Do You Know Nutrition: Holiday turkey trivia

By Phylis Canion
Nov. 19, 2013 at 5:19 a.m.

Phylis Canion

Phylis Canion

With the holiday around the corner and turkey being a big part of our holiday tradition, just wondering if you can share some turkey trivia?

Your question, as you may know, is my weakness, since I love trivia. Hope you enjoy some of these facts and perhaps a bit of trivia about Mr. Tom.

Christopher Columbus thought that the land he discovered was connected to India and believed the bird he discovered, the turkey, was a type of peacock.

In reality, the turkey is a type of pheasant. Firkee, the Native American name for turkey, is how some historians say the turkey got its name; however, to some, there is a more simple explanation - when a turkey is scared, they make a "turk, turk" noise.

Turkeys are the only breed of poultry native to the Western hemisphere. Age is a determining factor in taste. While old, large toms (the males), are preferable to young toms, since their meat is a bit stringy; the opposite is true of females. Old hens are much tougher than their younger counterpart.

Turkeys have no external ears but have exceptional hearing. They can also see in color and have excellent visual acuity. And that gobble sound they make comes only from the tom turkey. The female turkey only clucks.

Turkeys also have a very wide field of vision, around 270 degrees, which makes sneaking up on one almost impossible. Turkeys have a weakness in their sense of smell. Wild turkeys can fly for short distances; however, a domesticated bird cannot fly at all. Turkeys do suffer from heart attacks, a fact discovered in the fields near Air Force test areas when the sound barrier was broken, turkeys were known to drop dead from the shock of the passing jets.

The turkey trot was named for the short, jerky steps a turkey makes. Wild turkeys prefer to sleep perched atop tree branches, where they are safe from predators, such as coyotes, foxes and raccoons. They often sleep in flocks and upon waking, call out a series of soft yelps before descending to make sure that the rest of their roosting group is OK after a night of not seeing or hearing one another.

And for a bit of nutrition trivia - do you have that tired feeling after that Thanksgiving meal? The turkey is in part to blame, as the meat contains tryptophan, an amino acid that the body uses to make serotonin, a neurotransmitter in the brain that helps regulate sleep.

Thought for the week: The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world's problems. - M. Ghandi

Phylis B. Canion is a doctor of naturopathic medicine and is a certified nutritional consultant email her at This column is for nutritional information only and is not intended to treat, diagnose or cure.



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