A regular appearance in Southern cuisine, gizzards serve as an economical source of protein. Like other organ meats, gizzards should make up only a small part of your diet due to their cholesterol content, advises the Franklin Institute. However, consuming gizzards in moderation offers a range of health benefits, because they provide several nutrients needed for good health.
Gizzards -- of both the turkey and chicken variety -- serve as excellent sources of protein. Consuming 4 ounces of chicken gizzards boosts your protein intake by 20 grams, while an equivalent serving of turkey gizzard boasts 21 grams. Your body digests protein, breaking it down into individual amino acids, and then uses amino acids to maintain your tissues, including your lean muscle tissue. Getting enough protein in your diet helps you look your best by maintaining healthy hair and skin, promotes healthy blood circulation and also allows your cells to make enzymes they need to function.
Reach for gizzards as a rich source of iron. Turkey gizzard contains 3.2 milligrams of iron per 4-ounce portion -- 40 percent of the recommended daily intake for men and 18 percent for women, according to the Institute of Medicine. An equivalent portion of chicken gizzards contains slightly less iron, at 2.8 milligrams per serving. Iron boosts the production of ATP, a source of energy for your tissues, and boosts white blood cell function so that you can fight off infection. Your body also uses iron to sense the level of oxygen present in your tissues, and relies on iron for oxygen transport and storage.
Eating gizzards also helps you consume more selenium, a beneficial mineral. Selenium from your diet works together with other nutrients, including vitamin C, to provide antioxidant protection that shields your cells from damage. It also promotes healthy blood cell function, helps you synthesize thyroid hormones and supports muscle cell metabolism. A 4-ounce serving of turkey gizzard provides 33 micrograms of selenium, or 60 percent of your daily recommended intake, according to the Institute of Medicine. Chicken gizzards contain 29 micrograms of selenium per 4-ounce serving, or 53 percent of the selenium you need each day.
Incorporating gizzards into your diet also allows you to reap the benefits of their vitamin B-12 content. Your body uses vitamin B-12 to make red blood cells, the cell type tasked with circulating oxygen in your bloodstream. Vitamin B-12 also allows your cells to regulate gene activity and preserves nervous system function. Turkey gizzards contain much more vitamin B-12 than chicken gizzards -- 4.1 micrograms, compared to 1.4 micrograms. A single serving of turkey gizzards provides all the vitamin B-12 you need for the day, according to the Institute of Medicine, while chicken gizzards provide 58 percent of your daily intake requirement in a serving.
Consuming More Gizzards
Trim your gizzards of any visible fat, and saute them in olive oil and rosemary, adding your favorite vegetables to the skillet for a filling meal. Use chopped sauteed gizzard to add protein to vegetable soups, or bake gizzards, carrots, sweet potatoes and parsnips for a healthful stew suitable for cooler weather.
- Franklin Institute: Heart Diet Hints
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Chicken, Gizzard, All Classes, Raw
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Turkey, Gizzard, All Classes, Raw
- Iowa State University Extension: Protein
- Linus Pauling Institute: Iron
- Linus Pauling Institute: Selenium
- Linus Pauling Institute: Vitamin B-12
Sylvie Tremblay holds a Master of Science in molecular and cellular biology and has years of experience as a cancer researcher and neuroscientist. Based in Ontario, Canada, Tremblay is an experienced journalist and blogger specializing in nutrition, fitness, lifestyle, health and biotechnology, as well as real estate, agriculture and clean tech.