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What's up Doc: Turkey Burger vs. Hamburger

by WayneTimes.com
December 8, 2014

Dear Doc,
I am a 5’9 180 lb. male who is looking to get into better shape. I love an occasional hamburger. My gym buddy tells me that by switching to eating turkey burgers instead of regular hamburgers, I would be healthier. Is this true?

Doc,
Congratulations on your mission to become healthier. 68.5 percent of Americans are overweight, with 34.9% of Americans considered obese. It is an epidemic, as seen by the fact that 31.8% of children and adolescents are overweight with 16.9% being categorized as obese. Being overweight is associated with multiple medical problems including diabetes, heart disease, arthritis and high blood pressure.

Obesity and overweight are actual medical terms defined by a person’s Body Mass Index. Body Mass Index (BMI) is a number calculated from a person’s weight and height. BMI provides a reliable indicator of body fatness and is used to screen for weight categories that may lead to health problems. You can Google BMI and you will find a calculator or chart that will calculate your BMI. At 5’9, 180 lbs., your BMI is 26.6 putting you in the “overweight” category. Any BMI over 30 is in the obese category.
Americans consume over 50 billion burgers per year. That’s 3 burgers per week for every single American. White Castle, the first fast food chain, that was established in 1921, started by selling 5 cent burgers in Kansas. 40% of all sandwiches sold in the U.S. are hamburgers. McDonald’s sells 75 burgers every second of every minute of every hour!

Thanksgiving provides us with some leftover turkey, as 280 million turkeys are sold each year in preparation for turkey day. The first Thanksgiving was celebrated by the Pilgrims in 1621 but it was not until 1863 that President Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving a national day of thanks. Ben Franklin lobbied for the Turkey to be the national bird (the bald eagle won out). Although now celebrated on the 4th Thursday of every November in America, it is also celebrated on the second Monday of October in Canada.

Turkey meat is rich in niacin, zinc, vitamin B12, and vitamin B6, all important vitamins and nutrients. Turkey contains the amino acid tryptophan which promotes the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that plays a role in promoting a sense of well-being. Turkey is an excellent source of protein and is generally thought of as a very lean meat.

However, that is only the case if you choose ground turkey that is made of white meat. Unless otherwise specified, the dark turkey meat and skin gets mixed in with the light meat, making it much fattier than you would think.

A 4 oz. cooked turkey burger (made from combo of dark and white meat) has 193 calories, 11 gm. fat, 3 gms. of saturated fat and 22 gm. of protein.

Beef is an excellent source of B12, niacin, iron and vitamin B6. Lean beef is also an excellent source of protein. A burger made form 90% lean beef would have around 225 calories, 12 gm. of fat, 5 gms. of saturated fat and 27 gms. of protein.

So your friend is not entirely correct. You can still enjoy an occasional (at least 90% lean) hamburger and still be healthy. For variety, if you were to try a turkey burger, make sure the ground turkey is also at least 90% lean and made only of white meat. To be even healthier choose a whole grain bun or forget about the bun all together, especially if you are trying to lose weight. And don’t forget to include at least 2 servings of fruit and 3 servings of vegetables each day!

Stay healthy and remember the joke by Johnny Carson, “Thanksgiving is an emotional holiday, people travel thousands of miles to be with people they see only once a year. And then discover once a year is way too often!”

Dr. Nagpaul is a medical doctor and is board-certified in Internal Medicine. He currently is the Medical Director at Newark-Wayne Community Hospital, for Wayne County Public Health and at Blossomview Nursing Home. This column is meant to be educational and not intended to be used to make individual treatment decisions. Prior to starting or stopping any treatment, please confer with your own health care provider. To send questions, please email Dr. Nagpaul at Arun.Nagpaul@rochestergeneral org and put “Ask a Doc” in the subject line.

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