Dr. Becky Maes - Is It Bad For You? Approved by Dr. Becky Maes

Is Brisket Bad For You?



Short answer

Brisket can be part of a balanced diet when consumed in moderation, due to its rich protein, B vitamins, minerals, and iron content. However, its high saturated fat, calorie density, and sodium, especially in pre-prepared versions, can pose health risks. Furthermore, cooking brisket at high temperatures increases carcinogenic compounds. Opting for leaner cuts and healthier cooking methods, like braising, may mitigate some health concerns while allowing for occasional enjoyment of this flavorful meat.



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Long answer

Nutritional Content of Brisket: Pros and Cons

Brisket, a cut of beef from the lower chest or breast, has both nutritional benefits and drawbacks that are important to consider. This section will delve into the specific nutritional components of brisket, highlighting the pros and cons associated with its consumption.


  • Protein: Brisket is rich in high-quality protein, which is essential for muscle repair, immune function, and overall health. A typical 3-ounce serving contains about 24 grams of protein.
  • B Vitamins: It is a good source of several B vitamins, including niacin, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12, which support energy production and neurological health.
  • Minerals: You'll find minerals such as zinc, which is necessary for immune function, and selenium, an antioxidant that plays a role in protecting your cells from damage.
  • Iron: Brisket contains heme iron, the type of iron found in animal products, which is more easily absorbed by the body compared to non-heme iron from plant sources.


  • Saturated Fat: Brisket has a high saturated fat content, with a single serving providing about 7 grams. High intake of saturated fats is linked to increased cholesterol levels and a higher risk of heart disease.
  • Calories: It is calorie-dense, with a 3-ounce serving containing around 250 calories. Overconsumption can contribute to weight gain.
  • Sodium: Pre-prepared or pre-packaged brisket may contain high levels of sodium, which can lead to increased blood pressure and cardiovascular issues.
  • Carcinogenic Risk: When cooked at high temperatures or smoked, brisket can contain polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and heterocyclic amines (HCAs), which are potential carcinogens.

To balance the pros and cons, choosing leaner cuts and cooking methods that do not involve smoking or charring can make brisket a healthier choice. Portion control is also crucial. When consumed in moderation as part of a balanced diet, brisket can provide necessary nutrients to the body without excessive risks.

Nutrient Amount per 3-ounce serving
Protein 24g
Saturated Fat 7g
Calories 250
Iron 2.3mg (13% of DV)
Zinc 7mg (47% of DV)
Selenium 28.8µg (41% of DV)
Vitamin B12 2.1µg (35% of DV)
Vitamin B6 0.4mg (20% of DV)
Niacin 4.8mg (24% of DV)

Note: DV refers to Daily Value based on a 2,000-calorie diet. Exact nutritional values can vary based on the cut and preparation of the brisket.

Saturated Fat and Cholesterol in Brisket: Heart Health Implications

Brisket, a cut of meat from the breast or lower chest of beef or veal, is known for its rich flavor and tender texture after proper cooking. While it's a favorite at barbecues and family gatherings, it's important to consider its nutritional content, particularly the amount of saturated fat and cholesterol it contains. These elements have been scrutinized for their potential impact on heart health. Understanding them can inform your decisions on how brisket fits into a balanced diet.

Saturated fats are a type of dietary fat found in high amounts in animal products. Brisket, being a red meat, contains a significant amount of saturated fat. According to the USDA, a 3-ounce serving of cooked brisket contains about 7 grams of saturated fat, which is about 35% of the recommended daily intake for most adults, assuming a daily diet that includes less than 10% of calories from saturated fat as per the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Excessive intake of saturated fats is associated with increased levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, commonly known as 'bad' cholesterol. High levels of LDL cholesterol in the blood increase the risk of developing coronary artery disease, which can lead to heart attacks and strokes. A meta-analysis published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology underlines the importance of replacing saturated fat with polyunsaturated fatty acids to reduce cardiovascular risk.

Cholesterol is another concern when consuming brisket. The same 3-ounce serving contains approximately 65 milligrams of cholesterol, contributing to up to 22% of the maximum recommended daily amount of cholesterol according to the American Heart Association's guidelines, which suggest no more than 300 milligrams per day for healthy adults. It is well-documented that high dietary cholesterol can also contribute to elevated blood cholesterol levels, although this effect can vary greatly among individuals.

It's worth noting that while moderate consumption of brisket can fit into a heart-healthy diet, portion control and cooking methods play pivotal roles. Opting for leaner cuts of brisket and employing cooking methods that don't add extra fat, such as braising or smoking, can reduce the negative impact on heart health. Additionally, the context of overall diet is key; brisket should ideally be consumed alongside a variety of nutrient-dense foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats to balance one's dietary profile.

