end up spending Boxing Day in bed with food poisoning after eating turkey the day before. Raw poultry may carry harmful bacteria that can make you very sick, so it needs to be handled carefully.

Here’s how to store and cook it properly:

  • Defrost your frozen turkey in the fridge. Allow 10-12 hours of defrosting time for each kilogram.

  • Put the turkey on the bottom shelf of the fridge so juices from the raw bird don’t drip onto food below.

  • Cover defrosting bird so it can’t touch other food while it’s thawing.

  • After preparing turkey, wash any utensils and surfaces it has touched.

  • Always make sure poultry is thoroughly defrosted before cooking. Do this by inserting a sharp knife or skewer into the thickest part of a breast to check it’s not still frozen. There shouldn’t be any ice crystals in the cavity if it is properly thawed.

  • Never wash your turkey The water can splash potentially harmful bacteria onto nearby foods, dishes and utensils.

  • Follow the cooking instructions carefully and remember to allow plenty of time to cook it – turkeys can take several hours.

  • Check that the turkey is cooked before serving it. Cut into the thickest part and if the meat is still pink, it’s not cooked. If juices run out, they should be clear.

  • Allow extra time for the stuffing to cook.

  • Don’t leave turkey out all day for people to pick at, especially if the weather is warm.

  • once the meat has cooled, cover it and place in the fridge.

  • Don’t keep leftovers in the fridge for too long. E

  • at within 48 hours or freeze.

7 healthy ideas for Christmas

  1. Instead of a traditional roast dinner, cook your turkey the day before and serve it cold with lots of different salads.

  2. Eat a big healthy breakfast on Christmas morning so you’re not tempted to pick at food all day.

  3. Have fruit salad for dessert not a high-fat, sugary pudding.

  4. Don’t pig out on nibbles. Instead of chips and chocolates, serve chopped vegetables, such as carrots, capsicum and celery, with low-fat dips.

  5. Use smaller plates to keep portions under control.

  6. Go easy on the alcohol – for every glass of booze you have, drink a glass of water.

  7. Try to be active on Christmas day. Go for a walk, put on some music and dance, or buy gifts that will get everyone moving eg a cricket set or frisbee.

More great seasonal food

  • Cranberry sauce

This accompaniment for turkey can be good for you because cranberries are full of antioxidants and are believed to help prevent and treat bladder, kidney and urinary tract infections. Choose a sauce or jelly without a lot of added sugar.

  • Nuts

They contain all sorts of important nutrients. They can help lower cholesterol, reducing your risk of heart disease, and are packed full of nutrients such as B vitamins, copper, iron, potassium and vitamin E. However, nuts are also high in calories, which makes them fattening, so don’t go “nuts” – a handful a day is usually plenty – and avoid salted or roasted varieties.

  • Dried fruit

The drying process concentrates the amount of sugar in dried fruit but it still contains vital nutrients. It’s far better to eat dried fruit than chocolates or lollies.

Related stories