Corned beef is a popular year-round deli staple. It’s also synonymous with St. Patrick’s Day.
No doubt it’s tasty, but is corned beef a healthy meat?
This article will look into how corned beef is made and whether it’s healthy or should be reserved for an occasional holiday treat.
Brisket comes from a cow’s lower breast area and is tough and fatty. Thus, you have to brine or marinate it to tenderize the meat and then simmer it.
Corned beef brine also contains sugar and spices like allspice, coriander, peppercorn, mustard seeds, and bay leaf, which further flavor the beef.
The brining process, as well as the slow braising of the tough brisket, results in very tender and flavorful meat.
Corned beef is enjoyed in many ways, including as a breakfast hash, a Reuben deli sandwich, or the traditional St. Patrick’s Day dinner.
Corned beef is made by brining brisket in a salt and spice solution to make it more tender and flavorful. It’s the traditional meat for a St. Patrick’s Day dinner.
- Calories: 213
- Protein: 15 grams
- Fat: 16 grams
- Carbs: 0 grams
- Sodium: 827 mg, 34% of the Daily Value (DV)
- Cholesterol: 83 mg, 28% of the DV
- Selenium: 27.9 mcg, 40% of the DV
- Vitamin B12: 1.6 mcg, 27% of the DV
- Iron: 1.86 mg, 10% of the DV
Note that a serving of corned beef provides more than one-third of the DV for sodium. It’s difficult to make a low sodium version of corned beef because the brine salt helps tenderize the meat.
Sodium nitrite helps maintain freshness by limiting the growth of bacteria that cause foodborne illness. When it reacts with the beef proteins, nitrite turns the meat its characteristic pink color.
Homemade corned beef that is brined with regular pickling salt instead of sodium nitrite is gray in color.
Corned beef is flavorful meat tenderized and flavored by brining it in a salt and spice solution. It’s high in protein but high in fat and sodium.
It’s also high in selenium, which is essential for creating your thyroid hormones. It’s also needed for making DNA, and it functions as an antioxidant to protect it from damage (
While it may have some health benefits, corned beef is both red meat and processed meat. Processed meats have been preserved or flavored through salting, curing, fermenting, or smoking (
Some large population studies suggest diets high in red, processed meat may contribute to a higher risk of health problems and death (
The high amounts of sodium in processed meat may also raise blood pressure in some people. Both of these can contribute to a higher risk of heart disease (
Furthermore, cooked red meat is a source of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, heterocyclic amines, and nitrosamines.
These are all linked with a higher risk of cancer and are formed when meat is cured or cooked to high temperatures, such as 302–662°F (150–350°C), with greater amounts at 572°F (300°C) or higher. (
Corned beef adds some important nutrients to your diet, but it’s still processed red meat, linked with an increased risk of health problems like heart disease and cancer.
In 2015, the cancer division at the World Health Organization (WHO) classified processed meats as a carcinogen — something likely to cause cancer in humans (
The WHO also classified red meat as a probable carcinogen, as observational studies have suggested that eating more red meat is linked with an increased risk of colorectal, prostate, and pancreatic cancer (
It’s a good idea to limit the amount of processed meat you eat to just once in a while. That goes for corned beef and other processed meats like hot dogs or bacon.
The WHO classifies corned beef and other processed meats as potential carcinogens. Eating it regularly may increase your risk of developing colorectal cancer. Thus, it’s best to eat it infrequently.
Corned beef is processed red meat made by brining brisket in a salt and spice solution to flavor and tenderize it.
While it provides protein and nutrients like iron and vitamin B12, corned beef is relatively high in fat and sodium. It’s also a source of certain compounds that may increase your risk of cancer.
Processed meats like corned beef are categorized as potential carcinogens, so you may want to limit the amount of corned beef you eat to just once in a while.