Current research, including an article from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, emphasizes the importance of viewing the diet as a whole. Rather than focusing on single nutrients, evaluating the cumulative effect of one's dietary pattern on heart health is recommended. Thus, while the saturated fat and cholesterol in brisket pose risks when consumed in excess, they are just one part of a larger nutritional mosaic.

Fitness enthusiasts and individuals on specific diets (like keto) often have differing views on the role of saturated fat and cholesterol in their diet, sometimes embracing higher-fat foods for their macronutrient goals. These approaches suggest an evolving understanding of fats in our diet but should be moderated by attention to heart health and individual health factors under the guidance of a healthcare professional.

When addressing the saturated fat and cholesterol content in brisket, it's crucial to keep in mind recommended daily limits and individual health profiles. For those with existing high cholesterol levels or risk factors for heart disease, limiting brisket intake may be advisable.

Carcinogenic Risks: The Link Between Red Meat and Cancer

When evaluating whether brisket, a popular form of red meat, poses carcinogenic risks, it is essential to delve into the research that connects red meat with an increased risk of cancer. It's important for consumers to understand these potential risks to make informed dietary choices. Let’s break down the scientific findings and recommendations from health organizations regarding the consumption of red meat like brisket.

Firstly, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which is part of the World Health Organization (WHO), classified processed meat as a Group 1 carcinogen and red meat as a Group 2A carcinogen. This means that processed meat is considered to cause cancer, with a strong link to colorectal cancer, while red meat is probably carcinogenic to humans, with associations mainly to colorectal, pancreatic, and prostate cancer.

Evidence on Red Meat and Cancer Link:

  • The consumption of red meat has been associated with an increased risk of several types of cancer. High-temperature cooking methods, such as grilling or barbecuing, can produce carcinogenic compounds like heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).
  • Another compound of concern is heme iron, the type of iron found in red meat, which can facilitate the production of potentially carcinogenic N-nitroso compounds within the gut.
  • Evidence indicates that high consumption of red meat can also lead to an imbalance in the gut microbiome, which may contribute to colorectal cancer development.

Quantifying the Risk:

Quantification of the risk has been attempted by various studies. A notable 2015 meta-analysis, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, revealed that the consumption of large quantities of red meat, particularly processed meat, was associated with a higher risk of all-cause mortality, including death from cancer.

  • It's reported that for each daily increase of 100 grams of red meat, there is a 17% increased risk of colorectal cancer.
  • For processed meats, even a smaller daily serving of 50 grams – roughly equivalent to a couple of slices of bacon – could increase the risk of colorectal cancer by 18% according to the WHO.

It is prudent to bear in mind that these statistics do not mean that eating red meat like brisket will definitively cause cancer, but rather that the risk increases with the quantity consumed.

Recommendations from Health Organizations:

  • The American Cancer Society suggests limiting the consumption of red and processed meats and adopting a diet that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
  • Similarly, the American Heart Association recommends choosing lean cuts when consuming red meat and adopting a dietary pattern rich in plant-based foods.

Ultimately, when considering the inclusion of brisket in your diet, it's important to balance the enjoyment of this flavorful meat with an awareness of the potential risks, especially if consumed in large or frequent quantities. Moderation and a diet that encompasses a variety of protein sources can help mitigate the carcinogenic risks associated with red meat consumption.

How Cooking Method Affects Brisket's Healthiness

When evaluating the healthiness of brisket, one cannot overlook the influence of cooking methods on its nutritional profile. Cooking techniques can alter the fat content, create potentially harmful compounds, and even affect the meat's vitamin and mineral content. Let's delve into how different methods can impact the healthfulness of brisket.


  • Smoking brisket is a traditional method that imparts a rich flavor. However, smoked meats can contain polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which are created when fat from the meat drips onto an open fire and creates smoke that coats the meat. Some PAHs have been associated with cancer risk in scientific studies, such as one published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
  • To mitigate PAH exposure, it's recommended to maintain lower temperatures and utilize indirect heat during smoking.


  • Grilling brisket over high heat can lead to the formation of heterocyclic amines (HCAs), another class of chemicals of concern regarding cancer risk. According to research from the National Cancer Institute, HCAs are formed when muscle meat, including beef, is cooked at high temperatures.
  • To reduce HCA formation, it is advisable to avoid prolonged cooking times and excessively high temperatures.


  • Braising brisket in a liquid at a lower temperature is a healthier cooking alternative. This method can decrease the formation of harmful compounds and help preserve more nutrients within the meat.
  • Additionally, braising allows for the inclusion of various vegetables and spices that can enhance the nutritional value and antioxidant content of the meal.


