Latina Dietitian Answers: Is Carne Asada Healthy?

As the grilling season begins, you might find yourself wondering “is carne asada healthy?” 

Carne asada with fresh tortillas and salsa was always one of my favorite meals as a kid. Many of my clients tell me the same thing!

At the same time, my clients say they feel pressured to stop eating old favorites like carne asada because they’ve been told to avoid red meat. 

If you’ve ever felt the same way I wrote this blog post for you! We’ll cover the nutrition benefits and risks of carne asada, and explore how to build a healthy meal at the carne asada!

Let’s dive in!

Key Takeaway: While there are risks to eating grilled red meat like carne asada, it can still be part of a healthy meal in the context of your overall balanced diet. Carne asada is a good source of iron, and zinc. Pair with corn tortillas, plenty of veggies, and beans for a balanced meal. 

carne asada taco on a plate

About carne asada

Carne asada literally means grilled meat. The dish name carne asada usually refers to grilled skirt steak or flank steak. It can be served on its own or in tacos. 

Typically you would marinate carne asada before grilling, in a simple marinade with lime juice and spices. 

Carne asada nutrition facts

Before we look at the nutrition pros and cons of carne asada, let’s take a quick look at the nutrition facts. Because carne asada can be made with either flank steak or skirt steak, I’ve pulled the nutrition facts for both cuts. 

3 oz of grilled skirt steak has the following nutrient content (1):

Calories215 kcal
Carbohydrates0 g
Protein24.6 g
Fat13 g
Saturated Fat4.7 g
Cholesterol79 mg
Iron2.1 mg (12% daily value)
Zinc6.8 mg (85% daily value)

3 oz of flank steak has the following nutrient content (2):

Calories145 kcal
Carbohydrates0 g
Protein17.5 g
Fat8.4 g
Saturated Fat3 g
Cholesterol54.6 mg
Iron1.5 mg (8% daily value)
Zinc4.8 mg (60% daily value)

As you can see, the flank steak has fewer calories, as well as less fat and cholesterol. At the same time, the flank steak is also lower in protein, iron, and zinc.

Nutrition benefits

Let’s review some of the nutrition benefits of carne asada. 


Carne asada, like most red meat, is a good source of iron. 

Iron is important for making hemoglobin, which helps transport oxygen throughout the body (3). This is why iron deficiency can cause anemia (4). 

Grilled steak like carne asada can provide 8-12% of your daily iron needs per serving. 

Lean meat

Depending on the cut of meat, carne asada can be a relatively lean cut of meat. Flank steak is the leanest choice, with only 3 g of saturated fat per 3 oz serving. 

If you want the flavor and health benefits of steak without the high fat content, making carne asada with flank steak would be a great choice for you. 


Carne asada is very rich in zinc, providing anywhere from 60%-85% of your daily needs per serving. 

Zinc is an essential mineral which helps support your immune system (5).


Not only does marinating the carne asada introduce some extra herbs and spices (and all their antioxidants), but it can also help offset some of the risks of grilling (more on that below). 

(Read more: Mexican Herbs – Your Complete Nutrition Guide)

infographic explaining health benefits of carne asada. text reads is carne asada healthy.

Nutrition Risks

Of course there are some things to be aware of when choosing carne asada. Here are some of the nutrition risks to keep in mind. 

Saturated Fats

While flank steak is a pretty lean cut, carne asada may be high in saturated fat, especially if you use skirt steak. 

The American Heart Association recommends eating no more than 13 g of saturated fat per day, which is the equivalent of one serving of carne asada made with skirt steak. 

High saturated fat intake over the long term may increase your LDL cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol), as well as increase your risk for heart disease (6). 

Grilled meat and carcinogens

The charring that occurs when you grill meat may increase your risk of certain types of cancer (7). 

This risk isn’t necessarily from one carne asada every summer, but you want to be aware of it if you’re grilling most weekends. 

Luckily, there are some steps you can take to reduce the risk of grilled meats. 

According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, marinating meat for at least 30 minutes in a mixture that has vinegar or lime juice can help reduce the formation of harmful compounds when grilling. 

This is great news because carne asada is typically marinated with vinegar, lime juice, and other herbs and spices. 

Making a healthy meal with carne asada

It’s easy to make a healthy meal with carne asada!

In general, a healthy balanced meal has these elements:

  • Protein
  • Carbohydrates
  • Fiber
  • Vegetables
  • Fat

Here’s how I would combine typical foods from a carne asada to make a balanced meal:

  • Protein: 3 oz carne asada made with flank steak
  • Carbohydrates: 2-3  Corn tortillas
  • Fiber: Found in the corn tortillas. Add a small side of stewed beans.
  • Vegetables: Serve with a generous portion of salsa, also consider grilled cebollitas or a cucumber salad. 
  • Fat: Found in the meat. Can also add guacamole. 

So as you can see, the biggest tips to turn your carne asada into a healthy meal is to choose a lean cut of meat like flank steak, and pair it with plenty of vegetables and high fiber foods like beans. 

Final Thoughts

I may be a dietitian, but I would never ask you to give up your carne asada! 

Not only is it a meaningful way to gather as a community, but it can also be the foundation of a healthy meal when you add plenty of vegetables and choose leaner cuts of meat. 

As a Latina dietitian, my mission is to provide Latinas realistic, shame-free nutrition information that celebrates and centers our cultural foods. 

Feel like you could use this kind of nutrition info in your life? You need my 1-week meal plan for Mexican food! Get your free copy when you sign up below.


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