Liver: A Nutrient-Dense Superfood

If you’ve been reading some of the paleo blogs out there and/or heard about the benefits of eating a nutrient-dense diet, you’ve probably also understood that eating organ meats on a regular basis is important. Brain, kidney, liver, heart, and other organs are nutritional powerhouses compared to muscle meat, and we don’t have to go that many years back to understand the organ meats have been a valued and important part of the human diet. This is especially true for hunter-gatherers and isolated traditional populations, where organs and the fattest parts of the animals were highly treasured. However, modern humans have become picky, and today most of us typically buy the leanest meat we can find. Of all animal source food, liver scores very high in terms of nutrient density, and it’s also a great first choice for people who want to include more organ meats into their diet.

Why should you include liver and other organ meats in your diet?

  • Since most people tend to buy muscle meat, organ meats are very cheap
    This is especially relevant for those of us who are eating an ancestral-type diet, low in grains, vegetable oils, and other cheap sources of calories and high in eggs, meat, vegetables, and other fairly expensive foods (on a calorie by calorie basis).
  • From an ecological and sustainable perspective, eating the entire animal is the way to go
  • Organ meats are extremely nutrient-dense
    Liver is especially rich in vitamin A, folate, choline, and vitamin B12, and it’s also a great source of high-quality protein and omega-3 essential fatty acids (especially true for pasture-fed animals). Nutrient density is one of the most important things to consider when determining what to eat, as the most nutrient-dense food is «real» whole food with a high satiety index.

Common concerns

  • When buying organ meats, look for grass-fed, organic, and/or wild produce. Preferably raised without hormones, antibiotics, and commercial feed.
  • As liver is very high in vitamin A, it shouldn’t be consumed too often. A couple of times a week is a good general guideline.
  • Some people don’t like the taste of liver, but trust me, if you prepare it the right way and give it some time then you get used to the taste pretty quickly.

Preparing liver

As I typically eat liver 2-3 times a week, I’ve had a lot of time to experiment with different cooking methods. I’ve tried marinating the meat in lemon juice, olive oil, and spices, but I’ve actually found that I prefer the unmarinated version. However, if you want to conceal the taste as much as possible, then using some type of marinade could be the way to go.

This is my simple, straight-forward process for preparing liver…

1. Get a hold of high-quality liver from pasture-fed animals

liver1

I like to buy in bulk; 50 kg reindeer liver. If you’re new to eating organ meats, this might be a bit excessive :P

2. Store in freezer

liver2

Need more freezer space…

3. Thaw the liver before cooking

I prefer to put the meat in cold water for a couple of hours (in a plastic bag and/or vacuum packed).
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4. Put the liver on a cutting board

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5. Cut into small pieces

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6. Prepare vegetables

I like to use bell peppers and garlic, but you can use pretty much anything. Liver and onions is a very popular dish. I’ve found that you should “always” include some vegetables when cooking liver, as it improves the taste and decreases the risk of “burning” the meat.
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7. Cook over medium heat

Add salt and the types of spices your prefer.
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8. Serve with more vegetables

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Comments

  1. Delicious! But it is difficult to buy reindeer liver in my country.
    Thanks fot the post.

  2. Hello Eirik. This is yet another great post.

    What about other organs like sweetbreads? My native language is Spanish, we call them mollejas. I love them. And I leave them for 30-60 minutes in lemon juice like you recommend with the liver.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sweetbread

    I find liver to be vomit-inducing. I tried many times in the past and I just get so nauseous that I don’t eat for the rest of the day. I manage to eat anything if I do it for nutrient density reasons… But I find liver to be more repulsive than anything else. I could try the lemon thing though.

    I eat cow intestines with no problems, which is very common here in Argentina.

    What other organs are nutrient dense / would you recommend?

    Thanks for your excellent posts.

    • Hey Matias! I understand, many people don’t like the taste of liver. It definitely took some getting used to for me.

      Actually, organ meats in general are excellent additions to your diet, it doesn’t have to be liver. Sweetbreads included :)

      Since you live in Argentina you probably have access to a lot of high quality meats. Atleast where I live, meat from Argentina is considered to be some of the best you can get!

      • Hey, Eirik.

        It’s been getting more difficult to get good meat. Mostly because my country is abandoning the traditional ways. Cattle used to graze around in huge areas. Idiots here are now mostly using feed-lots. That’s really bad.

        But yes, generally we got excellent cuts. And all the organs are easy to get. The same happens with many vegetables, we have local products all around us.

        Thank you for your reply. I will check out the link you gave me.

        I’m glad Bret Contreras has given you so much coverage and space to post your articles. I probably wouldn’t have found them otherwise.

        Cheers!

        • Seems like that is the trend most places, sadly. The only way it’s going to change if we as consumers demand/buy pasture-fed meat and accept that high-quality food costs a little extra.

          Keep me updated on your experience with eating more organ meats:)

    • Also, you might want to check out this article from Men’s Fitness for more information on some of the most common organ meats: http://www.mensfitness.com/nutrition/what-to-eat/7-nutrient-packed-animal-organs

      • The article is great. It’s very clear and concise. I just read it and archived it in Onenote. All those are very common here and I like them, except for the liver.

        Have a great day, man!

  3. I loved liver even as a kid. Haven’t had it in a while, need to get cooking again. I actually like it rare in the middle. Try getting that in a restaurant! hahaha!

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  1. […] why hunter-gatherers prefer the most nutrient-dense parts of the animals they kill (think organ meat) and also why they often go to great lengths to acquire honey. Since periods of food […]

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