Traditional people valued their organ meats above all other foods.
In fact, some people groups ate only the organs of animals and discarded the lean muscle meat or fed it to their dogs!
Modern-day society, sadly, is the polar opposite.
When we hear the words “liver”, “heart”, or “offal”, we turn up our noses and possibly even fight back a gag reflex.
As we strive to teach you the importance of traditional food preparation methods, like sprouting, sourdough, and lacto-fermentation, we can't leave out the ever-important truth that the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet come from healthy, grass-fed animals — and include not only the muscle meats and bones, but also the organs, namely the liver.
If you've turned up your nose at liver in the past (I have!), perhaps it's because you didn't realize how truly nourishing it is for you (I didn't!). Liver isn't even something you have to eat every day. A 3- to 4-ounce serving once a week is plenty to reap all of the benefits of liver!
Here are 7 benefits of liver that will you make you want to start eating it TODAY:
1. Liver is a great source of absorbable iron.
Iron is an essential mineral that enables our bodies to produce enough hemoglobin (the oxygen-carrying part of red blood cells). Without enough hemoglobin, we don't get enough oxygen. (Source.)
A deficiency in iron is known as anemia. Anemia has numerous causes. Heavy menstruation, pregnancy, and childbirth are the most common reasons for anemia in women.
The symptoms of anemia include, but are not limited to, fatigue, dizziness, shortness of breath, cold hands and feet, brittle nails, and headache (source).
Poor gut health also causes anemia. When gut health is compromised, vital nutrients and minerals, like iron, aren't absorbed properly and the body becomes deficient. People with Celiac disease are prone to anemia because their small intestines inherently do not absorb nutrients efficiently. (Source.)
Vegetarian and vegan diets can lead to anemia since they also do not provide enough of the absorbable form — heme — of iron.
Before we talk about WHY liver is the best source of iron, it's important to understand that not all iron is created equally.
There are 2 forms of iron: heme and non-heme.
Heme iron makes up about 40% of the iron in meat, fish, and poultry. Heme iron is also the most well-absorbed form of iron.
Non-heme iron makes up the remaining 60% of iron in meat, fish, and poultry. Non-heme iron is also the only form of iron found in plant foods — grains, nuts, seeds, and vegetables. It is not easily absorbed by the body, thus the reason why vegans and vegetarians are prone to iron deficiency.
You absorb between 15 to 35 percent of the heme iron in liver, compared with between 2 and 20 percent of nonheme iron. Because you absorb more iron from liver than other nonheme iron sources, eating a serving of beef liver that contains 5 milligrams of iron will increase your iron stores more than eating a serving of kidney beans that contains approximately the same amount of iron. (Source.)
Even though beans, cashews, pumpkin seeds, and spinach are full of iron, they're not full of heme iron. Therefore your body isn't absorbing the iron in these foods very efficiently — even if you don't have Celiac, aren't pregnant, and don't eat a vegan diet.
One serving of liver is roughly 3 to 4 ounces. Goose liver has the highest amount of heme iron per serving. Since goose livers aren't readily available to most of us, pastured pork liver, chicken liver, and beef liver are absolutely wonderful sources of usable iron for our bodies.
2. Liver is high in usable folate.
Folate (a.k.a. Vitamin B9) is the real form of folic acid. It is a synthetic nutrient found in most prenatal vitamins, multivitamins, and enriched flours and cereals. Folic acid is not easily converted to usable folate by our bodies. Those with a MTHFR defect are even less able to methylate folic acid into folate — which can lead to serious problems and disease.
In my opinion, folic acid should be avoided altogether, and we should seek out food sources of usable folate.
Enter: beef liver.
Beef liver contains 65% of the recommended daily value of usable folate (source)! One of the huge benefits of liver is that no additional folate supplementation is necessary when liver is consumed 1 to 2 times per week!
3. Liver is the most concentrated source of Vitamin B12.
Folate is necessary for our bodies to unlock and utilize other B vitamins, so it's pretty awesome that beef liver also contains high amounts of B12!
Vitamin B12 works with folate in the body in the production of new DNA and red blood cells. These two nutrients work together, also, to produce the myelin sheath — the protective insulation around nerves that helps them conduct messages throughout our bodies.
A B12 deficiency often results in brain and nervous system symptoms, such as fatigue and lethargy, memory loss, depression and other mental illnesses, loss of balance, panic attacks, and numbness in hands and feet (source and source).
Severe B12 deficiencies used to be fatal, until scientists discovered that raw liver delivered high doses of B12 (source). It is important to note that the ONLY usable form of Vitamin B12 is found in animal foods — ideally wild-caught, grass-fed, and/or pastured animal foods.
This is yet another reason why vegan and vegetarian diets are not nutrient-dense and cannot supply the essential vitamins the body needs. These diets often rely on wheat gluten, enriched cereals, and soybeans for B12. Unfortunately, our bodies cannot properly utilize these forms of B12.
Interestingly, B12 deficiency and iron deficiency exacerbate each other … and liver contains copious amounts of both!
Mackerel, sardines, herring, lamb, Swiss cheese and bleu cheese, eggs, pastured beef, and raw milk are wonderful animal sources of this essential vitamin; however the most concentrated whole food source of Vitamin B12 is liver (source)!
4. Liver is an excellent source of trace minerals.
Trace minerals are simply trace elements required for nutrition. The amount of trace minerals our bodies need is small, yet the impact these minerals have on our health is huge.
