Why Organ Meats Are Incredibly Beneficial To Your Diet
Our current generation did not grow up eating organ meat, whereas our parents and grandparents did. Organ meat, or offal, has been given an ick-factor, but that is such a shortcoming. The tradition of properly preparing organ meats has been poorly passed down to us. Only fancy restaurants seem to get it. In Michelin-starred restaurants sweetbreads and foie gras [*] are almost always on the menu. Let’s take a look from a cultural, ancestral and nutritional perspective at why adding organ meats to your diet is so incredibly beneficial for optimal health.
Table of Content
- The foundation of authentic cuisine
- Food vs. a supplement
- Are organ supplements just as good as eating the organ itself?
- How to get more organ meats into your diet
The foundation of authentic cuisine
What all authentic cuisines around the world have in common? They contain organ meats, meat on the bone, fermented and sprouted foods and fresh, uncooked ingredients. [*]
Scandinavia and West-Europe
The traditional cuisines of France, Italy, Sweden, Norway and Denmark all have their version of a liver pate. A liver sausage is also often seen in the cuisine of Scandinavian and Western European countries.
Italians love their organ meats. Among the most famous are boiled stomach (trippa), often served in a tomato sauce; or the typical Florentine version, made from the fourth and last stomach of a cow. Perhaps Florentines are most famous for their frequent use of organ meat: the popular Florentine dish Cervelli fritti is exactly what it means: deep-fried beef brains.
Kokoreç is a traditional Turkish dish that’s also popular in Greece, where it’s known as kokoretsi. However, there are some differences between the Turkish and Greek versions. In Greek cuisine, people use a variety of lamb offal such as lungs, kidneys, hearts, and liver, and in Turkey, they use small and large intestines and sweetbreads without any additional ingredients.
Both cuisines use iron skewers to wrap the organ meats onto to be grilled over charcoal. Once done, the dish is usually served with bread or tucked inside the bread with various spices such as oregano, cumin, and chili flakes (pul biber).
In Argentina and Uruguay, sesos (brains) are used to make ravioli filling. The tongue is usually boiled, sliced and marinated with a mixture of oil, vinegar, salt, chopped peppers and garlic. In Mexico, bone marrow is roasted and topped with salt, butter and garlic.
In China, many organs are used for food or traditional Chinese medicine. Pork offal is generally the organ meat of choice. A popular dish include stir-fried pork kidneys with oyster sauce and ginger. In Japan, chicken offal is often skewered and grilled over charcoal as yakitori.
Liver is the most nutritious animal part of the planet and perhaps even the most nutritious food you can eat on the planet [*], sharing first place with pasture-raised eggs and oysters. With 27 vitamins and minerals, a 100g liver beats a multivitamin (why food beats a synthetic supplement anyway, you’ll read later below). It’s no surprise that it has been nicknamed “Nature’s multivitamin”. Let’s take a closer look at what makes liver so nutritious.
In summary, liver provides:
- 26 g of protein per 100 g, making it an excellent source of high-quality protein
- The most concentrated source of vitamin A
- All B vitamins in abundance, particularly rich in vitamin B12
- One of our best sources of folate
- A very useful form of (heme) iron
- Trace minerals such as copper, zinc and chromium; liver is our best source of copper
- CoQ10, important for cardiovascular function and mitochondria
- A good source of purines, nitrogen-containing compounds that serve as precursors to DNA and RNA [*]
& Vitamins (100g)
|Kale (cooked)||Beef Liver (cooked)||Beef Kidney (cooked)||Beef Heart (cooked)|
|Vitamin C, mg||17.8||1.9||–||–|
|Pantothenic acid, mg||0.17||7.11||1.56||1.6|
|Vitamin B6, mg||0,063||1.02||0,391||0,245|
|Vitamin B12, µg||–||70.6||24.9||10.8|
|Vitamin A, IU||1730 (carotene)||31700 (retinol)||1400 (retinol)||–|
|Vitamin A, RAE, µg||146||9440||419||–|
|Lutein + zeaxanthin, µg||4980||–||–||–|
|Vitamin D (D2 + D3), IU||–||49||45||3|
|Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol), mg||1.61||0.51||0.08||0.29|
|Vitamin K, µg||418 (K1)||3.3 (K2)||–||0.5 (K2)|
This table was created using the USDA Information from U.S. National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference: Food Composition Databases Show Foods List.
Where liver it’s unique selling point is Vitamin A, that’s coQ10 for heart.
Canadian dentist Weston A Price spent more than 10 years traveling around the world to areas where people had little contact with the civilized world. With his dental background, Price studied people’s teeth, their bone structure, their health, what they ate and how they lived. [*] He discovered that these peoples around the world had something in common; a diet rich in fat-soluble vitamins derived from organ meats, meat on the bone, fish and shellfish, eggs and dairy.