  • Sous-vide cooking involves vacuum-sealing brisket and cooking it in a water bath at a precisely controlled, low temperature. This technique minimizes the risk of creating PAHs and HCAs.
  • A 2015 study in the International Journal of Gastronomy and Food Science suggests that sous-vide may help in retaining the integrity of proteins and essential nutrients.

Ultimately, the healthiness of brisket correlates significantly with your choice of cooking method. Opting for slower, lower-temperature cooking methods can aid in preserving the meat's nutritional value while decreasing the potential risks associated with certain chemicals produced during high-temperature cooking.

Brisket in a Balanced Diet: Portion Sizes and Frequency

When incorporating brisket into a balanced diet, it's crucial to consider both portion sizes and consumption frequency to maintain nutritional harmony. As with many foods, moderation is key. Here's a closer look at how brisket fits into a health-conscious eating plan:

Understanding Serving Sizes:

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that average daily protein intake should be within 10% to 35% of your calories. For a 2,000 calorie diet, that translates to about 50 to 175 grams of protein per day. Brisket, being a protein-rich food, can help meet this requirement. A standard serving size of cooked brisket is approximately 3 ounces (85 grams), which typically contains about 24 grams of protein. This serving size can fit well into a balanced meal plan when accompanied by nutrient-dense side dishes such as vegetables and whole grains.

Frequency of Consumption:

Given its higher fat content, particularly saturated fat, brisket should be enjoyed in moderation. Health experts suggest limiting red meat intake to a few times per week to balance the consumption of different protein sources like poultry, fish, legumes, and nuts. Integrating brisket into your diet no more than 1-2 times per week can contribute to a diverse and nutrient-rich diet without overindulging in saturated fats.

Fat Content Considerations:

Brisket is known for its marbling, which refers to the streaks of fat throughout the meat that give it flavor and tenderness. While fat is an essential macronutrient, controlling the intake of saturated fats found in brisket is important for heart health. The American Heart Association advises that saturated fats should account for less than 5 to 6 percent of your total daily calories. Trimming visible fat from the brisket before cooking and once again before serving can help reduce the total fat content of the meal.

Choosing Leaner Cuts:

If you're a brisket enthusiast looking to make healthier choices, consider opting for the 'flat' or 'first cut' of the brisket, which tends to be leaner than the 'point' or 'second cut'. Despite being less fatty, the flat cut can still be prepared in a way that preserves its juiciness and flavor, especially when cooked slowly at low temperatures.

Balance with Vegetables and Whole Grains:

To create a well-rounded meal, serve your brisket with a hearty portion of vegetables like leafy greens, broccoli, or Brussels sprouts and a serving of whole grains such as quinoa, brown rice, or whole-wheat couscous. These additions not only provide essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber, but also help prevent you from overindulging in brisket by filling up on these healthier components.

Remember, the best diet is one that's varied and rich in nutrients. Including brisket as part of a diet that features an array of foods helps to ensure that all your nutritional needs are met while still being able to enjoy this flavorful meat in moderation.

Frequently asked questions

Healthier cooking methods for brisket include braising in a liquid at lower temperatures or using sous-vide, as both methods minimize the formation of harmful compounds like PAHs and HCAs. These techniques help maintain the meat's nutritional value and decrease potential carcinogenic risks.

If you are trying to lower your cholesterol, you can still include brisket in your diet, but it should be consumed in moderation. Opt for leaner 'flat' cuts, trim visible fat before cooking and serving, and ensure your overall diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats. Consultation with a healthcare professional is also recommended for personalized advice.

To incorporate brisket into a balanced diet without contributing to weight gain, practice portion control by sticking to a 3-ounce serving size, limit consumption to 1-2 times per week, and balance your meal with vegetables and whole grains. Trimming fat and choosing lean cuts of brisket can also help manage calorie intake.

Yes, brisket is a good source of heme iron, which is easily absorbed by the body and can be beneficial for individuals with anemia. A 3-ounce serving of brisket provides about 2.3 mg of iron, contributing to 13% of the daily value, but it should be paired with foods high in vitamin C to enhance iron absorption.

Ask a question about Brisket and our team will publish the answer as soon as possible.

Possible short-term side effects

  • increased ldl cholesterol
  • high blood pressure
  • weight gain

Possible long-term side effects

  • heart disease
  • increased risk of certain cancers
  • imbalance in gut microbiome
  • all-cause mortality

Ingredients to be aware of


  • high-quality protein
  • b vitamins
  • zinc
  • selenium
  • iron

Healthier alternatives

  • lean cuts
  • braising
  • sous-vide
  • limiting portion size
  • diverse protein sources
  • vegetables
  • whole grains

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Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 02-17-2024

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 02-17-2024

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