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 Nutrition  HolisticOnline.com

Nutrition and Vitamins Infocenter

The Dish on Corned Beef and Cabbage

Corned beef and cabbage is traditionally served across America on St. Patrick's Day. Recent beef recalls aside, in moderation meat may actually have some health benefits, although a significant amount of evidence seems to support a vegetarian diet.

The protein portion of this Irish feast is prepared from beef cured or pickled in seasoned brine. The corn in corned beef refers to the grains of coarse salts used to cure it. According to The History Channel, while cabbage has become a traditional food item for Irish-Americans, corned beef was originally a substitute for Irish bacon in the late 1800s. Irish immigrants living in New York City's Lower East Side sought an equivalent in taste and texture to their traditional Irish bacon and learned about this cheaper alternative from their Jewish neighbors.

A study by the Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine, the National Academies, Washington, D.C., reviewed the current dilemma consumers face when trying to reconcile differences between potential health benefits and exposure to potential toxins in meat.

Analysis estimating likely intake and exposure outcomes for young children and women of child-bearing age revealed that seafood, chicken and beef, while approximately equivalent in protein, vary in key nutrients of importance as well as in levels of certain contaminants.

The researchers concluded that increasing the variety of choices among meats, poultry and seafood and consuming them in amounts consistent with current dietary guidelines and advisories will help meet nutritional needs while reducing exposure to any single type of contaminant.

Bone fracture rates were compared at the University of Oxford, Oxford, UK, in four diet groups: meat eaters, fish eaters, vegetarians and vegans.

The study found that those who consumed meat had a slightly lower risk of bone fractures; however, the study authors noted that fracture risk was similar for meat eaters, fish eaters and vegetarians. They attributed the higher fracture risk in the vegans to their considerably lower mean calcium intake.

Another study ascertained that consumption of cured meats, such as corned beef, does not increase the risk of adult-onset asthma. However, study data did suggest a possible correlation between cured meat and an increase in the adverse effects of smoking, including an increased risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

More evidence seems to support cabbage as a healthy dietary choice. Extracts of the vegetable have been studied for their anticancer, antifungal, anti-inflammatory and cholesterol-lowering activities.

Cabbage (Brassica oleracea) is a plant of the family Brassicaceae (or Cruciferae). It was used by the ancient Greeks and Romans for its medicinal properties.

In European folk medicine, cabbage leaves are used to treat acute inflammation. A paste of raw cabbage may be placed in a cabbage leaf and wrapped around the affected area to reduce discomfort. Cabbage contains significant amounts glutamine, an amino acid, which has anti-inflammatory properties.

It is also a source of indol-3-carbinol, or I3C, an adjunct compound for recurrent respiratory papillomatosis, a disease of the head and neck caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes growths in the airway that can lead to death.

Researchers from the Norwegian University of Life Sciences in Norway, explained that Brassica vegetables are the predominant dietary source of glucosinolates (natural compounds believe to be powerful antioxidants) and have been shown to possess anticancer properties.

An Italian study found that juice made from extracts of cabbage had antifungal effects and may therefore be useful in the prevention of certain diseases.

And finally, a Japanese study found that a beverage containing cabbage and broccoli had cholesterol-lowering effects.

Overindulgence in green beer is not recommended.


1) Appleby P, Roddam A, Allen N, et al. Comparative fracture risk in vegetarians and nonvegetarians in EPIC-Oxford. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2007 Dec;61(12):1400-6. Epub 2007 Feb 7.

2) Sisti M, Amagliani G, Brandi G. Antifungal activity of Brassica oleracea var. botrytis fresh aqueous juice. Fitoterapia. 2003 Jul;74(5):453-8.

3) Takai M, Suido H, Tanaka T, et al. [LDL-cholesterol-lowering effect of a mixed green vegetable and fruit beverage containing broccoli and cabbage in hypercholesterolemic subjects]. Rinsho Byori. 2003 Nov;51(11):1073-83.

4) The History Channel. St. Patrick's Day. www.history.com. Accessed February 29, 2008.

5) Varraso R, Jiang R, Barr RG, et al. Prospective study of cured meats consumption and risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in men. Am J Epidemiol. 2007 Dec 15;166(12):1438-45. Epub 2007 Sep 4.

6) Volden J, Wicklund T, Verkerk R, et al. Kinetics of Changes in Glucosinolate Concentrations during Long-Term Cooking of White Cabbage (Brassica oleracea L. ssp. capitata f. alba). J Agric Food Chem. 2008 Feb 28.

7) Yaktine AL, Nesheim MC, James CA. Nutrient and contaminant tradeoffs: exchanging meat, poultry, or seafood for dietary protein. Nutr Rev. 2008 Mar;66(3):113-22.

Source: Natural Standard, Integrative Medicine Newsletter

See Also:

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10 Easy Ways to Kick-Start a New Healthy Eating Lifestyle
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The Truth About Coconut Oil
Most smart nutritionists never thought coconut was unhealthy. After all, people in many parts of the world have been consuming coconuts for many years, sometimes in large amounts, with no apparent adverse effects. Coconuts and coconut oil are healthy additions to one's diet.

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