The Benefits of Eating Liver are abundant and very well documented. Liver is nature’s most concentrated source of vitamin A; it is also abundant in B12 and other B vitamins, plus iron, choline, copper, folic acid, purines and natural cholesterol. It’s also a fantastic source of magnesium and phosphorus. Liver has also been shown to contain a not-yet identified anti-fatigue factor.
I live by the rule: never say never! In the past I have tried eating liver several different ways and while I really wanted to like it, I just couldn’t get down with it. I didn’t love the taste, or truthfully there was something off-putting about knowing what I was actually eating. I had a hard time looking at it, even. I kinda always knew it was good for me, but I honestly didn’t know to what extent and while I tried, I just couldn’t bring myself to eat it. However, I refused to ever say “I will NEVER eat liver” – rather I thought: someday I will find a way to like it.
The more I learned about liver, especially during my time in school with the NTA and in doing my own research, the more I was determined to find a way I could and would enjoy it. At first, it started with liver supplements, so I could reap the benefits of liver without having to eat it. The effects were so profound that I finally decided one day to just try paté at a restaurant while traveling. I liked it. I actually liked it a lot. I came home and promptly ordered a liver from the incredible farm we get all of our pasture-raised meat from, Diamond Mountain Ranch, and I decided it was time to just dive right in and make it myself.
The Offal Truth:
While many people assume that plant-based foods: vegetable and fruits are the most nutrient dense foods on the planet, I think most would be surprised to learn that organ meats (also called offal) actually far surpass most plants for nutrient density and at the top of that list is liver. Organ meats contain some of most highly prized nutrients in concentrations hard to find anywhere else. This is why predatory animals eat it first, instinctively knowing that organ meats are the densest source of nutrition and why it has been so highly celebrated throughout history. Prior to modernized culture and our industrialized food systems, traditional food cultures generally ONLY consumed the organ meats, the lean muscle meat, that we consume today was thrown away or used to feed other animals.In general, organ meats are between 10 and 100 times higher in nutrients than corresponding muscle meats.
All that being said, none of this is to at all say that fresh produce isn’t of equal importance. Fruits and vegetables are rich in phytonutrients like flavonoids and polyphenols that aren’t found in high concentrations in meats and organ meats, so it’s just as vital to include an abundance and array of fresh produce as a significant part of your diet.
Nature’s Most Nutrient-Dense Superfood
So why is liver so incredible? To simplify it, liver contains more nutrients, gram for gram, than any other food.
Quality Grass-fed Liver Provides:
- An excellent source of high-quality protein
- Nature’s most concentrated source of vitamin A
- All the B vitamins in abundance, particularly vitamin B12
- One of our best sources of folic acid
- A highly usable form of iron
- Trace elements such as copper, zinc and chromium; liver is our best source of copper
- An unidentified anti-fatigue factor
- Three ounces of quality beef liver contains almost three times as much choline as one egg
- CoQ10, a nutrient that is especially important for cardio-vascular function
- A good source of purines, nitrogen-containing compounds that serve as precursors for DNA and RNA
- It also contains a mysterious “anti-fatigue factor,” making it a favorite among athletes 1https://www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/food-features/the-liver-files/
Nature’s Most Concentrated Source of Vitamin A:
Impressively abundant in organ meats from pastured animals, Vitamin A is a catalyst for multiple biochemical processes. Vitamin A is vital for prevention of birth defects, prevention of infection, hormone production, optimal thyroid function, good digestion, good vision, and healthy bones and blood. Without it, your body cannot utilize protein, minerals and water-soluble vitamins. Vitamin A is also an antioxidant that helps protect you from pollutants, free radicals, and cancer. 2https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/12/30/eating-organ-meats.aspx
Contrary to what many vegetarians believe, the type of vitamin A obtained from plants (carotene) is quite different than the animal-derived form. Carotenes from vibrantly colored fruits and vegetable are a great antioxidant and can be converted into true vitamin A in your upper intestine, but many people are unable to convert it, especially if their diets contain insufficient fat.
While there are concerns of toxicity due to over consumption of vitamin A, these concerns stem from studies in which moderate doses of synthetic vitamin A were found to cause problems and even contribute to birth defects. But, this does not happen with natural vitamin A found in high-quality liver. Vitamin A sourced from real, whole foods is an extremely important nutrient for human health and does not cause problems except in extremely, extremely large amounts. When people began taking synthetic vitamin A supplements, this was when we began to see vitamin A toxicity. Therefore, the advice to refrain from organ meats during pregnancy is unfounded. It is best to obtain your vitamin A from natural sources like yellow butter, egg yolks, and organ meats vs synthetic vitamin A.
