Thanksgiving is past, but the entire Holiday Season is filled with meals containing poultry. Poultry is one of the high potassium foods, filled with health benefits – lower blood pressure, less osteoporosis, fewer kidney stones. The Holiday Season is an ideal time to partake. Many of the foods that accompany the poultry are also high potassium foods. As long as we are careful about the other excesses so prevalent this time of year, we can have a healthful holiday.
All the poultry has a better than three to one ratio of potassium to sodium, and each serving provides a large amount of potassium to help get us to the goal of 4.7 grams of potassium. A good estimation is 300 grams of potassium for the typical 3.5 ounce serving.
However, potassium is not the only consideration for health. Poultry has other healthy benefits. Poultry is generally low in fat. For the poultry itself (before adding dressing, batter or breading) calories only come from fat or protein. There are no carbohydrates. But poultry is mostly protein. Only 10 to 30% of calories come from fats for most poultry meat without skin. Light meat in chicken gets about 20% and young tom turkey gets only about 12% of its calories from fats. The wild variety of duck gets less than 30%.
But dark meat, domestication and skin increase the amount of calories from fat, increasing the fat content dramatically. Domesticated duck and goose, and as well as quail can have more than 50% of their calories come from fats, if the dark meat with skin is consumed. In fact, over 80% of calories come from fat for domesticated duck and goose with skin. Roasting lets some of the fat drip off the bird, so the percentage of fat becomes closer to 70% of calories. Roasting without the skin gets the percentage under 50% even for these domesticated birds.
Fats are usually low in the poultry meat itself. These fats are healthy fats for the most part. Chicken, guinea hen, emu, squab and quail have roughly equal amounts of polyunsaturated, monounsaturated and saturated fats. For turkey the monounsaturated fat is less and the saturated and polyunsaturated fats are present in similar amounts. Poultry that has a slightly less healthy balance of saturated to unsaturated fats are pheasant, duck, goose, and ostrich. For these birds the saturated fat in the meat accounts for about 40-50% of the calories from fat.
Fiber and many of the micronutrients, vitamins and antioxidants are absent in poultry, except for some of the B vitamins, which are frequently low in veggies and fruits. By combining vegetables and fruit with poultry, you can have a great Holiday feast, providing all the ingredients of a healthy, well balanced meal.