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While less common in today’s diet, organ meats are traditional foods that were commonly eaten in ancestral diets. They are nutrient-dense and offer numerous health benefits. It’s natural to be a little scared of consuming offal, as organ meats are known, but working them into your diet can be simple and tasty.
What Are Organ Meats & Where To Find Them
Organ meats include the liver, heart, tongue, kidneys, and others. While this may seem jarring if you’re not used to considering the idea of eating offal, the practice has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine and ancestral diets for thousands of years.
Liver, for example, is chock full of nutrients that support our own liver health. While some are concerned that eating liver, for example, means you’d also consume the toxins that the liver was filtering in the animal, the bottom line is that livers in humans and animals don’t store toxins. They enable the body to get rid of them. To do this, they need enormous amounts of vitamins and minerals. The livers of beef, chicken, and other animals retain these important nutrients.
Organ meats are often discarded by butchers because they are not popular. Liver is probably the most commonly consumed type of offal, but there are many types available. You may not be able to find organ meats on the shelves of a local supermarket, but checking with local butchers or farmers may result in high-quality offal for an affordable price.
Why Should You Eat Organ Meats?
Animal organ meats are rich in vitamins and minerals, including:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin B12
- Pantothenic acid
Liver provides a massive amount of true preformed vitamin A, an important antioxidant for your own liver and cellular function. Vitamin A also promotes healthy immune function.
Offal is also rich in many B vitamins, which are important for energy, neurological function, and supporting healthy stress levels in the body thanks to their influence on neurotransmitters and methylation.
Traditionally, organ meats were considered to be nature’s version of prenatal vitamins. They were especially valued for pregnant women in many traditional cultures who knew that nourishing a baby in utero was essential for the child’s lifelong health.
How to Eat Offal
You don’t have to consume organ meats on their own. Consider combining ground liver with ground beef for a nutrient-dense burger, or add to meatloaf or soup. Chicken liver has a milder flavor and can be prepared as a delicious pâté. Other organ meats can often be roasted or slow-cooked with muscle meats. The flavor profile will then be familiar while offering an easier way to try new organ meats and integrate them into your diet.
If you have children who are picky eaters, don’t make a big deal about adding offal to their plate. Work it into dishes in subtle ways and make adjustments as needed to cooking methods, amounts, and types of organ meats used. (A note of caution: you can get too much vitamin A from animal sources, especially if you’re pregnant. The tolerable upper limit of retinol for most adults is 3,000 mcg per day. Three ounces of cooked beef liver contain 6,582 micrograms of retinol. Eating liver every day could result in toxicity, especially if you’re taking any supplements that also contain retinol. Vitamin A sourced from beta-carotene is different. Work with a nutrition professional to determine the best and safest liver and vitamin A intake for your meal plan.)
Today’s Simple Step
If you’ve never tried offal before, take some pasture-raised chicken liver and slow cook or roast it with your favorite cut of chicken. Then, serve together. The same principle applies to beef liver or any other organ meats. You can also try the recipe below for a tried-and-true offal recipe that is rich in nutrients.
This Brandied Bacon and Chicken Liver Pâté is a great introductory recipe for eating organ meats. Plus, it makes a wonderful protein-rich snack that pairs well with your favorite sourdough bread or sliced vegetables.