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Is Turkey Sausage Bad For You?



Short answer

Turkey sausage can be a better choice compared to pork sausage due to its lower saturated fat and calorie content, and can provide essential nutrients and protein. However, it often has high sodium levels and may contain additives and preservatives, such as sodium nitrate, that can pose health risks if consumed frequently. Choosing options with lower sodium and fewer additives, while also maintaining a balanced diet, is key to enjoying turkey sausage healthily. Moderation is essential, as it is with any processed meat.



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Long answer

Nutritional Profile of Turkey Sausage

The nutritional profile of turkey sausage can be considerably variable, as it depends on the brand, ingredients, and preparation methods. Typically, turkey sausage is viewed as a healthier alternative to pork sausage due to its lower fat content. However, it's essential to analyze the nutritional components to understand its impact on your diet.

Here's a general outline of the nutritional constituents found in a 100-gram serving of turkey sausage:

  • Calories: This serving size generally contains between 150-200 calories, making it a lower calorie option compared to pork sausage.
  • Protein: Turkey sausage is a good source of protein, with approximately 17-21 grams per 100 grams, supporting muscle maintenance and growth.
  • Total Fat: The fat content can range from 8-12 grams. Saturated fats, which should be consumed in moderation, make up about 2-3 grams of this total.
  • Cholesterol: Levels of cholesterol in turkey sausage can range from 60-80 milligrams, which is a consideration for those monitoring their heart health.
  • Sodium: One of the more significant concerns with turkey sausage is its sodium content, which can be as high as 600-1200 milligrams, making up a substantial portion of the daily recommended limit.
  • Carbohydrates: Generally low in carbs, turkey sausage may contain between 1-4 grams, with slight variations depending on added ingredients or fillings.
  • Fiber: Most turkey sausages contain little to no dietary fiber.
  • Sugar: Some turkey sausages are flavored with sugars or honey, leading to a sugar content that can vary significantly.
  • Vitamins and Minerals: Turkey sausages can offer a range of micronutrients, including vitamin B12, niacin, zinc, and selenium, but these will vary based on the specific product.

It is crucial to note that these figures can fluctuate, and it's advisable to check the nutrition label of the specific brand you're considering. In addition to the base nutritional facts, turkey sausage often contains additives and preservatives, such as sodium nitrate, which have been associated with adverse health effects and should be considered in the context of overall dietary intake.

Scientific research on processed meats suggest that regular consumption can be linked to increased health risks. For instance, a study published in The BMJ highlighted associations between processed meat intake and higher rates of coronary heart disease. Another aspect to consider is that turkey sausage is a processed product, and while it may offer benefits in terms of reduced fat content, the serial consumption of processed meats could be detrimental to long-term health.

Given the variability in turkey sausage's nutritional content, it is of paramount importance to consult nutrition labels and select options with lower sodium levels, reduced saturated fat, and minimal additives for a healthier choice. Additionally, for a well-rounded diet, turkey sausage should be just one component of a meal plan rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and other unprocessed protein sources.

Saturated Fat Content Relative to Pork Sausage

When navigating the complexities of healthier meat choices, the saturated fat content is often a critical factor. A key comparison between turkey sausage and its traditional pork counterpart revolves around their respective levels of saturated fat. It's well-established that reducing saturated fat intake is recommended to lower the risk of heart disease, as confirmed by the American Heart Association. Therefore, understanding the saturated fat content in turkey sausage is vital for informed dietary decisions.

In general, turkey sausage is marketed as a leaner alternative to pork sausage. This reputation is rooted in the nutritional profiles of the meats used. Turkey, particularly when the leaner cuts are utilized, naturally contains less saturated fat than pork. To illustrate this difference, let's consider a direct comparison:

Product Serving Size Saturated Fat Content
Pork Sausage 2 ounces (56g) 5 grams
Turkey Sausage 2 ounces (56g) 2-3 grams

While specific brands and recipes may vary, turkey sausage typically contains about 30-50% less saturated fat per serving compared to a similar portion of pork sausage. This reduction is significant given the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which recommend limiting saturated fat intake to less than 10% of total daily calories for heart health.

