Natural Health Journals

Are Organ Meats Healthy?

Raw chicken liver

Advantages of Eating Organ Meats

In many cultures throughout the world, eating organ meats is not even up for discussion — they make up a regular part of a healthy diet, and no one thinks twice about it. In the United States, however, people are less inclined to dine on organ meats; when people in the U.S. eat meat, it is usually muscle cuts.

But are there reasons one should make it a point to eat organ meat often?

Health experts and nutritionists say, yes. Aside from the fact that they are cheaper than regular meat cuts, organ meats have even more nutrients than muscle cuts; this has prompted some health enthusiasts to call organ meats “superfoods.” Excellent reasons to partake of liver, heart, kidneys and other organs from cows, lambs and other animals (and giblets from chickens) on a regular basis — especially considering that the Western diet tends to be high on starchy carbohydrates and low on other important nutrients.

What About Higher Fat and Cholesterol in Organ Meats?

Since the 1970’s, natural fats and cholesterol got a bad reputation in the U.S. But in reality, our bodies need a daily amount of natural fats, and they also require cholesterol to make and maintain every cell. Quite possibly, the fat and cholesterol scare were just pill makers trying to sell people on more and more expensive, toxic drugs that few people truly need.

The key with natural foods is to balance them. As long as you balance your animal proteins with plenty of whole-grain products, fresh vegetables and fruits, you will be eating yourself to sustained good health, being mindful to avoid processed meats with toxic chemical additives. A little natural fat and cholesterol in your meals are part of a sensible, smart diet.

One thing to keep in mind: it is a very good idea to know where your meat comes from, regardless of whether you’re eating regular cuts or organ cuts. Organic and grass-fed animals will yield the most nutrient-packed meats, while avoiding the pharmaceuticals and pesticides to which conventionally raised farm animals are exposed. Organic meats cost more than regular meats; but they also taste much better. Worth the extra expense.

Nutrients in Organ Meats

In addition to protein, organ meat is loaded with vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that help fuel and sustain bodily processes, and keep us healthy. They are the densest source of nutrients among meats; liver is the most highly nutritious of all organ meats.

The following are some of the nutrients that are found in good quantities in organ meats:

  • Protein, fats (especially omega-3), cholesterol — all essential to fuel cellular processes and keep cells alive
  • B complex vitamins, including B6, B12 and folate (liver has the whole range of B vitamins)
  • Vitamins A, D, E
  • Choline – a micronutrient made in the human liver and animal livers; important for cell membranes, brain and nerve function, heart health, prevention of birth defects. Also good for preventing depression, memory loss, Alzheimer’s, some types of seizures and cancer
  • Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) – a potent antioxidant also made in the human body, vital for energy production and cardiac function. Animal hearts have the highest levels
  • Iron, important for the blood and nourishing all tissues; organ meats and muscle meats have a form of iron that is much more readily absorbed by the body than iron that’s present in vegetable sources, such as beans
  • Other important minerals like zinc, phosphorus, copper and more
  • Amino acids

The Taste of Organ Meats

Some people may not like the taste of liver because it’s a bit strong; but given that it’s such a nutritional powerhouse, one would do well to learn to like it. Many enjoy frying it with plenty of onions and other spices. Or, if you’re new to eating organ meats, you might start by eating heart or kidney; these have a mild taste. Charbroiled heart tastes a lot like charbroiled steak.

Where to Find Organ Meat Recipes

If you would like some recipes for organ meats, we’ll start you off with these suggestions:

  • Try Paleo recipe websites, which often have interesting, novel ideas for how to cook organ meats
  • For liver recipes from around the world, try the website westonaprice.org (Weston A. Price); specifically, see article called “The Liver Files.” This site also offers nutritional information on liver, other foods, and it discusses the central importance of nutrition to general health
  • A cookbook solely for organ meats, called The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating, by Fergus Henderson
  • Food & Wine Magazine (website: foodandwine.com) offers tips in “Nose to Tail Cooking”

By Cynthia Sanchez. A graduate of the University of Washington, Cynthia has extensive experience writing about health and wellness topics for different media.

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