Turkey is a healthy food that need not be reserved strictly for holiday meals.

Turkey is a healthy food that need not be reserved strictly for holiday meals.

Turkeys are seemingly everywhere come November, whether it’s at your favorite grocery store, on television cooking shows and possibly hanging out in the wild of a nearby nature preserve. Turkeys are the main course for many holiday dinners, and turkey leftovers also make for popular meals once holidays have come and gone. Although turkeys earn most of their attention during the holiday season, their health benefits can be enjoyed throughout the year.

Turkey contains roughly 34 calories and 1 gram of fat per ounce (33 grams) of meat. It is low in saturated fat and is a good source of protein. In fact, just one 3 to 4 ounce serving of turkey provides 65 percent of a person’s recommended daily intake of protein. Protein helps fuel the body and can help a person feel full longer.

People who are customizing their diets to protect against cancer may want to include turkey on the menu. Turkey contains selenium, which can promote healthy function of the thyroid and boost the immune system. Selenium also helps to eliminate free radicals in the body through its antioxidant power.

Those who need to increase their B vitamin intake also can turn to turkey. According to Livestrong, a serving of turkey has 36 percent of the daily allowance of vitamin B3, which helps process fats in the body. It also contains 27 percent of the RDA for vitamin B6, which helps maintain steady blood sugar levels, among other things. In addition to these vitamins, turkey also is rich in many minerals, including iron, phosphorous, potassium, and zinc.

While turkey is healthy, the way it is prepared can affect just how beneficial it is to one’s diet. For example, slathering the meat with butter or dousing it in rich gravies may negate some of turkey’s positive attributes.

One of the most popular ways to cook turkey is to roast it. Let fresh herbs and a citrus juice marinade add the desired flavor. Place the turkey on a roasting rack so that any fat will drain to the bottom of the pan. Baste the turkey with fresh marinade to keep it moist. It’s best to cook any stuffing outside of the turkey so there is no potential for contamination by bacteria. Make stuffing healthier by using whole-grain rice, vegetables, dried fruits, and nuts in lieu of a heavy bread base.

Leftover roasted turkey can be ground and used to make tacos and burgers or chopped and turned into turkey salad. The possibilities for leftover turkey are endless, especially for cooks willing to try their hands at something new.