Nevertheless, not all turkey sausages are created equal. The saturated fat content can be influenced by the type of turkey used (whether it's made from dark meat, which is higher in fat, or breast meat, which is leaner) and the addition of other ingredients, such as cheese or other high-fat meats. Therefore, it's essential to read nutrition labels carefully. Opt for those brands that emphasize lean turkey meat and lack high-fat additives to truly capitalize on the potential benefits of choosing turkey sausage.

Moreover, it's worth noting that while the reduction in saturated fat is a positive attribute, one should also consider the overall nutritional profile, including sodium and other additives that might be present. Health-conscious consumers should still moderate their intake of turkey sausage, treating it as one component of a balanced diet that prioritizes plant-based foods, whole grains, and a diversity of protein sources.

In conclusion, when considering the choice between turkey sausage and pork sausage based purely on saturated fat content, turkey sausage typically offers a lower-fat alternative. This can be beneficial for those looking to reduce their saturated fat intake for health reasons. However, individual product variations necessitate a careful examination of nutritional labels to make the best personal dietary choice.

Sodium Levels and Preservatives in Turkey Sausage

When examining the health implications of turkey sausage, it is crucial to consider the sodium content and the use of preservatives. Excessive sodium intake is a known risk factor for hypertension and cardiovascular diseases. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 2,300 milligrams a day and moving toward an ideal limit of no more than 1,500 mg per day for most adults. Unfortunately, processed meats like turkey sausage often have high levels of sodium, not just for flavor, but also for preservation.

For instance, a typical serving of turkey sausage can contain anywhere between 400 to 600 milligrams of sodium, which constitutes a significant portion of the recommended daily intake. It's important for individuals, especially those with heart conditions or high blood pressure, to monitor their consumption of turkey sausage and balance it within a diet that keeps their overall sodium intake in check.

Besides sodium, preservatives used in turkey sausage, such as potassium nitrate or sodium nitrite, can raise health concerns. These compounds are added to prevent the growth of bacteria and to maintain the desired color and flavor. While they serve an important role in food safety and shelf-life, research has indicated a potential link between these nitrates/nitrites and certain health issues when consumed in large amounts. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies processed meats as a Group 1 carcinogen, which suggests a connection to cancer, particularly colorectal cancer.

It's not all negative news, however. Many manufacturers now offer lower-sodium and preservative-free alternatives of turkey sausage. These products are designed to provide a healthier option for consumers looking to enjoy the taste of sausage without the high levels of sodium and preservatives. When shopping for turkey sausage, look for labels that indicate "low sodium" or "no added nitrates/nitrites”.

For those who are particularly health-conscious, reading the nutrition labels carefully is essential. Here is what to look for:

  • Sodium content per serving - Aim for options with less than 200 mg of sodium per serving.
  • Preservatives - Opt for brands that use natural preservatives like celery powder, or, better yet, those that do not include preservatives.
  • The ingredient list - The shorter the list, typically the fewer processed ingredients are included.

It's also worth noting that homemade turkey sausage can be a healthier alternative, as it gives you complete control over the amount of sodium and the type of ingredients used. Creating your own blend of ground turkey and seasonings can drastically reduce the amount of sodium and eliminate the need for synthetic preservatives altogether.

In summary, while turkey sausage can be a source of protein and might seem like a healthier choice compared to pork sausage, it is important to be mindful of the sodium levels and preservatives it contains. Moderation and careful selection of products can help mitigate the health risks associated with these components.

Additives and Fillers: What Else Is In Your Sausage?

