Most people enjoy eating turkey during the festive period, but did you know that this humble bird is actually incredibly nutritious and a great meat to eat at any time of the year? It is a lean meat that is rich in protein and offers numerous health benefits thanks to the presence of selenium and vitamin B6.

A Broad Source of Vitamins and Minerals 

Skinned turkey breast is a good source of protein, containing approximately 34g of protein per 4 ounces. As well as being rich in protein, the meat contains the important B vitamins, as well as zinc, copper, magnesium, iron, phosphorus and selenium. In addition, the meat is not particularly calorie-dense and is fairly low in fat. The fats that are contained in turkey are “healthy” fats and eating this meat helps to lower your omega-6 levels.

Cancer-Preventing Properties 

Compared to chicken, there has been very little research done on the health benefits of turkey. However, preliminary research suggests that it could have some interesting health benefits. For example, eating the meat without the skin attached could help to reduce your risk of pancreatic cancer.

In addition, the meat has been found to help improve blood-sugar regulation, which is important for those at risk of diabetes. This research is still in its infancy, but since a high-protein diet is generally accepted to improve insulin regulation, it is likely that future research will confirm these early studies.

It is important to note that these studies focus on skinless, whole meats. Processed and preserved meats do not offer the same health benefits. Meats are preserved by adding nitrites and nitrates to them. The World Cancer Research Foundation published a report last month stating that after examining the results of more than 7,000 clinical studies, they believe that processed meats are not fit for human consumption and that the preservatives and flavour enhancers (such as monosodium glutamate) added to these meats significantly increase your risk of developing cancer. If you want to enjoy the health benefits of meat you could follow the Paleo diet and stay away from anything that contains chemical preservatives.

Eat Organic for Maximum Benefits 

One of the most important principles of the Paleo diet is that you should avoid highly processed or intensively farmed foods. If your ancestors did not have access to a food, you should not eat it. If a food was only available to them at certain times of the year, you should follow their example and eat similarly limited quantities.

Turkey is a good example of a Paleo food. However, modern farming methods bear almost no resemblance to the lifestyle of a wild turkey. If you’re following the Paleo diet, always try to eat birds raised on organic feed in an open pasture. Remember that food labelling can be deceptive, so try to buy from local farms or butchers. Birds that were fed a pasture-based diet tend to produce meat with more omega-3s and less omega 6. Their meat is a high-protein source of important nutrients.