Is liver superfood? Yes! Why was it ever considered unhealthy? This really puzzles me as a nutritionist. In contrast, walk down the aisles of produce and meat with me today. Everything is strangely uniform in shape and size. Chicken meat packages have tidily been placed in plastic with all fat removed. They don’t look at all like…chicken. This is by design.
Two options are available: chicken breasts and thighs. Perhaps a small section of wings may appear on the shelf if Super Bowl is around the corner.
These uniform meats, while appearing antiseptic, are pale and to be frank, lacking. Are we missing the best, most nutritious foods today because our food choices are so narrow?
Are the most nutritious foods being thrown away? Could organ meats like liver be your next superfood?
1. Liver is a Superfood for Sustainability
Reverse the time clock 150 years. Hunters would eat the liver at the hunting site, both honoring the animal and deeply nourishing their bodies.
Nothing from the precious hunt was thrown away. This both honored the animal and was important as fuel and nutrition for the hunter or huntress.
This has been on my mind for quite a while. What happens to the rest of the chicken or beef in the grocery store? What happens to the mis-shapen apples?
Do we throw away a huge majority of foods, including liver, for no good reason, and perhaps even throw away the most nutritious ones?
Can we both be sustainable and MORE healthy by eating the rest of the food? The answer is undoubtedly yes.
Sustainable eating trends are moving towards this, but the grocery stores have a long way to go. The good new is you can ask your butcher to give you many other options.
According to recent data, 150,000 tons of food are wasted EACH DAY in the United States. or a pound of food per person per day.
That’s around 300 billion pounds of food. per year. This estimate sounds really conservative too [R].
Let’s talk about organ meats, particularly liver. This is a common cast-off food, which is a total shame.
As you will soon find out, no food can compare to its nutrition quality.
2. Liver Is An Amazing Source of Iron
This blog about liver is both a personal and a professional take on the topic. Why? I’ve always struggled with low iron in my blood.
You may need to worry about it too. Are you tired all of the time? Find out how to test for iron deficiency from a brilliant colleague of mine, Jeanette Kimszal, RD.
She’s an expert in micronutrient testing.
For a while, I was taking an increased dose of gentle iron (ferrous gluconate) and I felt great. More energy, less pain, and no side effects.
And then, one day, it happened. My belly started refusing iron. It got nauseated and painful each and every time I tried to take my iron.
I’ve always had low ferritin, which is the storage form of iron. I needed some great source of iron. Skipping it isn’t an option for my health.
Are you female and having periods? This may be you as well.
I needed to revisit the most natural form of iron: liver. This makes some people squeamish at the thought. Let’s get over ourselves (this includes me) and remember to honor what nature gives us.
Chicken liver, by weight, has more iron than almost any food on the planet. It has 13 mg per 100 grams. In contrast, spinach has 3 mg per 100 grams. Only 0.35 mg of iron from spinach is absorbed due to plant inhibitors.
I needed to change my daily habits to open my idea to eating more liver, but now there is no turning back. We simply may need liver in our diets to be healthier.
Liver doesn’t have to be gross, and it isn’t unhealthy, contrary to popular misconceptions.
3. Liver is a Nutrient-Dense Food
Liver is not unhealthy. It is, in fact, a superfood.
Myth of Toxins in Liver
But it is the body’s toxin filter!
True. The good news, though, is that the liver doesn’t store these toxins. It cleans the body of toxins, along with the intestines and more.
Where are toxins stored? In your fat tissue and in your nerves among other places. Examples include breast tissue, belly fat, and your brain.
Liver is Rich in Enzymes
Liver has enzymes that clear out these toxins or neutralize them.
Filters in the liver are enzymes, which may have some potent health benefits for you when you eat them. A steak doesn’t have these enzymes.
What is stored in the liver? Nutrients. Lots of them. Liver is the most nutrient-dense food on the planet. No other food can compare.
And we have been throwing it away for so long.
- Protein 27 g
- Iron 13 mg (70% DV for adult women)
- Zinc: 4 mg (36%DV)
- Vitamin B12 21 mcg (800% DV)
- Vitamin A 4300 RAE (400% DV)
- Folate 560 mcg (100% DV)
- Vitamin B6: 0.8 mg (60% DV)
- CoenzymeQ10 5-6 mg
- DNA and RNA building blocks
These nutrients are at least double, if not triple, the amount of any comparable foods.
Nutrients aren’t great in isolation. This is why we find toxic reports of those taking synthetic forms of high-dose vitamin A.
Toxicity of vitamin A from eating liver is an extremely rare occurrence and happens if people are supplementing high doses of retinol in addition to eating liver.
Liver is a perfect food for women of childbearing age and for those with blood losses (also women). Women with periods lose many nutrients, even run low in vitamin A and iron.
Nutrients vary slightly from chicken, beef, goose, duck liver. They all are nutrition powerhouses.
Many people claim that eating liver has changed their lives. It takes away their pain, fatigue and more. I know I feel great since I’ve added it into my life. Perhaps they have been deficient in nutrients for a very long time.
4. Liver Can Taste Great
Read Weston’s Price’s fascinating information about liver and the Anti-Fatigue factor that liver also may provide. You can find some amazing recipes are here as well.
A couple of common -sense points about eating liver. Buy liver from animals that are grass-fed exclusively (for beef) and free from chemicals and pesticides in their feed.
For those who have iron overload, you need to be mindful of iron everywhere, not just in liver.
Yes, liver CAN taste great. There are many cooking techniques that make it more delicious than a rib steak.
You can saute and grill liver. Marinate in flavorful spices, especially garlic. Liver is fantastic as pate.
5. You Can Supplement Liver Pills
As much as I can extol the health benefits of liver as a superfood, it may never fit your taste palate. There are liver supplements out there for you!
You can find countless brands on the market. Some are dessicated (fat removed), some are not. Dessication can mean that some nutrients are taken out too. Some chemicals are used in the dessication process.
It’s best to do your research here. Find liver from grass-fed, chemical free animals, just as you would want to do if you are eating it.
I like the one from Ancestral Supplements. They also sell a grass-fed beef spleen supplement, which contains even more iron than liver!
Do your homework. It is well worth your time to get your nutrients in a natural way whenever possible.
Raw Liver Supplements
Many people claim that the RAW version of liver supplements help them feel the best. No science can back this up, but boundless testimonials do say this.
Some people even dice up raw liver and put it in capsules if they want the benefits of knowing where the liver comes from. This could be a big benefit.
Logic suggests that raw liver is good. Active enzymes would be present and more B-vitamins. Small risk of food-born illness could occur. Remember that raw liver has been eaten forever, just like raw fish is eaten on sushi. Quality matters.
- Liver is nutrient-dense. It’s a great way to get extra iron, vitamins, and minerals in your diet.
- If you are not able to tolerate iron supplements, liver supplements are a great option that are easy on your stomach. It is a better first option than buying iron alone due to the numerous other nutrients you get.
- Liver may boost your energy by replacing nutrients in your diet.
- Experiment with cooking methods that you like.
- Always choose liver from animals raised in healthy conditions.
- Make sure to check iron levels with your doctor. The best test in your blood is called ferritin.
Heidi Moretti, MS, RD is The Healthy RD. A registered dietitian for 20 years, has a passion for functional nutrition and natural medicine. Has researched supplements and plants as medicine throughout her career. Loves helping people gain function and vitality by tackling root causes of illness.