As Thanksgiving approaches, the team at Destination Science has put science to the test to learn about our Thanksgiving traditions and to debunk common Thanksgiving myths.
What do you get when you take the turkey out of Thanksgiving dinner? You get Tofurky, a dish created by Turtle Island Foods 20 years ago this fall specifically for the health-conscious eater. Instead of gorging on white and dark meat, you can enjoy a healthy blend of tofu and wheat protein stuffed with rice, herbs, and mushrooms. Tofurky has become popular around the world, selling over 3 million to more than 25,000 stores!
For many vegetarians and vegans, Tofurky is the perfect Turkey substitute as non-GMO soybeans are used to create its unique flavor. Another big benefit of Tofurky is the cooking time, since it only takes anywhere from 90 minutes to three hours to prepare, instead of the all-day process a normal turkey can become.
Tryptophan & Schmyptophan
When Thanksgiving dinner is over and you start to get a little sleepy, its not uncommon for someone to say “Oh, that turkey has Tryptophan in it and that’s why you’re so sleepy!”.
First off, what is Tryptophan? Tryptophan is an amino acid, essential for your body to synthesize proteins and helps release key ingredients such as serotonin and niacin. In short, it’s a very important part of what makes you a healthy human and is an key part of your diet. In fact, it’s found in dozens of commonly enjoyed foods, not just turkey! Turns out, Tryptophan levels in turkey are the same as chicken, beef, and even oats. In fact, eggs, cheese, and pork have more Tryptophan than turkey, and you don’t feel sleepy after every omelette or ham and cheese sandwich, do you? What makes us sleepy is the sheer amount of food we eat on Turkey Day, especially food rich in carbohydrates.
The Tryptophan myth spawns from an earlier generation that took large amounts of Tryptophan as a sleep aid, two to five times the amount you’d get in a hearty Thanksgiving meal. So, have no fear come November 27th, you won’t fall asleep in your mashed potatoes after eating a drumstick, well at least not because of Tryptophan!
Better Eating Through Chemistry
Turkeys are made up of about 75% water, most of which is evaporated when cooked for such a long period of time at a high heat. If you don’t take this into consideration, you’ll end up with really dry turkey that requires a whole gravy boat to finish!
But if you prep the turkey with a process called “brining,” (a process we love at Destination Science) where you let the turkey soak in salt water overnight, the bird will be filled with flavor that a few hours in the oven cannot remove. In the end, you’ll be left with a juicier and more tender piece of meat because the salt allows the meat to expand and lets more water get into every inch of the turkey.
So, have a happy, science-filled Thanksgiving and if you can, save us some leftovers.