Each year, Thanksgiving brings feasts–and questions about food safety. Evolve Medical is happy to provide answers to questions such as, “Does turkey make you want want to sleep?” and “For how long after Thanksgiving can I still eat leftovers?” and “What if I cooked the giblet bag in my turkey?” But first we delve into the important science behind turkey abstinence.
Why can’t turkeys fornicate?
According to a November 2011 NPR interview with Stephen Dubner, the Broad-Breasted White breed, which now comprises 99.9% of all turkeys, pushed out all other breeds in the 1950’s. Julie Long of the USDA explains, “The modern turkey has quite large turkey breasts, and it actually physically gets in the way when the male and the female try to create offspring.” As a result, almost all turkeys we eat are the product of artificial insemination.
Heritage turkeys are raised naturally. According to the Heritage Turkey Foundation, if you want one of these $200 turkeys, “When you read these words, you shouldn’t let any time pass if you want a Heritage turkey, and you may very well not be able to find one for love or money.”
Does eating tryptophan-laden turkey really make you sleepy?
As it turns out, turkey contains no more of the amino acid tryptophan than other kinds of poultry. In fact, turkey actually has slightly less tryptophan than chicken. Although turkey is a good source of tryptophan, it’s a myth that eating foods high in tryptophan boosts brain levels of tryptophan and therefore brain levels of serotonin, according to an article in WebMD. As a recent Washington Post article points out, there is more tryptophan in cheddar cheese and unless you are passing out after every grilled cheese, this theory doesn’t hold water. According to an article in Scientific American November 2011, the answer lies in dishes rich in carbohydrates–and the alcohol. For a more detailed explanation, read the next paragraph:
“Laboratory studies in both animals and human beings have demonstrated that carbohydrate-rich meals triggers the pancreas to release of insulin, the hormone that helps us breakdown and utilize sugar. But insulin also stimulates the muscles to take in large neutral branched-chain amino acids but not tryptophan, which is an aromatic amino acid. This results in a far greater ratio of L-tryptophan to branch-chained amino acids in the blood, and eventually, in the cerebral spinal fluid, the body fluid that bathes and cushions the spinal cord and brain. And now here’s the climax of all this organic chemistry and human physiology: the brain converts the L-tryptophan into serotonin that is eventually metabolized by the pineal gland into melatonin, a substance many travelers know as nature’s sleeping pill.”
The survival of your Thanksgiving feast leftovers depends on a few factors, according to the USDA blog on leftovers.
1. While you may want to immediately relax and celebrate after preparing a successful meal, it’s important that you first refrigerate any leftovers within two hours.
2. Where do you store the leftovers:
Storage in the fridge: Leftovers are safe for 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator and can be frozen during that time for longer storage.
Storage in the freezer: Once frozen, all foods are safe forever, as long as your freezer remains 0 °F or below. But for best quality, use leftovers within 2 to 6 months.
How serious is food poisoning?
48 million Americans get sick from contaminated food annually and 128,000 people are hospitalized for these food borne illnesses. 3,000 actually die from them each year--according to the CDC.
What if I cooked my giblets bag inside the turkey?
According to the FDA, if you forget to take out the bag of giblets, and it melts “or changes shape in any way,” you shouldn’t eat the turkey. If you get worried and want a more direct answer, the USDA has a meat and poultry hotline: 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854). They also have a great website: www.fsis.usda.gov/usda-meat-and-poultry-hotline.