Liver as an entrée might not have the most pleasant childhood memories. However, if you are willing to give it another try as an adult, you’ll be amazed at all the health benefits this organ meat provides.
Liver is a Superfood – Rich in Nutrients
Dr. Patrick calls liver a superfood for a reason. Research has revealed that this organ meat is particularly rich in micro and macronutrients. Liver is one of the most nutrient-dense foods you could eat. In fact, you can think of it as nature’s multivitamin.
One serving of beef liver provides 27 grams of protein plus these vital nutrients:
- Vitamin B12: 1386% of RDI
- Copper: 730% of RDI
- Vitamin A: 522% of RDI
- Vitamin B2 (riboflavin): 201% of RDI
- Vitamin B3 (niacin): 87% of RDI
- Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid): 69% of RDI
- Folate: 65% of RDI
- Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine): 51% of RDI
- Phosphorus: 48% of RDI
- Selenium: 47% of RDI
- Zinc: 35% of RDI
- Iron: 34% of RDI
While only present in small amounts (5% RDI), liver also provides some vitamin K in a highly absorbable form. Eating liver regularly can provide a powerful nutrient boost. Many of these vitamins and minerals support the immune response, supporting your overall resilience.
Beyond Beef: Other Sources of Liver
While most people think of beef when talking about eating liver, cows aren’t the only creatures with livers! Other sources of liver include:
Pork liver. Pork liver tastes a bit stronger than beef liver, so it’s not for everyone. But when included with spices in liverwurst, it can be quite pleasant. Traditional Chinese food makes good use of pork liver.
Lamb liver. Lamb liver comes from sheep under a year old. It tends to be very mild and is excellent fried and seasoned with rosemary and other herbs.
Chicken liver. Chicken liver is mild and is commonly fried or made into a pâté. Jewish cuisine often uses chicken livers in the dish “chopped liver.”
Goose liver. Ever heard of foie gras? This French spread is made from the livers of forced-fattened geese. It literally translates to “fat liver.”
Duck liver. Foie gras is also sometimes made from duck livers instead of goose.
Cod liver. You’ve likely heard of cod liver oil. However, it is possible to get whole cod livers. They come canned like sardines.
These other sources of liver have many of the same nutrients. But they may vary in the amounts and percentages of the RDI. For example, cod liver oil additionally provides omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D.
While some people swear by eating raw liver, eating cooked liver has the same or similar benefits without the gag effect.
Benefits of Liver
Supports Healthy Eyesight
Liver meat is rich in fat-soluble vitamin A (retinol), an antioxidant vitamin crucial for healthy eyesight. Vitamin A deficiency may cause blindness as it causes the conjunctiva and cornea to dry out and tear. The tearing and scarring of the eye can eventually lead to blindness. Eating enough vitamin A-rich foods like liver help to promote healthy eyes and vision.
Supports The Immune System
Liver is also a good source of immune-supporting nutrients. The large amounts of vitamin A, zinc, and selenium support a robust immune response to bacteria and viruses. Deficiencies in any of these nutrients can impair the immune response, opening the way for short- and long-term infections.
Promotes a Healthy Brain and Nervous System
Liver is rich in nutrients that support brain function. It’s an excellent source of vitamin B12 and other B-complex vitamins, including choline. Choline is a nutrient that’s similar to the B-complex vitamins. Egg yolks are another great source of choline. While people fear cholesterol in egg yolks, they are actually an incredible source of hard-to-get nutrients.
Choline required for healthy cell membranes and the production of an important neurotransmitter, acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is known for its role in learning and memory.
Lowers Risk of Anemia
Anemia refers to reduced hemoglobin or hematocrit (red blood cells in blood by percentage). The best-known cause is low iron — “iron-deficiency anemia.” Liver is an excellent source of bio-available iron. One serving provides over one-third of your daily requirement. Adding vitamin C-rich food as a side can improve absorption.
Anemia isn’t always due to low iron levels, though. It can also be caused by other deficiencies, like B12, folate, or vitamin A. Liver is a source of all four of those nutrients. Read this article to learn about other causes of anemia.
Supports Cardiovascular Health
Another nutritional benefit of liver is its support of cardiovascular health. The B-complex vitamins are essential nutrients for the heart and blood vessels. Vitamins B6, folate, and B12 are especially needed to keep homocysteine levels low. They support the process of methylation and help convert homocysteine to methionine. If homocysteine gets too high because it can’t convert, it can be toxic to the body. The resulting low methionine also increases your risk of cardiovascular disease.
Serves as A High-Quality Protein Source
Liver is also a very inexpensive, nutritious, and high-quality protein source. You can easily find it at your local grocery store or butcher shop. Getting enough protein increases your metabolism, reduces cravings, and promotes weight loss when needed.
Concerns About Liver and Organ Meats
Liver and other organ meats (also called “offal”) are rich in cholesterol. Knowing that, many people avoid eating them. After all, mainstream medical advice is to keep your cholesterol intake low and eat low-fat muscle meats.
But, as we’ve pointed out in other articles and on A Different Perspective episodes, cholesterol is not the problem conventional medicine has made it. It’s the inflammation that leads to heart disease and other health problems.
We don’t want to blame cholesterol for what refined carbs did. Tune in to a free online webinar on cholesterol here.
Vitamin A Toxicity
While some people may worry about vitamin A toxicity, it’s not likely to happen from eating whole foods. Concerns about vitamin A come from studies on supplementation. Synthetic vitamin A supplements are entirely different from what you get in liver.
Liver as a Detox Organ
Some people may be concerned about eating liver because they know it’s the primary organ for removing toxins from the body. The liver is indeed our primary detox organ; however, it doesn’t store toxins. You don’t have to worry about taking in a lot of toxins when eating liver.
That said, you should seek out liver and other organ meats from organic sources. You don’t want to eat meat from animals that were fed corn and soy and have received antibiotics, hormone shots, and other medications. That’s because these toxins affect the quality of the liver tissue. “You are what you eat.” Unhealthy animals will have unhealthy organs, including their livers.
Taste and Texture
If you’re new to eating liver, start with a less pungent-tasting source. Calf’s liver (liver from a cow under one year) is milder than grown beef liver. Lamb liver or chicken livers are also good options.
How to Enjoy Liver
While liver with bacon and onions is a popular way to enjoy it, there are other ways to get it in. You can purchase good-quality liverwurst or Braunschweiger, make a liver pâté to spread on gluten-free crackers or vegetables, or hide it in meatballs. Here’s a great recipe for doing just that: Mama Flynn’s Meatballs.
What if You Don’t Like Liver?
Not everyone is a fan of liver, and it can be an acquired taste. If your taste buds are so tuned in to liver that you cannot stomach it, liver supplements are always an option. The Wellness Way’s Liver Glandular is formulated with freeze-dried, raw liver from New Zealand beef. The liver comes from grass-fed and grass-finished animals, and the supplements are free of hormones, pesticides, antibiotics, and GMOs. Talk to your Wellness Way practitioner about taking liver supplements as a part of your natural healthcare program. Don’t have a Wellness Way practitioner? Click see to contact a clinic near you!
- Micro- and macroelement contents in the liver of farm and wild animals and the health risks involved in liver consumption – PMC (nih.gov)
- Beef, variety meats and by-products, liver, cooked, pan-fried Nutrition Facts & Calories (self.com)
- The influence of dietary status on the cognitive performance of children – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Vitamin effects on the immune system: vitamins A and D take centre stage – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Dietary and Physiological Effects of Zinc on the Immune System – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Selenium, Selenoproteins, and Immunity – PubMed (nih.gov)