An Incredible Source of B12
Did you know it is estimated that 92% of Americans are nutrient-deficient and nearly 50% are deficient in vitamin B12? B12 deficiency can lead to issues like pernicious anemia, vascular disease, stroke, autoimmune conditions, fatigue and dementia. (1) True B12 cannot be found in plants or sunlight and liver is THE richestt source of B12 is found in, yup, you guess it, grass-fed beef liver!
No, the Liver Doesn’t STORE toxins:
This is a common misconception that I encounter often as a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner and as a vocal advocate of liver-eating. The liver is often described as an organ that “filters” the toxins from your blood. This concerns people, as they fear that then eating the liver means that they will be consuming these toxins.
In reality, laboratory analysis has proven that liver is actually completely safe for consumption and has no higher concentration of toxins than the rest of the body. This is due to the fact that your liver is not actually a “filter,” per se, but more of a chemical processing plant, rendering toxins inert and shuttling them out of your body. If your liver contains large amounts of toxins, so do you! And the same goes for the animals you consume. What this means is, the cleaner the animal whose organs you are consuming, the cleaner your food will be, whether it’s a steak or an organ. Which is why it is important to choose grass-fed meat and offal.
While it is true that one of the liver’s role is to neutralize various toxins (such as drugs, chemical agents and poisons), it does not store these toxins. Toxins the body cannot eliminate are likely to accumulate in the body’s fatty tissues and nervous systems before they would be stored in the liver. On the other hand, the liver is a is a storage organ for many important nutrients (vitamins A, D, E, K, B12 and folic acid, and minerals such as copper and iron). These nutrients provide the body with some of the tools it needs to get rid of toxins.
Know Where Your Food Comes From:
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, it is SO important to source and eat meat and offal from grass-fed animals. I highly advise against eating organ meats from “conventionally” raised animals that spend their lives in confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs). The diets, veterinary drugs and living conditions of such animals are not likely to result in healthy, nutrient-rich organs (or muscle meat for that matter), so be sure to find out where the organs came from, should you decide to pick some up at your local grocer.
It is safest to restrict all of your meats to pastured, or at the very least, grass-finished animals. (read more about why here – link to my article)
While it still may be beneficial to consume liver from a “supermarket”/factory farmed animal, because it still has all of the micronutrients, it should be said that the benefit has to be balanced against the potential harm caused by the chemicals and toxins found in factory-farmed meat.
Check out EatWild.com? They have listings of grass-fed meat suppliers in various locations. Also, you might also check the Weston A. Price Foundation for a local chapter in your area. They will be able to tell you where to buy grass-fed meat locally.
How to Eat Liver?
There are tons of ways to enjoy liver, both cooked and raw. You can check out my recipe for Caramelized Onion and Bacon Liver Pâté, my friend Mary, the Paleo Chef, has an amazing recipe for Bangin’ Liver and Real Food Liz has a recipe for a unique Raw Liver Smoothie Shot. For even more benefits of liver and other delicious ways to prepare it visit this post. I also really love mixing liver into ground meat blends, meatloaf, meatballs, meat sauce, etc. It’s basically undetectable and it’s a great way to include in your children’s healthy diet (or to get your picky hubby eating liver, not that I would know about that).
For supplemental sources of liver, see below.
How Much Liver Should You Eat?
A good recommendation for liver is one 100-gram serving of beef, lamb, bison or duck liver (about 4 ounces) once or twice a week, providing about 50,000 IU vitamin A per serving. Chicken liver, which is lower in vitamin A, may be consumed more frequently. 3https://www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/food-features/the-liver-files/
If you aren’t quite ready to venture into the world of eating liver, then I suggest high-quality liver supplements. When looking for liver supplements, you want to make sure it’s from 100% pasture-raised animals — as mentioned above when buying the actual liver itself. You can get it in powder, tablet or capsule form.
A high-quality liver supplement in its purest, most natural form basically works as a multivitamin, plus a B complex, in capsule or tablet form. It’s a great supplement for those who struggle with anemia, low energy levels, adrenal fatigue, thyroid issues, autoimmune disease, poor cellular function and even cancer.
My Recommended Supplemental Sources of Liver:
Paleo Valley’s Grass Fed Organ Complex (use promo code “yummy” at checkout to save 20%, site wide) – This is what I take daily, currently, if I am not eating liver, I love that this supplement is raw and in additional to high-quality, grass-fed liver it also includes heart, brain and kidney, each bringing their own additional, unique health benefits. I have seen substantial changes to my skin and my overall energy taking this supplement regularly.
Vital Proteins’ Dessicated Beef Liver Capsules – Approximately 4 capsules is equal to one ounce of fresh beef liver, so taking the recommended 4 capsules a day will equate to 2oz of fresh liver per week!
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