After reading up on the super power benefits of liver, I couldn’t not try this old-school organ.
So, I purchased a massive beef liver from our local farmers market, and fried it up in bacon grease and onions, filling our entire kitchen with an incredibly pungent, primitive smell.
Kyle sat at the kitchen table, watching with a humorous look on his face, knowing that he would not be partaking in any liver consumption.
Fine with me, I thought, it’s just more health benefits for me!
After the first bite, though, I forced a smile and pretended that it was good, wanting him to feel remorse for not trying it it with me.
Three bites later, I couldn’t pretend any longer. My stomach and gag reflexes had enough.
Kyle laughed, basically saying, I told you so! Hey, at least I’m adventurous, right?
After this attempt, though, it seems as if my distaste for liver keeps haunting me.
The topic of liver has continued to pop up in many of my schoolbooks and “pleasure” reading (a.k.a more nutrition resources), making me jealous that others can consume this ancient, prized organ meat and reap the awesome health benefits… while I’m still struggling getting 4 bites down.
What’s the big deal about liver and organ meats?
With many of our mothers joining the work force, whether by choice or for supplemental income, the traditions of our grandmothers and great-grandmothers nourishing food preparation – such as bone broths and organ meats – have fallen by the wayside.
These ancient foods are what helped our forebears have healthy babies, survive the cold winter, stave off disease, and thrive without the modern medicine and drugs we have today.
My generation grew up with a new phenomenon: convenience food products.
Food manufacturers took advantage of this cultural shift away from traditional food preparation, and designed products such as canned soup, Lunchables, Healthy Choice frozen meals, and others that made it way too easy, addictive (read here) and cost effective for families to start integrating them into their family’s diet.
Unfortunately, our country’s health is suffering because of this shift away from traditional foods.
Liver Super Powers
It’s too bad we’ve shifted away from these foods, because our ancestors knew the healing powers hidden in these organ meats, and ate them regularly to promote optimum health.
How smart they were to include liver (from a calf or chicken) in their diets on a regular basis!
It makes so much sense, because the liver is INCREDIBLE:
- It performs over 500 functions.
- It manufactures 13,000 different chemicals and 2,000 enzyme systems…!
- It regulates the metabolism of carbs, fats and proteins.
- It manufactures bile to break down fats during digestion.
- It regulates blood sugar levels.
- It makes and breaks down many hormones, like cholesterol, estrogen and testosterone.
- It breaks down toxins and in the body (amongst other roles!).
And, as Liz Lipski, Ph.D., writes in Digestive Wellness (2012),
“It is a storage house for many nutrients: glycogen, fats, vitamin B12, vitamins A, D, E, and K, and zinc, iron, copper, and magnesium. Your liver can store five to seven years of vitamin B12, four years of vitamin A, and up to four months of vitamin D.”
So, why wouldn’t we eat this very organ that is loaded with nutrients to help our own livers and bodies?
The chart below, taken from George Mateljan’s The World’s Healthiest Foods (2007), proves its nutritional profile is difficult to beat.
100 grams of liver beats out 100 grams of an apple and broccoli in nutrient density, in fact!
Talk about bang for buck.
In our day and age, with environmental and food toxins, heavy alcohol consumption, and stress, our livers are already taxed to the max with trying to keep up with filtering toxins, shuffling around nutrients, and doing its thing with over 500 functions!
In fact, our livers can be 70% damaged and we may not even know it because of its incredible capabilities.
Thus, eating liver is one of the BEST foods that we can consume to help our liver and body to function at is finest.
- It’s a great source of protein at 7 grams per 1 oz!!
- The liver is a FANTASTIC source of B12 and other B vitamins, which are crucial for brain and cell health.
- It’s high in zinc and vitamin A, both important for immune system and cardiovascular health.
- Loaded with antioxidants like vitamin C, these help with free radical damage and boost the immune system.
My Second Time Around = Success!
Now that you understand the health powers of liver, you can understand my desire and urgency to be able to tolerate it!
Last week, I mustered up enough courage to have another go around.
This time, I chose chicken liver, because I’d heard that chicken livers were much more tolerable and even “delicious.”
Interestingly enough, liver is DEFINITELY more common and available at the grocery stores in Serbia.
And, WOW, is it SO STINKING CHEAP. I bought 100 grams for 92 Serbian dinar, or about $1.00. Talk about bang for buck!
It even came attached with chicken hearts, which I accidentally burned. Oops.
After pan frying it and sitting down to eat, I went after my first bite.
You know what?
I was totally surprised at the different taste and texture than beef liver, and I actually quite liked it.
I ate the whole thing, and swear I noticed an incredible increase in energy right after eating it, too.
It also helped that Kyle wasn’t there for added pressure.
Simple Chicken Liver & Leeks
100 grams chicken liver
1 tbsp butter
Sea salt to taste
- Chop and sauté the leek in butter for a few minutes on medium heat, until slightly browned.
- While sautéing the leeks, cut the liver into even-sized pieces.
- Add the liver to the pan, and cook for 3 -5 minutes on each side. Don’t overcook, because it will become tough and will lose nutrients.
Final Tips: Selecting, Preparing, & Eating Liver
Selecting: Just like humans get fat eating corn and grain, so do cows and their livers. You’ll want to avoid conventional animals’ livers, because toxins from antibiotics and hormones may be present.
Thus, choosing an organic, grass-fed cow’s liver or a free-range chicken’s liver is best. Also, fresh is best, so try to eat it within 1 – 2 days of purchase, or freeze.
Preparing: There are several other tasty ways to prepare it, including a liver paté (like this), or even combining liver with ground chicken or beef for meat balls.
Eating: Eating 100 grams (or 3.5 oz) of liver once or twice a week is PLENTY to reap the benefits of this nutritional beast.
I fully believe that because I FINALLY figured out how to tolerate and actually enjoy (chicken) liver, you can, too.
Just remind yourself that the nutritional and economical bang for buck are completely worth it.
Your liver and body will thank you!
Like what you read?
- Lipski, Liz. Digestive Wellness, 4th Edition. New York, McGraw Hill: 2012.
- Mateljan, George. The World’s Healthiest Foods. Seattle, George Mateljan Foundation: 2007. http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=129.