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Is Corned Beef Healthy? Corned Beef Nutrition Facts

Corned beef brisket

Curious if you need to keep an eye on that St. Paddy’s corned beef and cabbage or Reuben from your favorite sandwich shop? Let’s find out.

What is corned beef?

Corned beef is salt-cured brisket. Corned refers to the large grains of salt used in the curing process [*]. Curing refers to a preservation method that eliminates bacteria (think curing potential sickness), and while we have less need for natural preservation methods in the modern era, curing also happens to produce delicious flavors.

The curing mixture, or brine, is typically made from water, salt, sugar, and various spices.

Those spices include whole peppercorns, mustard seeds, coriander seeds, bay leaves, and cloves. Some recipes may also include additional flavorings like garlic or allspice berries. The exact proportions of salt, sugar, and spices will vary depending on personal preference and regional traditions.

Curing is not cooking per se, sort of how maceration isn’t cooking (acidic preparation of food like ceviche). The salt draws out moisture via osmosis, and when you pair that with a dehumidified room and fermentation, the living conditions for bad bacteria are mitigated.

Corned beef nutrition facts

Here are the basic nutritional facts for cooked corned beef per 3-ounce (85-gram) serving [*]:

  • Calories: 213
  • Protein: 15.5 g
  • Fat: 16.2 g
  • Cholesterol: 83.3mg mg
  • Sodium: 827 mg
  • Carbohydrates: 0.39 g
  • Fiber: 0 g
  • Sugar: 0 g
  • Iron: 1.86 mg (10.3% DV)
  • Calcium: 6.8 mg (0.7% DV)
  • Magnesium: 10.2 mg (2.4% DV)
  • Zinc: 3.89 mg (35.4% DV)

These values can vary based on factors such as the specific cut of beef used, any added ingredients or seasonings, and how the corned beef is prepared.

Additionally, if you’re concerned about sodium intake, you may want to look for reduced sodium or homemade versions of corned beef, where you can control the amount of salt used in the curing process.

Is corned beef healthy?

Corned beef is a high-sodium beef brisket. While it is perfectly fine to eat in moderation within a balanced diet, it is not on the shortlist of lean, unprocessed proteins nutritionists may advise eating as a mainstay protein.

Corned beef’s high protein content provides essential amino acids necessary for muscle repair and growth. However, it’s relatively high in fat, particularly saturated fat, which can contribute to increased cholesterol levels and heart disease risk if consumed in excess [*].

One of the main concerns with corned beef is its high sodium content. Excessive sodium intake has been linked to high blood pressure and an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases [*].

It’s worth paying attention to portion sizes and choosing lower-sodium options when available, especially if you have hypertension or other cardiovascular conditions.

But in the big picture, looking at any food in isolation can be misleading and reductionist — if you ate a disproportionate amount of almost any food your diet would be lacking. The key is to keep foods, especially processed red meat, balanced alongside a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, and other protein sources.

Corned beef health benefits

Here are a few of the nutritional upsides of corned beef:

High in protein

Corned beef is a protein-rich food, providing essential amino acids necessary for muscle repair and growth. A 3-ounce serving of corned beef typically contains around 15 grams of protein, making it a substantial source. Protein is vital for various physiological functions, including tissue maintenance, immune support, and enzyme production [*].

Good iron content

Beef, including corned beef, is a significant source of iron, a vital mineral involved in oxygen transport and energy metabolism. Iron deficiency can lead to fatigue, weakness, and impaired cognitive function. Incorporating iron-rich foods like corned beef into the diet can help prevent anemia and support overall health, particularly for individuals with increased iron needs such as pregnant women and athletes [*].

Good for B vitamins

Corned beef is also a good source of vitamin B12, a nutrient essential for nerve function, DNA synthesis, and red blood cell formation. Vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to neurological symptoms, fatigue, and anemia [*].

Rich in zinc

Corned beef is a good source of zinc, an essential mineral that plays a crucial role in immune function, wound healing, and DNA synthesis. Incorporating zinc-rich foods like corned beef into the diet can help support overall immune health and promote optimal functioning of the body’s cells and tissues [*].

Complete protein

Corned beef provides a complete source of protein, meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids that the body cannot produce on its own. These amino acids are necessary for building and repairing tissues, synthesizing hormones and enzymes, and supporting various metabolic processes in the body [*].

Nourishing collagen

Collagen is a structural protein found in connective tissues like tendons, ligaments, and skin. Corned beef contains collagen-rich cuts of meat, such as brisket, which can provide important building blocks for supporting joint health, promoting skin elasticity, and enhancing overall tissue repair and regeneration [*].

Nutritional downsides of corned beef

And here are a few nutritional downsides of corned beef to keep in mind.

A potential carcinogen

The WHO has stated that corned beef and other processed beef are potential carcinogens, and eating it may increase your risk of colorectal cancer [*].

This is in part due to a report by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which evaluated the carcinogenicity of red meat and processed meat and ultimately classified processed meat as “carcinogenic to humans” and red meat as “probably carcinogenic to humans” based on sufficient evidence linking their consumption with an increased risk of colorectal cancer.

High in sodium

One of the primary nutritional concerns with corned beef is its high sodium content. A 3-ounce serving of corned beef can contain up to 1,300 milligrams of sodium or more, depending on the recipe and preparation method. Excessive sodium intake has been linked to high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke, making it essential to limit the consumption of high-sodium foods like corned beef, especially for individuals with hypertension or cardiovascular conditions.

High in saturated fat

Corned beef is relatively high in saturated fat, with a 3-ounce serving typically providing around 6 grams. Diets high in saturated fat have been associated with an increased risk of heart disease and elevated cholesterol levels [*].

