Could a Thanksgiving favorite be the answer to lowering your cholesterol?

If you are watching your cholesterol levels, you know that it is important to look at the cholesterol content, as well as saturated and trans fats, in the foods you consume. Turkey can be an excellent choice if you’re looking to limit your saturated fats, but, of course, it’s all in how you prepare it. 

Obviously, if you fry a turkey in high-fat oil, this will raise the fat content of the meat. Whether or not it raises the saturated or trans fat content is determined by the type of oil you fry in. On the flip side, if you roast the meat and let the fat drip into a separate pan, you can cut the level of fat in the turkey.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), a 3-ounce serving of roasted turkey with skin contains about 22.5 grams of protein, 4.7 grams of fat, and 1.3 grams of saturated fat. Eating that amount of white meat only (i.e., without the skin) gets you 27 grams of protein, just over 2 grams of fat, and 0.6 grams of saturated fat.

Roasted dark meat — including both meat and skin — has just over 22 grams of protein, about 5 grams of total fat, and about 1.5 grams of saturated fat. Dark meat without skin has 21.7 grams of protein, nearly 9.2 grams of fat, and about 2.7 grams of saturated fat.

How Much Cholesterol Should I Have?

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), a person’s daily cholesterol intake should not exceed 300 mg. Based on that, a 3-ounce portion of light meat without skin gets you 16 percent of that, and skinless dark meat gets you 22 percent. If you eat the skin, you take in another 3 percent of the recommended daily intake.

Have high cholesterol or an existing heart issue? In that case, the AHA says you should have no more than 200 mg of cholesterol a day.

Learn More: Do Avocados Contain Any Cholesterol? »

Dark vs. White Meat

Is white meat healthier than dark meat? Usually, doctors say yes. But according to a 2012 study, taurine, a nutrient found in dark meat, can lower the risk of coronary heart disease in women with high cholesterol. Doctors say the nutrient also may protect people from high blood pressure and diabetes.

In the study, women who had high cholesterol as well as high taurine levels were 60 percent less likely to develop or die from coronary heart disease than those women who had low taurine levels.

In addition to the choice between white or dark meat, choosing a healthier cut can help lower the meat’s fat content. Look for lean or extra lean varieties of turkey. For example, ground turkey will be marked with the fat in the meat on the nutrition label, enabling you to make a more informed purchase.

Get Cooking

Try some of these heart-healthy turkey recipes from around the web!

Heart-Healthy Turkey Chili

The Chunky Chef offers up this heart-healthy turkey chili recipe. To remove more fat from the ground turkey, you can drain it after cooking. Alternatively, choose ground turkey that is made from 100 percent turkey breast. The blogger has some good recommendations for healthy toppings, including avocado, which can raise levels of good-for-you high-density lipoprotein (HDL).

Spicy Turkey Bolognese with Spaghetti Squash

An impressive combination of ground turkey and heart-healthy tomatoes, topped over spaghetti squash, highlight this recipe. This is a low-carb meal as well as one that is heart-healthy, especially if you do not add cheese. Get the recipe!

Turkey Lasagna

In addition to making some healthy substitutions — think low-fat cheese instead of regular full-fat cheese — this recipe uses ground turkey breast instead of ground beef.

Turkey Santa Fe Zucchini Boats

In addition to using meats with less fat content, many people looking to lower their cholesterol try to incorporate more vegetables into their diet. This recipe does just that, and can be made even healthier by using a non- or low-fat variety of cheese.

Italian Turkey Burger Soup

If you’re bored of eating the same old turkey burgers, try turning them into soup. No, really! This healthy turkey soup makes use of fresh herbs for a flavoring that’s savory, but not dry.

Asian Turkey Lettuce Wraps

For a low-carb take on Asian favorites, try using lettuce as a wrap. With peppers, ginger, and garlic, these lettuce wraps are bursting with flavor — and healthy nutrients. Get the recipe!

Sriracha Teriyaki Meatball Bowls

Baker by Nature brings you this flavorful recipe that incorporates turkey into Sriracha meatball bowls. This recipe uses Panko breadcrumbs, which typically are lower in sodium than regular breadcrumbs.