Is Smoked Turkey Healthy?

Turkey, the traditional meat of choice for many Americans at Thanksgiving, is cooked in a variety of methods, including roasting, grilling and stewing. Smoking it, however, adds a rich flavor. You can find fully cooked, smoked turkeys and turkey parts in specialty shop, but you also can choose to smoke a turkey at home. Smoked turkey is a healthy lean meat choice for most people, full of vitamins and minerals, although it is high in sodium and might not be appropriate for a low-sodium diet.

A smoked turkey sandwich with lettuce and tomato. (Image: HandmadePictures/iStock/Getty Images)

Calories and Fat

Smoked turkey has 71.4 calories per serving -- one thick slice of light or dark meat without skin or bones that weighs about 1.5 ounces. Including smoked turkey as part of a balanced meal calls for adding a side of nutritious grains and a portion of vegetables, such as zucchini, carrots or asparagus. One serving of smoked turkey contains 2.1 grams of fat, which makes up 26 percent of the calories. Limit your intake of all fat to 20 to 35 percent of the calories you consume each day.

Protein Content

The National Institutes of Health advises you to consume two to three servings of protein per day, and eating smoked turkey can help you meet that nutritional goal. A serving of this meat provides 12.3 grams of protein, which your body requires for muscle development, hormone production and energy. Monitor your daily meal plan to ensure you take in 46 to 56 grams of protein to meet your needs.

Vitamin Content

A serving of smoked turkey contains many B vitamins. It serves as a good source of vitamin B-3, with 11.4 percent of the daily recommended intake per serving. The vitamin B-3 in smoked turkey promotes the health of your skin and nerves and influences the way your body uses calcium. You will also get 9.7 percent of the vitamin B-6 you require each day.

Mineral Content

Smoked turkey is high in selenium; one serving of this meat satisfies approximately one-fourth of your daily needs. Selenium provides antioxidant protection, warding off damage to your skin and other tissues that may occur from free radicals and environmental damage. MedlinePlus.com reports that selenium also prevents heart disease, hardening of the arteries, stroke and various cancers such as prostate and lung cancers.

Risks of Smoked Turkey

One serving of smoked turkey contains 418.3 milligrams of sodium, nearly one-third of the American Heart Association-recommended daily limit of 1,500 milligrams. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says healthy Americans can consume as much as 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day. With high levels of sodium in your diet comes a higher risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and water retention. Do not eat undercooked turkey, whether it's smoked or cooked in some other way. Turkey not cooked to the correct temperature -- 175 degrees internally -- may contain dangerous salmonella bacteria, which can cause gastrointestinal problems.

Smoked meats may also raise your risk of various cancers. The American Cancer Society states that increased intake of smoked foods is directly associated with a higher risk of developing gastric cancer. Your risk of breast cancer is also significantly increased, according to a study in the May 2012 issue of "DNA and Cell Biology."

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