Welcome to More Than Healthy as we continue to share a Full Year of Resolutions. This is Week 23, and our Tip is all about the health benefits of adding organ meats to your diet. We know! All it takes is reading the words “organ meats” and you want to stop reading immediately. But we really want to encourage you to watch our weekly video and read this post. Organ meats are incredibly healthy, and you’ve got some options when it comes to consuming them, even if you refuse to actually eat them!
This is an easy one for David, as he loves my liver and onions recipe. He also loves the liver paté I make from the leftovers. But eating organ meats is hard for me. I really struggle with the taste and texture of liver. I’ve made it into tacos, and that was a little better, but I still didn’t love it. Luckily, I’ve found some other ways to get the benefits of adding organ meats that don’t provoke my gag reflex.
What is organ meat?
In the U.S., we typically eat muscle meat. In many other parts of the world, however, certain animal organs are very popular dishes – think foie gras (duck liver) in France, sweetbreads (veal thyroid and heart) in Argentina, and German leberwurst (pork liver sausage). Asian cuisine often includes serving kidneys, stomach, and intestines. But organ meat may be making a comeback in America…according to Gastronomica magazine, organ meat has made a resurgence in haute cuisine.
So what are organ meats? They are also known as “offal,” which derives from the term “off fall,” meaning any part of an animal that falls away when butchered. Organ meats are the consumable organs of animals. Some of the well-known organ meats include:
- Sweetbreads (thyroid)
- Tripe (stomach lining)
The most commonly consumed organs come from cows, pigs, lambs, goats, chickens, and ducks. Even though they are not typical in the American diet today, organ meats have been part of the human diet for centuries. They are also nutrient powerhouses.
Let’s talk about five amazing health benefits of adding organ meats to your diet.
Benefit #1: Organ meats are incredibly nutrient-dense
The truth is, most of us, no matter how healthy we eat, are still missing vital nutrients in our diet. Modern western foods are broadly deficient in nutrients. Our ancestors routinely ate organ meats, and they received the health benefits from these nutrient-dense animal parts. They are such excellent sources of vitamins and nutrients that they are sometimes referred to as “super foods.”
Organ meats are full of essential amino acids, vitamins B1, B2, B3 & B12, magnesium, iron, zinc, choline, COq10, folic acid, and vitamins D, K, E, and A. They also have important trace minerals like copper and healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
We will talk about some of these nutrients and what they specifically do for our bodies later in this article, but let’s take a more in-depth look at the nutritional benefits of a fairly common organ meat, the liver.
Liver is the most nutrient-dense organ meat of them all, and perhaps the most nutrient-dense food on the planet. It contains specific forms of nutrient complexes that are very difficult to get anywhere else.
Liver is a powerful source of vitamin A, also known as retinol. This vitamin is known for reducing diseases that cause inflammation, everything from Alzheimer’s disease to arthritis. Just three ounces of beef liver provides about 26,973 IU of vitamin A.
Liver is also rich in folate, choline, and B12, nutrients that are necessary for many of the body’s major functions. It is also a great source of folic acid, iron, chromium, copper, and zinc. This organ meat is particularly heart-healthy and good at increasing hemoglobin levels in the blood.
Let’s take a look at the nutritional information of a 3.5-ounce portion of cooked beef liver:
- Calories: 175
- Protein: 27 grams
- Vitamin B12: 1,386% of the RDI
- Copper: 730% of the RDI
- Vitamin A: 522% of the RDI
- Riboflavin: 201% of the RDI
- Niacin: 87% of the RDI
- Vitamin B6: 51% of the RDI
- Selenium: 47% of the RDI
- Zinc: 35% of the RDI
- Iron: 34% of the RDI
Wow. That small portion of beef liver packs a powerful nutritional punch!
