How Healthy Is Turkey?

The nutritional breakdown of your Thanksgiving turkey


As the tradition goes, we will most likely be serving a big turkey as the main course at our Thanksgiving dinner this year. But just how healthy is that bird on the carving platter? Depending on what parts of a turkey you're eating, the answer varies.

The fat and calorie content of your turkey meal will vary depending on a couple of factors. Are you eating the skin or leaving it off? Have you chosen white meat or dark meat? If you compare 4 ounces of skinless dark meat to 4 ounces of skinless white meat, the dark meat does have more calories per serving, but only by about 25 calories.

However, they vary greatly in terms of saturated fat. The same portion of skinless white meat contains only 0.4 grams of saturated fat, compared to 1.6 grams of saturated fat in the skinless dark meat. And there's still a difference when you compare 4 ounces of skin-on white meat, with 1.4 grams of saturated fat, to 4 ounces of skin-on dark meat, which contains 2.4 grams of saturated fat.

Cholesterol-wise, if you take the same 4 ounces of skinless white and dark meat turkey, there is a significant increase in grams of cholesterol in the dark meat: 127 grams in dark meat versus 97 grams in white meat. When it comes to protein, however, the white and dark parts of the turkey are pretty much equal, each with 4 ounces of either kind containing around 33 grams of protein, making it a great source for lean protein. For a full overlook, FitSugar has put together a comparative chart on the breakdown of a turkey into calories, fat, cholesterol, and protein. 

Turkey also contains iron, with higher amounts found in the dark meat. Tryptophan, the amino acid blamed for causing that turkey-induced coma, turns out to be beneficial to your mood, as it is a precursor to the neurotransmitter serotonin.


This Thanksgiving, use this article as a resource to give a little extra thought to which parts of the turkey you’ll indulge in.