The first St. Patrick’s Day was celebrated on March 17 in the United States in 1737. Boston, Massachusetts began the tradition which continues to this day. This day honors St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland with parades, feasting, and drinking green beer.
It just wouldn’t be St. Patrick’s Day for many Americans without the traditional corned beef and cabbage. But did you know that Irish people in Ireland didn’t make a fuss over March 17 as St. Patrick’s Day until tourists and ex-pats brought their new interest in the holiday to the Emerald Isles after the Millennium? It’s true.
Irish immigrants to the United States adopted the food in the 1800s as an inexpensive alternative to the also-affordable salt pork they were used to eating back home. In Ireland, beef was too pricey for lower-income people to pay. The opposite was true in the U.S. – so new citizens adopted a cheap cut of beef with cabbage, a low-cost vegetable.
This enduring feasting fare, born of economic necessity, was adopted not only by Irish people but by Jewish, Italian, German, Cuban, and Mexican Americans.
Even though corned beef and cabbage might be considered “working person’s food,” there is a lot to recommend it at least once a year, regardless of your net worth.
First, the meal, when properly prepared, is mouth-wateringly delicious – to the extent that you might want to serve it more than once a year.
Second, corned beef and cabbage are really good for you!
What exactly is corned beef?
Corning any meat means to sprinkle it with grains (corns) of salt, laurel leaf, allspice, and garlic that, when combined, create immense flavor.
Corned beef is made from brisket, a lower-cost cut of meat. It can feed a lot of people without breaking your bank.
Corned beef is brisket cured in a salt brine with some pickling spices added in for extra flavor.
Oh, did I forget to mention that corned beef turns bright pink while slow-cooking? That’s because of the “pink salt”(sodium nitrate) added to the brine. It’s a chemical compound that is toxic in concentrated amounts, so the manufacturers dye it pink to avoid mistaking it for table salt.
It is perfectly fine to substitute regular or kosher salt for pink salt when curing corned beef. You can turn it pink by adding a whole raw beet or two to the boiling water when cooking the salted brisket.
Speaking of salt, corned beef is loaded with sodium, as are all cured meats. Limit your consumption of salted foods if you are on a low-sodium diet. Consuming too much sodium raises the risk of hypertension, stroke, and heart disease.
Note that pink salt for corning beef is not the same product as Himalayan pink salt.
How nutritious is corned beef?
Beef brisket is about half protein and half fat with nearly zero cars.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Nutrient Database, a 3-ounce serving of cooked corned beef provides:
- Calories: 213
- Protein: 15.1 g (grams)
- Fat: 15.4 grams (but only 5 g are heart-unhealthy saturated fat)
- Carbohydrates: 0.4 g
Vitamin B-12: 1.4 mcg (23% RDI)
Niacin: 2.6 mg (13% RDI)
Vitamin B6: 0.2 mg (10% RDI)
Riboflavin: 0.1 mg (9% RDI)
Pantothenic Acid: 0.4 mg (4% RDI)
Vitamin K: 1.3 mcg (2% RDI)
Vitamin E: 0.1 mg (1% RDI)
Thiamin: 0.1 mg (1% RDI)
Folate: 0.1 mg (1% RDI)
Calcium: 6.8 mg (1% Daily Value or DV)
Iron: 1.6 mg (9% DV)
Magnesium: 10.2 mg (3% DV)
Phosphorus: 106 mg (11% DV)
Potassium: 123 mg (4% DV)
Sodium: 964 mg (40% DV)
Zinc: 3.9 mg (26% DV)
Copper: 0.1 mg (7% DV)
Manganese: 0.0 mg (1% DV)
Selenium: 27.9 mcg (40% DV)
How nutritious is cooked cabbage?
Cabbage is low in calories and high in vitamins. One cup of cooked cabbage sets your body up with twice the daily value (DV) of vitamin K, essential for proper blood clotting!
One cup of cabbage, cooked, boiled, drained, without salt, provides:
Protein: 2.0 g (4% DV)
Fat: Almost 0 (21 mg Omega-3 fatty acids and 13.4mg Omega-6 fatty acids – both “good” fats)
Carbohydrates: 8.2 g (2% DV)
Fiber: 3 grams (7-12% Recommended Daily Intake or RDI)
Vitamin K: 163 mcg (204% DV)
Vitamin C: 56.2 mg (94% DV)
Folate: 45 mcg (12% DV)
Vitamin B6: 0.2 mg (8% DV)
Vitamin A: 120.0 IU (2% DV)
Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol): 0.2 mg (2% DV)
Niacin: 0.4 mg (2% DV)
Pantothenic Acid: 0.2 mg (2% DV)
Choline: 30 mg
Betaine: 0.4 mg
Calcium: 72.0 mg (8% DV)
Iron: 0.2 mg (2% DV)
Magnesium: 22.4 mg (6% DV)
Phosphorus: 49.6 mg (4% DV)
Potassium: 294 mg (8% DV)
Sodium: 12.0 mg (0% DV)
Zinc: 0.2 mg (2% DV)
Copper: 0.0 mg (1% DV)
Manganese: 0.4 mg (16% DV)
Selenium: 1 mcg (2% DV)
Fluoride: 1.6 mcg
If you really want to low-carb your corned beef and cabbage, try this recipe for brisket from a no-blarney All-Italian American.
No matter how you slice it, corned beef and cabbage make a great, well-balanced meal that is high in everything you need for good health and balanced nutrition: protein, fat, and carbohydrates.
May the luck of the Irish be with you whenever you feast on this delicious and nutritious holiday treat!