Stores sell beef tongue fresh, pickled, smoked and corned. If you're cooking fresh beef tongue, make sure to use a long, slow cooking process that will help tenderize the meat. Fresh beef tongue should be used within 24 hours of purchase and must be thoroughly scrubbed before cooking.
A 3-ounce serving of simmered beef tongue contains 241 calories, 33 percent of the daily value of protein, 29 percent of fat, 35 percent of saturated fat and 44 percent of cholesterol. It has little sodium and no carbohydrates or fiber.
Beef tongue is a rich source of protein. Every cell in your body contains protein, and protein helps your body manufacture, repair and maintain cells and is essential to fetal, childhood and adolescent growth and development.
Fat constitutes 71 percent of the calories in simmered tongue. Almost 56 percent of that fat comes from heart-healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which can help lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease. Eating too many polyunsaturated fats, however, has been linked to an increased risk of certain types of cancers. The rest of the fat in cow tongue is saturated, which can cause elevated cholesterol and triglyceride levels. High triglyceride levels have been linked to inflammation and pancreatitis, a potentially deadly disease. Fat contains essential elements called linoleic and linolenic acids that are key to blood clotting, brain development, healthy skin and hair and aid in controlling inflammation. Fat is also necessary for the absorption of vitamins A, D, E and K.
A 3-ounce serving of tongue has 44 percent of the DV of cholesterol, a fat-like substance called a lipid. Your body needs cholesterol to manufacture cell membranes and certain hormones, but your liver produces enough cholesterol to cover these uses. Elevated cholesterol levels can lead to heart disease. The Texas Heart Institute estimates that 98 million Americans have elevated cholesterol levels and 34 million have high cholesterol.
A serving of beef tongue supplies 32 percent of the adult male recommended dietary allowance for zinc and 39 percent of the RDA for women. This essential mineral aids in enzyme and immune function, DNA and protein synthesis, wound healing, cell division and normal growth and development. Zinc also plays a role in your abilities to taste and smell.
Iron requirements vary greatly between men and women. Three ounces of beef tongue provide 28 percent of the RDA of iron for men and 12 percent for women. Iron helps the body take oxygen from the lungs into the blood stream and then to the body's tissues. Iron also aids in cell growth and differentiation. The National Institutes of Health reports that up to 80 percent of the world's population may be iron deficient and 30 percent may suffer from iron-deficiency anemia. Iron-deficiency anemia is characterized by fatigue, weakness, increased susceptibility to infection and an inflamed tongue. It can lead to delayed cognitive and social development in children.
- Epicurious Food Dictionary: Tongue
- USDA National Agricultural Library Full Report: Nutrient Data for 13340, Beef, Variety Meats and By-Products, Tongue, Cooked, Simmered
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Protein in Diet -- All Information
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Fat - All Information
- Texas Heart Institute Heart Information Center: Cholesterol
- National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements: Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet -- Zinc
- National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements: Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Iron
Christine Gray began writing professionally in 1997, when a trade publishing company hired her as an assistant editor. She wrote her first screenplay in 1998 and has been covering health and nutrition since 2009. Gray graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English literature from the University of Michigan.