Why You Should Consider Eating Liver and How To Do It
Chinese proverb – “eat what ails you”
Today, we do a lot of things better than our grandparents … but eating liver is an area where our generation has really dropped the ball. Liver is among the most nutritious foods on the planet. And if you don’t understand why it’s important, or you do, but find it difficult to work into your diet, then this article is for you.
In this day and age of nutrient poor foods, learning how to take care of your body is becoming more important. In my experience, I see a lot of people who want to take care of themselves, but they have seemingly forgotten how to do so. Change comes slowly, and if you could do one thing to improve your health it would be to eat nutrient dense foods. People often think that it is all about calories. I could not disagree more. It’s all about the information you provide to your body. Nutrient dense foods provide this information.
Liver is one of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet. It contains specific biologically available forms of nutrient complexes that are very challenging to get elsewhere. Liver delivers a complex array of vitamins, minerals, proteins and fats in the optimal amounts. If you want to read about the complexities of the interplay of vitamins and minerals, read this post.
Eating liver on a weekly or biweekly basis provides the proper amounts of nutrients needed for optimal health. Eating liver even has an impact on bone and dental health. Many individuals who are following a healthy lifestyle, opt for a diet rich in sustainably raised, organic meat. In fact, in some traditional cultures, only the organ meats were consumed; lean muscle meats, which are what we mostly eat in the U.S. today, were discarded or given to the wolves or dogs. This being said, you don’t have to give up consumption of muscle meat because when combined with regular consumption of liver you actually get more from the muscle meat you do consume!
Liver Contains the Vitamins and Nutrients in the Right Amounts
Liver is so powerful that if you eat it once a week, you will meet most of your requirements for B vitamins, Vitamins A, and lots of minerals. And when it comes to choline (fat metabolism) and biotin (hair and nails) it’s through the roof. Only liver and egg yolks are super abundant in choline and biotin. Everything else falls by the wayside. Why are these nutrients important? Well they’re important to your circadian rhythm, to your vision, to your metabolic health, your liver, your skin, hair, nails, your mental health and your mood. So many health bases can be covered, just by eating liver once a week.
Liver is a powerful source of pre-formed Vitamin A (retinol), three ounces of beef liver is estimated to contain about 27,000 IU of Vitamin A in a highly bio-available form. Vitamin A is important for vision and the formation of your eyes. In fact, a study in the American Journal of Ophthalmology showed that if you completely remove all Vitamin A from a developing fetus, it is likely that baby will be born without eyes!
Chicken liver and cod liver oil are also very good sources of Vitamin A. Many people mistakenly believe beta-carotene is synonymous with Vitamin A. The human body has to convert beta-carotene to Vitamin A and only 3% of the beta-carotene is converted so this means one would have to consume 4.4 pounds of cooked carrots or 40 pounds of raw carrots to have an effect. Additionally, it’s estimated up to 45% of the population is unable to convert beta-carotene to Vitamin A!
Vitamins B and C
B vitamins are essential for thousands of metabolic reactions, nerve function, glucose management, and much more. Bioavailable B vitamins including riboflavin, thiamine, niacin, Vitamin B6, folate, Vitamin B12, pantothenic acid, and choline are plentiful in liver. Liver is the richest source of B12 with roughly three times as much as kidney, seven times more than heart, and 17 times as much as ground beef. You will see in the table below that the vitamin C content in liver is triple that of carrots and apples. Choline actually helps remove the fats known as triglycerides from liver cells. The word bioavailable means what is actually available and used by the body.
Liver is important for maintaining iron levels in the body as it contains heme (blood), the form of iron that is easily absorbed by humans. In fact, humans naturally absorb about 80% of the required iron from heme sources, and about 20% from non-heme (plant) sources. People eating diets containing grains are going to be much more susceptible to iron deficiencies due to high levels of phytic acid. Interestingly, cocoa powder is high in iron and may explain people’s addiction to chocolate, in particular people who do not eat meat. Realize that is way more complex than what I am presenting here.
Liver contains many of the trace minerals zinc, copper, manganese, phosphorus and selenium which are required for healthy bone and glucose metabolism.
Co-enzyme Q 10 (CoQ10)
CoQ10 is essential for energy, augments the immune system, and acts as an antioxidant. The level of CoQ10 is the highest in organs with high rates of metabolism such as the heart, kidney, and liver where it functions as an energy transfer molecule. The primary biochemical action of CoQ10 is as a cofactor in the electron-transport chain, in the series of redox (reduction-oxidation) reactions that are involved in the synthesis of the energy molecule adenosine triphosphate (ATP). As most cellular functions are dependent on an adequate supply of (ATP), CoQ10 is essential for the health of virtually all human tissues and organs (especially the brain). Coenzyme Q10 is one of the most significant lipid antioxidants, which prevents the over generation of free radicals and modifications of proteins, lipids, and DNA. In many disease conditions connected with increased generation and the action of reactive oxygen species (ROS), the concentration of Coenzyme Q10 in the human body decreases and the deficiency of Coenzyme Q10 leads to the dysfunction of the respiratory chain, which is due to the insufficient production of highly energetic compounds, which decrease the efficiency of cells.
Notice that our usual sources of liver (see below) does not contain high levels of Vitamins D, E and K1 (humans need Vitamin K2). So be sure to find foods that will give you these important vitamins (read this post). Liver, however, is rich in Vitamin K2 which is key to where calcium is deposited, namely into the bones and not into tissues and atherosclerotic plaques.
Next time Liver Myths and How to do it…