What Are the Health Benefits of Eating Soft Shelled Turtles?

Traditional protein sources include poultry, pork, beef and fish. Some more adventurous cooks include veal, venison, ostrich or lamb on their shopping lists. Asian cultures have included other meats for centuries. If you are willing to try reptilian meat, turtle has some surprising health benefits. There is not any evidence to support turtle's medicinal qualities, though.

Calories, Fat and Cholesterol

A cup of cooked soft shell turtle meat has about 220 calories, 9 g of fat, of which 2 g are saturated. In comparison, 1 cup of cooked, diced beef steak has 340 calories, 20 g of fat, of which 8 g are saturated. Beef has 37 g of protein per cup, compared with 33 g per cup for turtle meat, but beef also has a higher cholesterol total of 111 mg, while turtle has only 82 mg of cholesterol, making turtle a good, occasional alternative.

Vitamins and Minerals

In addition to being a good source of protein, soft-shelled turtle is high in calcium, with 20 percent of your recommended daily total. Vitamins A, B1, B2, and B6 and phosphorous and zinc are plentiful in turtle meat. B vitamins are thought to aid processing food into energy, which may make turtle a good choice for you if you engage in rigorous activity, according to the Vitamin and Nutrition Center.

Alternative Medicine

Traditional Chinese medicine has used soft-shelled turtles for food and medicine for hundreds of years; however, no scientific data has been collected to support any claims. One of the theories for turtle recommended by Shen-Nong.com, an online Chinese Medicine guide, is that it enriches your kidneys through moistening and nourishing them. Turtle meat is also believed to enrich your blood and cool your body, causing turtle soup to be recommended by alternative medicinal practitioners like Sheng-Nong for menopausal symptoms such as night sweats, hot flashes and irritability. Turtle is also thought to encourage longevity, says Jeff Hays of FactsandDetails.com. No studies are available to substantiate these belief, so discuss any of your medical concerns with your doctor.

Where and How

Soft-shelled turtle is considered wild game, making it available only through licensed commercial fisherman. Your state may allow you to catch and butcher your own. Typically found in eastern states, soft-shelled turtles live in rivers and waterways and can be difficult to catch. The meat may be considered sweet or comparable to chicken or veal. Boil the body first to soften the shell, then remove shell, entrails and head before simmering for several hours in a sauce or soup.

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