When evaluating the health implications of turkey sausage, it's essential to peer beyond the primary ingredients and scrutinize the often-overlooked additives and fillers. These substances are frequently added to processed meats for various reasons such as preserving flavor, enhancing taste, and improving texture. Here's what you need to know about these additional components:

  • Sodium: A key additive in processed meats, including turkey sausage, is salt. While sodium is essential for bodily functions, excessive intake can lead to high blood pressure and cardiovascular diseases. One serving of turkey sausage can contain a significant portion of the recommended daily sodium intake, underlining the need for moderation.
  • Preservatives: Sodium nitrite is a common preservative in turkey sausages. While effective in preventing bacterial growth, studies suggest a link between high intake of nitrite and increased risk of certain types of cancer, particularly colorectal cancer.
  • Sugars: Various forms of sugar may be added to improve the palatability of turkey sausage. Added sugars contribute to excess calorie intake without providing nutritional value and can be a hidden source of carbohydrates which may impact blood sugar levels.
  • Flavor Enhancers: Substances such as monosodium glutamate (MSG) may be used to intensify the flavor. While deemed safe for consumption by many health authorities, some individuals may experience sensitivity to MSG, resulting in symptoms like headaches or flushing.
  • Fillers: Non-meat ingredients like soy or wheat may be incorporated to add bulk and reduce production costs. These fillers can be problematic for individuals with allergies or intolerances, and they dilute the protein content, which is a key nutritional aspect of sausage.
  • Fats and Oils: Despite being a leaner meat option, turkey sausages may include added fats and oils to improve texture. The type of fats used can vary, with some potentially impacting cholesterol levels, making it important to read labels for specifics.

Understanding these additives and fillers is crucial in assessing the health impact of turkey sausage. Consumers should pay close attention to the ingredient list and nutrition facts label to make informed dietary choices. Less processed options with minimal additives are generally preferable for a healthier diet.

While additives are often viewed with skepticism, not all are detrimental to health, and some may even serve beneficial purposes, such as enhancing food safety. Nevertheless, the cumulative effect of daily consumption of these additives can have long-term health implications. Therefore, it's advisable to maintain a balanced diet rich in whole, nutrient-dense foods and treat processed items like turkey sausage as occasional indulgences rather than dietary staples.

The Benefits of Lean Protein in Turkey Sausage

When discussing the nutritional profile of turkey sausage, one of its standout elements is the lean protein content. Lean protein is an essential component of a balanced diet, promoting muscle health and satiety. A high-protein food can be beneficial for weight management, as it helps to keep you feeling full for longer and may reduce the tendency to snack on less healthful options. But what exactly does turkey sausage bring to the table when it comes to lean protein? Let's dissect the advantages:

  • Muscle Maintenance and Growth: Protein is the building block of muscles, and the lean protein in turkey sausage can contribute to muscle maintenance and repair. This is particularly important after exercise, as proteins help in the recovery and growth of muscle tissue.
  • Weight Management: Consuming a diet with adequate lean protein can aid in weight loss or maintenance. Turkey sausage can provide a satisfying and nutritious protein source that helps in regulating appetite and potentially reducing overall calorie intake.
  • Metabolic Benefits: The body uses more energy to digest protein compared to fats or carbohydrates, a phenomenon known as the thermic effect of food. Including lean protein from sources like turkey sausage in your diet can boost your metabolism and increase the number of calories you burn throughout the day.
  • Nutrient-Rich: In addition to protein, turkey sausage can offer other valuable nutrients such as iron, zinc, B vitamins, especially niacin and vitamin B6, and phosphorus, all of which play vital roles in the body's overall function and health.

Furthermore, it's important to consider the quality and preparation of the turkey sausage to maximize its health benefits. Opting for those with lower sodium content and fewer preservatives can make turkey sausage a more healthful choice. Moreover, the method of preparation – grilled or baked over fried – can significantly reduce the addition of unhealthy fats, making the lean protein in turkey sausage a more outstanding contributor to your diet.

According to a 2017 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, increasing lean protein intake as part of a higher-protein diet was associated with improved body composition among overweight and obese individuals. This further underscores the potential benefits of incorporating lean protein sources like turkey sausage into a well-structured diet.

While the advantages are clear, it's still critical to be mindful of portion sizes and the overall context of a diet. Lean protein from turkey sausage should complement a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats for optimal health.

Balancing Turkey Sausage in a Healthy Diet

Integrating turkey sausage into your diet can be both a flavorful and nutritious choice when done with consideration of its nutritional profile and your overall dietary patterns. Although it can be a healthier alternative to pork sausage due to its lower fat content, balance is key. Here’s how you can balance turkey sausage in a healthy diet:

Portion Control: Start with mindful serving sizes. A typical serving of turkey sausage should be about 2-3 ounces (55-85 grams). Controlling portion sizes helps manage calorie intake and ensures that you have room on your plate for other healthy foods.