While lean cuts of beef are available, traditional corned beef may contain more fat due to its marbled texture. Consuming corned beef in moderation and opting for leaner cuts can help reduce saturated fat intake and promote heart health.

May have additional additives or preservatives

Some varieties of corned beef may contain additives and preservatives, such as sodium nitrate/nitrite, phosphates, and flavor enhancers, to improve shelf life, flavor, and texture. While these additives are generally recognized as safe by regulatory agencies when used in small amounts, some individuals may have sensitivities or allergies to certain additives. Choosing minimally processed or homemade corned beef and reading labels carefully can help minimize exposure to unnecessary additives and preservatives.

May contain nitrites and nitrates

Some varieties of corned beef may contain added nitrites or nitrates, which are used as preservatives and color fixatives. While small amounts of these additives are generally considered safe, a high intake of processed meats containing nitrites/nitrates has been associated with an increased risk of certain cancers, particularly colorectal cancer [*].

Potential for HCAs and PAHs

Cooking corned beef at high temperatures, such as grilling or pan-frying, can lead to the formation of harmful compounds known as HCAs (Heterocyclic Amines) and PAHs (Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons). These compounds have been linked to an increased risk of cancer when consumed in large amounts [*]. To reduce exposure, it’s best to cook corned beef using gentler methods like simmering or baking.

Typical corned beef recipes

Here are a few classic ways people incorporate corned beef into their diet.

  • Corned beef and cabbage: This is perhaps the most iconic way to enjoy corned beef. In this recipe, the corned beef is simmered in water or broth with spices until tender, then paired with cabbage wedges, potatoes, carrots, and sometimes onions. The vegetables are often cooked in the same pot as the corned beef to absorb its flavor.
  • Corned beef hash: Corned beef hash is a hearty breakfast dish made by cooking diced corned beef with onions, potatoes, and sometimes bell peppers until crispy and golden brown. It’s often served with fried or poached eggs on top.
  • Reuben sandwich: The Reuben sandwich is a classic deli favorite featuring thinly sliced corned beef, swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and Russian or Thousand Island dressing sandwiched between slices of rye bread.
  • Corned beef and potato casserole: This comforting casserole combines diced corned beef with cooked potatoes, onions, and cheese, all baked together in a creamy sauce.
  • Corned beef and egg breakfast burritos: For a quick and portable breakfast option, try filling flour tortillas with scrambled eggs, diced corned beef, shredded cheese, and your favorite breakfast toppings like salsa, avocado, or sour cream.

How to incorporate corned beef into your diet in a healthy manner

  • Choose lean cuts. Opt for leaner cuts of beef, such as trimmed brisket or bottom round, to reduce the overall fat content of your corned beef. Leaner cuts typically have less marbling and saturated fat, making them a healthier option for those watching their fat intake.
  • Reduce sodium when possible. Lower the sodium content of your corned beef by using a reduced-sodium brine or making your own brine with less salt. You can also rinse the corned beef before cooking to remove excess salt. Additionally, consider adding flavor to your dish with herbs, spices, and aromatics instead of relying solely on salt.
  • Trim excess fat. Before cooking, trim any visible fat from the surface of the corned beef to reduce its fat content. While a small amount of fat can add flavor, excessive fat intake should be moderated for overall health.
  • Control portions. Pay attention to portion sizes when serving corned beef to avoid overeating. Aim for smaller servings of corned beef and balance your meal with plenty of vegetables, whole grains, and other nutritious foods.
  • Balance your plate. When serving corned beef, aim to create a balanced meal by including a variety of food groups. Pair your corned beef with whole grains, such as brown rice or quinoa, and a generous portion of leafy greens or other vegetables to create a well-rounded and nutritious meal.

The bottom line on corned beef nutrition

All foods, especially red meats, are best eaten in the context of a wide, varied diet that includes many grains, fruits, and vegetables.

Corned beef is no different. It is processed red meat. Yes, if you ate it every day all day, it wouldn’t be healthy. But that goes for many things! However, US Wellness Meats’ Corned Beef is made using an all-natural brine with NO added nitrates/nitrites.

US Wellness Meats’ Corned Beef Ingredients: Beef, Water, Sea Salt, Garlic Powder, Nutmeg, Coriander, Citric Acid, Natural Spices (clove, cinnamon, allspice). 

So go enjoy that Reuben or St. Paddy’s Day party! Just make sure you eat other things, too.

The healthiest beef doesn’t happen by accident

If you’re into healthy eating, you’ve probably heard that the choices beef producers make don’t stop mattering after a cow’s life ends. If you prop up cows their whole lives with antibiotics in filthy pens, with no time outside, and only being fed genetically modified grain, the nutrition, texture, and taste suffer.

We think it can be sort of silly to consume tons of dietary and nutritional information but then choose beef that is raised in unhealthy conditions. Doesn’t that defeat the purpose?

Yes, healthy, grass-fed, grass-finished beef has a price premium, but we’d argue that eating a bit less, healthier beef and substituting in a few more fresh vegetables and grains outweighs the negatives.

While some companies claim to sell grass-fed beef, they actually finish with grain, which defeats the purpose. We exclusively use grass and operate using regenerative agriculture on sustainable farms with thousands of acres of pastures to graze.

We also never use GMO feed, antibiotics, or growth hormones, and we never compromise on quality. We only use natural, thick grass — just like Mother Nature intended.

See for yourself how good our corned beef is.


Nathan PhelpsNathan Phelps

Nathan Phelps owns and writes for Crafted Copy, a boutique copywriting shop that finds the perfect words for interesting products. He is also an ethical foodie, outdoors-aficionado, and hails from Nashville, TN. He splits his time between helping sustainable businesses find new customers and managing his ever-increasing list of hobbies, which include playing guitar, baking bread, and creating board games.