Price also discovered that there was a wisdom behind eating an animal organ to support the health of our own organs – a wisdom that was shared by these indigenous peoples as well as the animal kingdom. [*] So as an example, a beef heart supports our own heart health. Science backs this up, as coQ10 has been proven to help prevent heart disease (and even support our mitochondria). [*], [*]
This theory holds true for other organs as well. Beef eyeballs are full of vitamin A. Our ancestors intuitively knew that eyes support eye health. And science now shows that vitamin A is essential for good eye vision. [*] Beef brains, similarly, contain nutrients essential to the brain, such as phosphatidylcholine, phosphatidylserine [*] and the omega-3 fats EPA and DHA.
By now you’ve learned that every organ has their own specialty and for kidney, that is selenium, choline and diamine oxidase.
With a nutritional profile similar to that of liver, kidney is a true superfood. It is high in vitamin B12 and heme iron, and it has a good balance of copper and zinc. Kidney also contains a rare amino acid, L-ergothioneine, which promotes the kidney health of those who consume it! [*] Again, this shows that it is a great strategy to eat the animal organ for the good of your own.
Last, and not least, kidneys are rich in the DAO enzyme. This enzyme acts as a histamine blocker and is essential for people struggling with histamine intolerance. Instead of a synthetic DAO supplement, eating kidneys or taking a kidney supplement is a great strategy to break down histamine in the body. [*]
Food vs. A supplement
While reading about the different nutrients in organ meats, it may have occurred to you why you have to go through all the hassle of finding where to buy the organs, how to prepare them and then the fact that you may not like the taste of it at all? So isn’t a liposomal coq10 supplement much easier than silver skinned beef heart?
Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. It’s time to explain the concept of food synergy.
Real whole foods provide a complex set of enzymes, compounds, vitamins, minerals and cofactors that we as humans have evolved to digest. This is very different from taking isolated (often synthetic) nutrients in a pill. [*]
The idea behind eating real food instead of isolated supplements is called “food synergy.” This concept is based on scientific research showing that nutrients such as vitamin A, vitamin K and selenium work not alone, but in combination with other substances from food. [*]
There are more examples of food synergy that you may be familiar with, from a 2009 research article in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition[*]:
- Tomato consumption had a greater effect on prostate tissue than lycopene alone.
- Whole pomegranates and broccoli had greater antiproliferative and in vitro chemical effects than did some of their individual constituents.
- Drug-induced mammary tumor incidence was reduced by apples in a rat model, more so by using the whole apple than the flesh only.
Are organ supplements just as good as eating the organ itself?
The above may leave you wondering if an organ supplement is then just as good as eating the organ itself. Nutrition scientist Chris Masterjohn, PhD made an informative video in response to the question “Are liver supplements just as good as liver?”. Briefly, his advice is: take both.
Organ supplements are primarily intended for people who do not eat organ meat. But there are also benefits to taking small doses of organ meat daily. According to Chris, the most ideal scenario is a consumption of 10 to 20 grams of liver per day. The reason is because you get a much better B12 status if you eat a small dose of liver every day, rather than once a week. But eating liver from day to day is not feasible for many people. This is where a liver supplement (or any other organ supplement) comes in. The supplement allows people who don’t eat organ meats very often to get the nutrients in small doses every day.
You can watch Chris’s nuanced answer here.
How to get more organ meats into your diet
If you’re not so adventurous and the idea of eating a heart, kidney or liver creeps you out, an organ supplement is the easiest step to include more organ meats into your diet.
Nordic Kings offers 100% grass-fed, organic organ supplements sourced from Swedish cattle. Our products are completely free of growth hormones, pesticides and antibiotics. Free from fillers and additives such as flow agents, binders, magnesium silicate and all similar additives. In addition, our organ supplements are 100% freeze-dried, which unlike traditional heat drying, preserves the important heat-sensitive vitamins, minerals and co-factors that make organ meat the amazing superfood it truly is.
100% grass-fed organic organ supplements from Nordic Kings
However, besides organ supplements there are other approachable ways to eat organ meat. Liver pate or sausage may be something you remember from your childhood and has a creamy accessible taste. Perhaps your local butcher sells a farm pate with nuts, cranberries or garlic. Or you could make one yourself at home. Like this rustic liver pate recipe with bacon around it.
Another thing you can do is ask your butcher to mix organ meats with minced meat, so you can make meatballs (like these Turkish – hidden liver – meatballs with cacik) or a meatloaf (see a recipe with heart, kidney, liver and ground beef here). We can assure you that you will hardly notice the difference.
Want to try the real thing? Here’s a blog from the Weston A Price foundation on how to properly prepare liver for those who don’t like liver and how to win them over!