Your mission, if you choose to accept, is to…*cringe*…I know, I know…try organ meats!
It’s pretty mean, I know, to go right from the Back to Basics series into organ meats. It took me quite some time to try organs for the first time, and I’m still working on incorporating them regularly into our diet. In fact, I have a cow’s tongue in my freezer that’s been intimidating me for a few months now. (Have you ever seen how seriously HUGE a cow’s tongue is? It’s ridiculous!)
However, it’s time to challenge you to get out of your comfort zones a little. Organ meats tend to be really high in vitamins and nutrients, and if we’re really going to be whole foods enthusiasts, we can’t just eat the stems of our broccoli and feel like we’ve done the “whole” thing. Time to eat the whole cow, folks.
Health Benefits of Liver
When I was sitting in the OB nurse’s office at my first appointment for this pregnancy, there were some nutritional charts on the wall. I was pleased but not surprised to see liver right at the top for folic acid, an especially important member of the B Vitamin family for pregnant women. Liver has the real version of folic acid, called folate. Liver is also really high in iron, but it was lumped into the “red meat” category on that chart. Can’t win them all!
I’m going to talk a lot about liver this week, just because it’s a very inexpensive organ meat and one that I have the most experience with. Many of its health benefits, however, can be extrapolated onto other organ meats, and all organs tend to place high on the list of nutrient-dense foods. There are good reasons organ meats were thought of as foods for fertility in traditional cultures.
Here are liver’s star qualities:
- Extremely high in Vitamin A
- High arachidonic acid (related to DHA, the healthy brain fat)
- Excellent Vitamin B profile, particularly B12
- A unique source of copper, phosphorus and zinc
- Almost 20% daily value of iron in just 4 ounces, plus the B Vitamins to help our bodies increase our own iron production
- Great source of selenium, a nutrient that can be hard to come by
All these nutrients improve your health by:
- Providing many cardiovascular benefits and protections
- Increasing energy
- Protecting from cancer, emphysema
- Boosting immune system function
- Gives bone and colon support
- Improves vision
- Enhances joint mobility
What Organ Meats are Good to Eat?
The most common organs that are easy to find include liver and heart, but brain, kidneys and adrenals are also often listed with health benefits. (I just got a capsule form called “Organ Delight” that includes nine of them – an easy way to swallow organs if you’re squeamish!) See my tips on eating liver (heart too) HERE.
Risks and Concerns with Eating Organ Meats, Liver
There are always two sides of any story, especially in the field of nutrition and food. Here are some of the commonly shared risks of eating liver:
- Liver has high cholesterol
- Too much iron can hurt you
- Too much Vitamin A can cause birth defects or osteoporosis (This news came out in 2005, but I’m not sure if the studies done included natural Vitamin A or just supplements. If you use supplemental Vitamin A, you certainly should be wary of eating more than one serving of liver per week.)
- Purines in liver can cause gout or kidney stones in those prone to them anyway
- Non-organic livers could be the place of toxic build-up of hormones, antibiotics, and other chemicals. (A valid concern; we’ll address sourcing your liver on Wednesday.)
Also on Wednesday, I’ll share my hilarious first attempt at liver and onions along with ways to eat liver without getting kicked out of your house, even some in capsule form! So if you’re not quite ready to take this challenge today, perhaps by the end of Wednesday you’ll have found your courage (or a method for the non-brave that will work for you).
Have you seen Michael Pollan on “Can Grassfed Feed the World?”
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