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Cholesterol: Talking Turkey

Worried about cholesterol in your turkey dinner? The upside is that the cholesterol in turkey is lower in cholesterol than most meats. It’s also good news that the cholesterol in turkey will may only affect about a quarter of people with elevated cholesterol.

The downside is the volume of saturated fat in turkey. Our bodies convert saturated fat into blood cholesterol, pushing the bad cholesterol levels higher. The good news, the saturated fat in turkey is also on lower than most meats.

Cholesterol is a fat-like substance that your liver manufactures to provide the body's cells with the needed fluidity and flexibility to properly function. Cholesterol found in every living cell. We cannot live without it. It provides the building blocks from which the body makes its own supply of hormones. It is also found in animal products, such as meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, dairy products, lard and butter. A diet high in cholesterol is one factor that may raise blood cholesterol levels. It is important to have and maintain the correct cholesterol ratio within the body for optimal health. Total dietary fat and saturated fat may play a bigger role in raising blood cholesterol than does dietary cholesterol alone. This is why you need to monitor your intake of all three: cholesterol, total fat and saturated fat.

Turkey and chicken are popular for those on low-fat diets. Studies have shown that cooking poultry with the skin on seals in the natural juices and the fat from the skin does not seep into the meat. You can avoid dried-out skinless bird, but be sure to remove the skin before eating.

Skinless turkey is naturally low in fat, with only a single gram of fat for every ounce of meat. A 5-ounce serving gives you almost half of the recommended daily allowance of folic acid, and is also good source of vitamins B, B1, B6, zinc and potassium. These nutrients keep your cholesterol levels low, protect against birth defects and heart disease, aid your nervous system, boost your immune system, regulate blood pressure, and assist in healing processes.

Good health depends on a healthy diet. You can still enjoy your meal or eat delicious foods. It just means that you should make better choices and enjoy fun foods in moderation.

A typical turkey dinner may push you well over your daily fat and cholesterol limits in just the one meal, depending on portion size and the sides you add to your plate.

Consider the values for these dinner staples:

Food item
(3-ounce portions, unless specified)
Calories Cholesterol (milligrams) Total fat (grams) Saturated fat (grams)
Turkey, light meat, roasted
119
73
1
0.3
Turkey, light meat with skin, roasted
139
81
3.9
1
Turkey, dark meat, roasted
137
95
3.6
1.2
Turkey, dark meat with skin, roasted
155
99
6
1.8
Deep-fried turkey, light meat
190
64
10.5
3.5
Ground turkey
200
87
11.2
2.9
Turkey gravy, 2 tablespoons
63
1
0.5
trace
Mashed potatoes (made with whole milk and butter), 1/2 cup
119
12
4.4
2
Bread stuffing, 1/2 cup
117
0
8.6
1.7
Cranberry sauce, 2 tablespoons
50
trace
trace
trace
Homemade pumpkin pie, 1/8 of a 9-inch pie
316
65
14
4.9

Sources: U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Nutrient Database 2006, Release 19; Deep-fried turkey courtesy of the National Turkey Federation, 2006

Remember, these values are for specific portions. A three ounce serving of turkey is about the size of a deck of playing cards. If you eat twice that amount, you will also need to double your totals for fat and cholesterol.

Some healthy alternate choices:

  • Use a dry herb rub when you roast the turkey, instead of butter.
  • Choose skinless white meat over the fattier dark meat.
  • Serve side dishes that use fruits, vegetables and whole grains, such as an apple salad with figs and walnuts, or garden peas with fresh mint.
  • Instead of a second heaping of mashed potatoes and gravy, enjoy some more cranberry sauce or fruit salad.

Changing from an unhealthy diet to a healthy diet can reduce cholesterol levels. However, dietary changes alone rarely lower a cholesterol level enough to change a person's risk of cardiovascular disease from a high-risk category to a lower-risk category. However, any extra reduction in cholesterol due to diet will help.

An excellent cholesterol supplement that does include many of the important ingredients is Cholesterol Complete™ (click here to view). It’s a powerful all-natural formula that targets both types of cholesterol; LDL (low density lipoprotein) and HDL (high density lipoprotein). LDL is the cholesterol you should be most concerned with, it is the “bad” cholesterol that clogs arteries and raises blood pressure. HDL is the “good” cholesterol that helps remove LDL from the body and reduces the risks of heart attack and stroke. This formula can get results (often 40 pts. in 40 days!).


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