Benefit #2: Organ meats are rich in iron = increased energy
The biggest reason that I am trying to include organ meats to my diet is to improve my iron levels. Iron helps make hemoglobin in your red blood cells. It helps the muscles store oxygen, and it is involved in producing some hormones. According to my latest blood work, I’m a little deficient in iron. About 10 million people in the U.S. suffer from iron deficiency, one of the main symptoms of which is fatigue and lack of energy. I’m not suffering with that yet, but I really don’t want to, so I’m working to get ahead of that.
Eating organ meat, especially liver, will help increase your blood’s iron count. (See above; just 3.5 ounces of beef liver provides 34% of the recommended daily amount of iron.)
I am looking forward to my next panel of blood work to see how much my iron levels have improved now that I’m incorporating organ meats into my diet.
Benefit #3: Organ meats reduce cancer risk
Since David has already had a severe bout with cancer, we’re always really interested in anything that has been shown to reduce the risk of it recurring. Riboflavin, or vitamin B2, is necessary for proper cell growth and function. It is found in organ meats, especially the kidneys and livers. Studies show that riboflavin helps reduce the risk of certain cancers. Conversely, studies show that a riboflavin deficiency is considered to be a risk factor for certain cancers.
In addition, the NIH says that vitamin B2 aids in energy production. That’s because it helps break down carbohydrates, proteins, and fats in the body.
Benefit #4: Organ meats boost the immune system
Since organ meats have a high level of zinc it can help promote a strong immune system. Zinc aids in wound healing and replenishing genetic material. It supplements the immune system in its fight against bacteria and viruses.
The body also requires zinc to make protein and DNA, which is the genetic material in all cells. During pregnancy, infancy, and childhood, the body needs zinc to develop properly.
A 100-gram serving of liver provides about half of the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of zinc.
Benefit #5: Organ meats strengthen eyesight
Another awesome benefit of organ meats is that they are naturally high in vitamin A. This vitamin is important for our immune systems and reproductive health, and it is vital for maintaining your vision. Studies show that vitamin A helps reduce the onset of macular degeneration in individuals who are at high risk for the disease.
Some organ meats are actually storehouses of vitamin A, particularly the liver. Raw beef liver has over 9,000 micrograms of vitamin A, and most of it is retained throughout the cooking process.
An excellent source of protein
We haven’t even talked about the health benefits of the good protein you get from organ meats. As we discussed in a prior tip, animal protein provides all nine essential amino acids that the body needs to function effectively but cannot produce on its own.
Stay heart healthy by eating more heart
The organ meat we typically eat is liver. But many other countries consume the heart, tongue, brain, and kidney on a regular basis. We actually have the heart from the beef we bought this year, and I’m going to make a stew out of it. If we like it, I will add that recipe to our website.
The heart if very rich in folate, iron, zinc, and selenium. Additionally, it’s a great source of vitamins B2, B6, and B12. These B vitamins found in organ meats have a cardioprotective effect and help protect against heart disease.
These B vitamins are also key to maintaining healthy blood pressure, reducing high cholesterol, and forming healthy blood vessels.
Heart meat is also an excellent source of coenzyme Q10 (known as CoQ10), which is an antioxidant that helps treat and prevent disease, particularly heart disease. It’s also been shown to slow down the aging process and improve energy levels.
That’s an impressive list of benefits for heart meat, and extra motivation for me to come up with a tasty heart stew recipe!
Organ meats supplements
As I come across other organ meats recipes, I will experiment with them. If we like them I’ll add them to our site as well. In the meantime, if you’re like me, and you want all the benefits but you just can’t stomach the idea of fixing or eating the organ meats, then I have good news for you!
You can take an organ meats supplement. I like Ancestral Supplements Grass Fed Beef Organs. I’m currently taking a few supplements once a week, and I’ll see on my next blood test if my iron is back in line.
Have you tried organ meats?
Do you have an organ meats recipe you enjoy? We’d love to hear about it! If you share a recipe with us, I will cook it for dinner and let you know what we think. We are also happy to answer any questions you might have. You can leave them for us here, on our social media pages, or on our website at www.morethanhealthy.com.
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