Well-known minerals selenium, copper, zinc, magnesium, potassium, calcium, and iron are all trace minerals. Most of us probably already know how vital those minerals are to our health. (This is the main reason why we advocate for the use of mineral-rich salt!)
Liver is an excellent source of valuable trace minerals. It is actually the highest food source of copper (source)!
And liver contains healthy amounts of calcium, phosphorous, zinc, magnesium, selenium, and, as we already learned, iron (source).
5. Liver is the best source of bioavailable Vitamin A.
Just as not all iron is created equally, not all Vitamin A is either.
You were mislead if you grew up hearing the phrase “eat your carrots for healthy eyesight”. Yes, carrots (and other vegetables) contain Vitamin A, but it's not in the bioavailable form, retinol.
Beta carotene is the type of Vitamin A in veggies. Our bodies must convert beta carotene to retinol before we can actually make use of it. Unfortunately, the conversion rate is pretty poor. It's even worse for children, the elderly, and people with thyroid conditions. (Source.)
Vitamin A supports healthy hormone balance, the immune system, liver health and detox.
The Vitamin A in liver is already in its bioavailable form, retinol. Our bodies can make use of it immediately — no conversion necessary!
Check out this chart to see how other foods just don't measure up to the nutrient density and benefits of liver.
6. Liver contains ALL of the fat-soluble vitamins.
Fat-soluble vitamins are those which are absorbed and utilized in the body when they are consumed with fat. Vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat-soluble vitamins.
Vitamin A plays many key roles in the body. It is necessary for healthy eyes, immune system function, and proper cell growth — and an abundance of Vitamin A is just one of the many benefits of liver!
Vitamin D is absolutely essential. It helps fight infections, such as cold and flu, fights depression and other mental illness, heals cavities and periodontal disease, and protects against many autoimmune diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn's disease, and Alzheimer's (source).
Eating liver is an excellent way to increase your intake of Vitamin D, especially in the wintertime when days are short and people are outside less.
Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant, boosts the immune system, and has been proven to have anti-cancer properties. There are few dietary sources of Vitamin E, including raw, organic nuts. Liver contains Vitamin E, as well as the other fat-soluble vitamins, A, D, and K2, that work with Vitamin E.
Vitamin K (so named because it comes from the German word koagulation) was discovered in the 1930s. For 40 years, researchers did not know that the 2 forms of Vitamin K, K1 and K2, carried out completely different functions. They believed both to have the same benefits and to be interchangeable. (Source.)
Vitamin K1 effectively supports blood clotting (hence, koagulation), however it has no other known benefits.
The realization that vitamin K is not just for blood clotting, however, led us to discover that vitamins K1 and K2 are not interchangeable after all: vitamin K1 more effectively supports blood clotting, while vitamin K2 is also essential for building strong bones, preventing heart disease, and it plays a crucial part in other bodily processes as well. In fact, vitamin K2 is sometimes referred to as “the forgotten vitamin” because its major benefits are often overlooked.
Like vitamin A, vitamin K2 is an important adjunct to vitamin D, and if you are deficient in one, neither will work optimally. (Source.)
The fat-soluble vitamins work better together than they do apart. This synergistic chemistry makes fat-soluble vitamins so necessary in our diet. How divine that liver contains ALL of the fat-soluble vitamins! Liver is, quite literally, a one-stop shop for nourishing, fat-soluble vitamins!
7. Liver is essential for dental health.
Dr. Weston A. Price was a dentist who traveled the world and studied 14 traditional people groups and their diets. Their diets were rich in organ meats of all sorts, including liver. Dr. Price observed that both their dental health and overall health were superior to other people groups who subsisted on modern, processed foods, like white bread, sugar, and canned foods.
When Dr. Price analyzed the nutrient density of the traditional diets versus the modern diets, he found that the traditional diets were higher in key nutrients, especially the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K2.
These vitamins, along with the minerals phosphorus and calcium, work together to keep bones and teeth strong and healthy — and yes, even remineralize teeth!
In addition to consuming liver for fat-soluble vitamins, reducing the consumption of foods that are high in phytic acid (improperly prepared grains, nuts, and beans) and consuming quality pastured meats and fats are also necessary for healing cavities naturally (source).
How To Get The Benefits Of Liver Without Gagging
#1 — Hide it!
Grind up raw liver in your food processor and drop a couple of tablespoons into meatballs, chili, meatloaf, or spaghetti sauce. Bam! Benefits of liver, no detection whatsoever. 😉
#2 — Add it to a smoothie…
…but not more than a tablespoon, unless you want to taste it. 😉
#3 — Dehydrate it!
In our Dehydrating eCourse, Wardee shows you how to dehydrate liver, powder it, and encapsulate it to make your own dessicated liver pills.
#4 — Buy dessicated liver pills.
No funny smells or tastes, just swallow them with a glass of water!
#5 — Make pâté from chicken liver.
Beef liver has a bit too strong a taste for pate, but chicken liver makes a lovely and light-tasting pate. Season it well and spread on crackers or bread. It's delicious!
#6 — Make liver “pills”.
This is an economical and no-fuss way to get in a bit of raw liver everyday.
Now that you know all these amazing benefits of liver, I hope you'll give it another chance!
Did you know all the benefits of liver? How do you eat liver without gagging?
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