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Turkey & Cholesterol

By Melodie Anne

Having high cholesterol can lead to cardiovascular disease if you don’t get it under control. If your cholesterol is elevated, start paying attention to which types of meats you’re eating. You can certainly have turkey, even though it does contain both dietary cholesterol and saturated fat. However, you’ll have to remove all the skin and use certain cooking techniques to keep it as lean as possible.

Amount of Cholesterol

Roasted skinless turkey breast is one of the lowest-cholesterol cuts. A 3 1/2-ounce serving contains less than 45 milligrams of cholesterol. If you leave the skin on, you’ll get double the cholesterol, or up to 90 milligrams per 3 1/2 ounces. Leg meat has even more. You’ll get over 60 milligrams from 3 1/2 ounces of skinless thigh meat, or closer to 85 milligrams if you eat it with the skin. Roasted dark meat with the skin is the biggest offender, giving you as much as 135 milligrams of cholesterol from 3 1/2 ounces. If you’re making turkey burgers, a 3 1/2-ounce broiled patty that is 85 to 93 percent lean gives you around 105 milligrams. Cut that down by opting for fat-free ground turkey. You’ll get just 65 milligrams of cholesterol from a fat-free 3 1/2-ounce broiled patty.

Your Daily Limit

As long as you’re healthy and at a proper weight, you can have up to 300 milligrams of cholesterol daily. But if you have a family history of heart disease, or if you have high cholesterol, hypertension or diabetes, keep your intake to under 200 milligrams daily, states the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010. Depending on which category applies to you, 3 1/2 ounces of roasted light turkey meat takes up 15 to 23 percent of the cholesterol you can have for the day. Avoid dark cuts with the skin. Just 3 1/2 ounces of this kind of turkey can use up nearly 68 percent of your cholesterol allowance for the day.

Saturated Fat Details

Dietary cholesterol is particularly dangerous if you also have a lot of saturated fat. Together, these fatty substances raise the low-density lipoprotein -- LDL -- in your blood. LDL is the type of cholesterol responsible for upping your risk of cardiovascular disease by raising your total cholesterol and hardening your arteries. Less than 10 percent of your calories should come from saturated fat, which is 22 grams for a 2,000-calorie diet. But if you’re already at risk for heart disease, have no more than 15 grams for a 2,000-calorie diet, which is 7 percent of calorie maximum, suggests the American Heart Association. Roasted skinless turkey breast has less than 1 gram of saturated fat, whereas the dark meat with skin contains over 3 grams. Fat-free ground turkey patties have 0.7 gram of saturated fat, while other low-fat kinds have as much as 4.5 grams.

Cooking Considerations

The way you prepare turkey has a big role in how much cholesterol and saturated fat you’re getting. Using butter ups cholesterol and saturated fat in turkey. Margarine isn’t always better. Some of them have trans fats, which are known to raise your LDL cholesterol and decrease your high-density lipoprotein, or HDL -- the beneficial kind of cholesterol that stabilizes your total cholesterol. Use plant-based oils such as sunflower, canola or soybean instead. These oils contain monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, or MUFAs and PUFAs for short, that can help lower total blood cholesterol. Lastly, cook turkey in a rack to allow extra fat to drip down below into the pan.

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