Variety: Balance your diet by incorporating a variety of protein sources. Besides turkey sausage, include lean meats, fish, legumes, and plant-based proteins throughout your week to get a wide range of nutrients that different foods offer.

Say No to Extras: Often, turkey sausage is consumed with high-calorie accompaniments like cheeses, sauces, or as a part of calorie-dense dishes like casseroles and pastas. Opting for turkey sausage as a standalone item or with vegetable-rich, lower-calorie pairings could help maintain a healthier meal plan.

Check the Label: Turkey sausage's nutritional value can vary depending on the brand and preparation. Look for versions lower in sodium and added sugars, and with a minimal list of ingredients to avoid unnecessary additives and preservatives.

Cooking Method Matters: How you prepare your sausage can make a big difference. Grilling, baking or sautéing in a small amount of healthy oil can be preferable methods compared to frying, which can increase fat content significantly.

Homemade Alternatives: Are an option for those wanting greater control over their intake of salt, fat, and other additives. Making turkey sausage at home allows you to tailor seasonings and use fresher, less processed ingredients.

Accompany with Nutrients: Pair turkey sausage with high-fiber, nutrient-dense foods like vegetables, whole grains, or legumes. This can help improve the overall nutrient profile of your meal and aid in satiety, which can prevent overeating.

Plan Your Meals: Consider your daily nutrient and calorie goals. If turkey sausage is a part of your breakfast, plan lighter meals throughout the day, with ample vegetables, fruits, and whole grains to balance your intake.

Including turkey sausage in your diet requires an awareness of its nutritional benefits and limitations. By applying portion control, diversifying your protein sources, and paying attention to preparation and accompaniments, you can enjoy turkey sausage as part of a varied and balanced diet.

Remember, a healthy diet is about more than just individual foods—it is the overall pattern of choices that matters most. Adjustments that account for personal health goals, dietary restrictions, and nutritional needs can ensure that turkey sausage fits well within the context of your dietary plan.

Frequently asked questions

Yes, some brands offer lower-sodium turkey sausage options. When shopping, look for products labeled as 'low sodium' and check the nutritional information to ensure it aligns with your dietary restrictions or goals for sodium intake.

Turkey sausage generally has lower saturated fat content than pork sausage, which may make it a better option for managing cholesterol levels. However, keep an eye on the type of fats added and choose brands with minimal saturated fats to ensure a heart-healthy choice.

Homemade turkey sausage can be healthier because you control the ingredients, allowing you to minimize the addition of salt, fats, and eliminate synthetic preservatives, which can be beneficial for overall health and cater to dietary preferences and restrictions.

Yes, turkey sausage can be a suitable option for a high-protein diet. It contains approximately 17-21 grams of protein per 100 grams, which is beneficial for muscle maintenance and growth, and may aid in weight management due to protein's satiating effects.

Ask a question about Turkey Sausage and our team will publish the answer as soon as possible.

Possible short-term side effects

  • increased blood pressure
  • headaches
  • flushing from sensitivity to additives (msg)
  • bloating
  • dehydration

Possible long-term side effects

  • hypertension
  • heart disease
  • increased risk of certain cancers (colorectal)
  • weight gain if consumed in excess due to calorie content

Ingredients to be aware of


  • muscle maintenance and growth
  • weight management
  • increased satiety
  • boosted metabolism
  • nutrient contributions (iron, zinc, b-vitamins, phosphorus)

Healthier alternatives

  • lean cuts of turkey
  • low sodium options
  • preservative-free options
  • plant-based proteins
  • legumes
  • homemade turkey sausage with natural ingredients

Our Wellness Pick (what is this?)

Applegate Naturals Sausage

  • Savory turkey flavor
  • No antibiotics used
  • Gluten and casein free
  • Convenient 7 oz packs
  • Hormone-free turkey
Learn More!

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 01-19-2024

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 01-19-2024

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