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  • Writer's pictureLaurenWallace

How to Cook Turkey Breast (Plus Benefits, Nutrition & Side Effects)

By Rachael Link, MS, RD

November 15, 2021

Original article and page source found here.

As Thanksgiving rolls around, most of us eagerly await the holiday staples, like pumpkin pie, mashed potatoes and green bean casserole. However, the real star of the show is, of course, the turkey — Thanksgiving just wouldn’t be complete without a big hunk of turkey breast sitting on your plate.

Still, many people wonder: Is turkey bad for you? And is turkey low in cholesterol, or is it loaded with extra fat and calories?

The truth is that turkey is not only delicious, but it’s actually low in calories and fat, plus high in several important nutrients.

If you’re wondering how to cook a turkey breast, how it compares to chicken and why you should incorporate this tasty bird into your diet, keep on reading to find out.

Nutrition Facts

What’s there to admire about turkey nutrition? Most experts consider high-quality poultry meat to be a part of an overall balanced diet aimed at maintaining health.

Turkey is low in calories and carbohydrates but loaded with important nutrients that you require each day — including protein, selenium, phosphorus and riboflavin. It also contains some iron, potassium, zinc, thiamine and vitamin B6.

A three-ounce (85 grams) serving of roasted turkey breast contains approximately:

  • 125 calories

  • 3.6 grams carbohydrates

  • 25.6 grams protein

  • 1.8 grams fat

  • 0.3 grams fiber

  • 19.2 micrograms selenium (27 percent DV)

  • 136.2 milligrams phosphorus (15 percent DV)

  • 0.3 milligrams riboflavin (15 percent DV)

  • 4.8 milligrams vitamin C (9 percent DV)

Health Benefits

1. High in Protein

Turkey is a high-protein food, packing in more than 25 grams per three-ounce serving of turkey breast. It also has less calories and more protein than beef or pork.

We need protein for just about everything. Not only are our hair, skin and nails made up of proteins, but protein also transports oxygen, aids in blood clotting, and repairs and regenerates tissue cells.

Research has shown that adequate protein intake is important for growth, development, maintenance of skeletal muscle tissue, and contributes to physical strength and performance, as well as efficient macronutrient utilization and storage.

Furthermore, getting enough protein in your diet can help keep your weight under control, promote brain and heart health, and even maintain normal blood sugar levels.

2. Can Help Promote Better Sleep

If you’ve ever felt your eyelids drooping after indulging in a turkey feast, there’s a good reason. Turkey is high in tryptophan, an amino acid that helps regulate sleep.

Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that is needed for the biosynthesis of proteins. After consumption, it is metabolically transformed to bioactive metabolites, including serotonin, melatonin and niacin.

Because it’s a precursor to melatonin, a hormone that’s involved in controlling your sleep-wake cycle, increasing your intake of tryptophan has been shown to promote better sleep in multiple studies. It seems to help increase sleepiness and decrease the amount of time it takes to fall asleep, improve sleep quality in those with sleep disturbances like insomnia, reduce awakenings, and increase REM sleep.

3. Can Aid in Weight Loss

Poultry is generally low in calories and high in protein, making it a great dietary addition if you’re looking to shed some pounds. A high-protein diet can help reduce levels of ghrelin, a “hunger hormone,” which works to curb cravings and reduce appetite.

Protein has also been shown to help boost metabolism and decrease caloric intake.

According to a 2017 article published in the Journal of Cachexia Sarcopenia and Muscle, in obese patients higher protein intake contributed to “greater weight loss, fat mass loss, better preservation of lean body mass, a more significant reduction of blood pressure, serum triglycerides, and waist circumference” compared to low protein intake when on a restricted diet.

Plus, it takes your body more energy/calories to digest protein than other macronutrients like carbohydrates and fat.

4. Packed with Selenium

Turkey is a good source of selenium, supplying 27 percent of your daily selenium requirement in each three-ounce serving. This mineral plays a central role in many aspects of health.

Selenium benefits your metabolism, increases immunity, and acts as an antioxidant to protect against free radical damage and inflammation.

This important mineral has also been shown to have anticancer properties and has even been associated with a decreased risk of coronary heart disease.

5. May Help Improve Your Mood and Fight Depression

Thanks to its high tryptophan content, poultry may also aid in the treatment of conditions like depression.

This is because tryptophan is able to boost the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that is found in the brain, digestive tract and blood platelets. Serotonin is thought to control mood balance, and a deficit has been linked to a higher risk of depression.

In one study, tryptophan depletion was shown to significantly lower moods in healthy women. A review published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews also demonstrated that tryptophan was more effective at treating depression than a placebo, although researchers noted that more evidence is needed.

A 2020 systematic review also concluded that higher tryptophan intake may be an effective approach to decrease anxiety and increase positive mood in healthy individuals.

How to Cook a Turkey Breast

When shopping for a turkey, keep in mind that fresh birds offer more flavor, but frozen ones are typically a better value for your money. Frozen birds can also be convenient if you’re shopping ahead of time and have time to spare to thaw it out before cooking.

Although turkeys are widely available at most grocery stores, the quality and taste can vary depending on the brand. Ideally, look for free-range, organic turkey and one that is antibiotic-free to ensure you get the best quality.

How much do you need to feed a crowd? Generally, it’s recommended to get at least one pound of turkey per person — or 1.5 pounds each if you hope to have some leftovers in your fridge for later.

Once you have your turkey, it’s time to fire up the oven and get cooking. Here’s how to cook a turkey that will go great with your next holiday meal:

  1. If using one’s that frozen, start by thawing in the refrigerator or covering in cold water to unfreeze.

  2. Next, remove the giblets from the inside. You can save these for later and use to make gravy or stuffing.

  3. Rinse both the inside and out, then pat dry with a paper towel.

  4. Stuff loosely (if desired) by allotting between 1/2–3/4 cup of stuffing for each pound.

  5. Next, truss the bird by using a string to tie the drumsticks together.

  6. Use a brush to coat the skin with oil or melted butter.

  7. Insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh to monitor the temperature. Be sure that the thermometer is pointing toward the body and is not touching the bone.

  8. Put the bird on a roasting pan and place in an oven preheated to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

  9. Allow to roast until the skin has turned golden, then cover with foil to keep it from browning further. Uncover during the last 45 minutes of cooking to finish browning the skin.

Here are some frequently asked questions regarding how to cook a turkey breast:

How do you keep a turkey breast from drying out?

Tie the legs together, cover it with foil and oil the skin before cooking. Once it’s done cooking, let it sit fo