While it's true that most "Superfoods" we usually talk about are plant-based foods, this article will show you an often overlooked animal-based superfood.
Did you know that most predatory animals instinctively eat the organ meats from their kill before moving to the muscle meats? What do the animals know instinctively? They know THAT'S where the highest nutrient density meat is located, and is best for them! We're talking liver, kidneys, brains, hearts, etc.
Before you say "YUCK" and stop reading, there ARE ways to incorporate these super nutrient dense types of meat into your diet that actually taste good, and I'll also show you how nutrition packed these are.
In fact, did you know that one of the main reasons that the traditional Inuit populations in the Arctic were able to maintain good health while eating very little plant material is that they were smart enough to get a large amount of their nutrition needs from organ meats. Even vitamin C can be found in organ meats despite that fact that most people falsely believe that plants are the only source of Vitamin C.
Organ meats are not the most popular cuts of meat in the US, but with the growing popularity of grass fed beef, there is renewed interest lately in these power-packed nutrition superstars. However, organ meat is still very popular in many countries.
Many cultures use almost the entire animal for food, including the organs. The most often-used organs are the liver, tongue, kidneys, brains, heart, stomach, and intestines. If you take a look at our dietary history, it is obvious that organ meat was very common and eaten even more often than the muscle meat of animals.
What did our ancestors know that we've ignored in recent times?
They realized that the organs contained some of the most concentrated sources of nutrients and were the most important part of the animal to eat.
Compared to regular cuts of muscle meat, organ meats are more densely packed with just about every nutrient, including heavy doses of B vitamins such as: B1, B2, B6, folic acid and vitamin B12.
Organ meats are also loaded with minerals like phosphorus, iron, copper, magnesium and iodine, and provide the important fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Key to remember here is that animals raised outside on grass contain even higher levels of these essential nutrients than their grain-fed counterparts.
One of the few natural sources of Vitamin D
You've probably heard how Vitamin D is one of the most important vitamins (actually a hormone precursor) and regulates more functions in your body than you can even imagine. It's also one of the nutrients that many people are deficient in, especially those that live at higher latitudes and receive less sun (since sun exposure is your best source of Vitamin D).
Well, organ meats are known to have some of the highest concentrations of naturally occuring vitamin D of any food source, and including a source of organ meats into your diet once or twice a week, can especially help people in the winter times that might otherwise get a vitamin D deficiency.
Organ meats also contain high amounts of the essential fatty acids such as arachidonic acid, and omega-3 fats, including EPA and DHA. Yep, despite popular belief, fish and fish oils are not the only source of the important EPA and DHA… organ meats are loaded with these important nutrients.
Even if you don't eat large servings of organ meat, you can add smaller amounts of organ meats to your favorite ground meat dishes, and help your family supercharge their nutrition.
Let's take a look at the benefits of organ meats, especially those of grass-fed cattle… perhaps liver, heart and kidneys, and you may find that organ meats might take on a new attraction.
What about safety?
People usually ask about the safety of liver in particular of all of the organ meats. It is the liver's job to neutralize toxins in our body (or an animals body) from drugs or other chemicals, so obviously the best choice for liver is the grass fed kind, without added antibiotics or hormones.
Liver is known to be one of the most concentrated sources of natural vitamin A of any foods.
Natural vitamin A works to aid digestion, keeps sex organs/reproductive organs healthy, and is a powerful antioxidant in the body. Vitamin A also works in conjunction with 'activator X' or vitamin K2 found in grass fed butter, cheese, and grass fed dairy, to promote bone and arterial health. It is a fat-soluble vitamin, so if you eat grass fed butter with your liver the vitamin A will be absorbed better.
Liver is a great source of folic Acid, B vitamins and especially vitamin B12, which help with fatigue, mental ability, nerve health, and depression, as well as preventing anemia.
Liver also contains one of the best, most usable sources for the body, of iron. Iron is necessary for many functions in the body including formation of hemoglobin, brain development and function, regulation of body temperature, muscle activity and catecholamine metabolism, to name just a few. A lack of iron will have a direct effect on the immune system; it diminishes the number of T- cells and the production of antibodies.
Iron is essential to oxygen to the blood cells. The primary function of iron is oxygen transport and cell respiration. For an anemic person, fatigue is one of the most noticeable symptoms. The iron in liver is one of most easily absorbable and usable sources of iron for our bodies.
Did you know that liver contains an anti-fatigue factor, which is probably why endurance athletes have always liked liver to maintain stamina and energy? The improvement in endurance is likely to do with improving the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood cells; increasing endurance and strength in athletes.
Liver contains many nitrogen-containing compounds that are building blocks for DNA & RNA. In combination with the B vitamins, this makes it extremely helpful to people with Alzheimers or other types of dementia.
While liver is highly nutritious, its precious nutrients are very much affected by heat, so never cook it more than rare or medium rare to preserve the digestive enzymes and nutrients. When cooked too long, liver will be rubbery, chewy and have a strong liver taste. Soaking liver in lemon juice helps to cut down on the strong taste that some people don't like.
Get liver in your regular diet at least once a week if possible for maximum benefit of its high levels of nutrients. One of the best ways to enjoy liver, especially for those who are not fans of cooked liver, is grass fed liverwurst and braunsweiger.
Personally, I'm not a fan of the taste of liver, but I particularly enjoy liverwurst, especially when it's from healthy grass-fed animals.
Note: the ONLY healthy source of liverwurst or braunsweiger is from a healthy grass fed source that doesn't use nitrates and nitrites in the processing. The brand above is one of the only brands I've found that is actually healthy and isn't loaded with nitrates and preservatives.
Braunsweiger contains liver and beef with a delicious spicy seasoning—great for sandwiches. Liverwurst contains power-packed beef liver, kidneys and heart.
The liverwurst and braunsweiger in the links above are unique in that they come from healthy grass-fed animals (unlike the unhealthy sources they will come from at your typical grocery store), and also contain some high-antioxidant spices and sea salt.
Beef heart — because it is a muscle– beef heart is somewhat similar to other cuts of meat like steak, ground beef, roasts, etc. although it is a heavier, more dense muscle than others though. But heart meat carries a bigger punch of protein and unique nutrients.
The heart is a very concentrated source of the supernutrient, CoQ10.
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is produced by the human body and is necessary for the basic functioning of cells, as well as optimizing the heart's rhythm. CoQ10 levels are reported to decrease with age and to be lower in some patients with some chronic diseases such as heart conditions, muscular dystrophies, Parkinson's disease, cancer, diabetes, and HIV / AIDS.
CoQ10 has been shown to be very effective for improving cardiac function. Scientists have also found that CoQ10 provides benefits to other organs whose cells require this high-level energy metabolism such as the brain and kidneys, as well. In addition, prescription drugs such as statins deplete the body of CoQ10, so replacing this vital nutrient is extremely important for these people.
Beef heart also contains Selenium, Phosphorus & Zinc, along with essential amino acids that help build muscle, store energy and boost stamina and endurance. A meal of organ meats will charge you with extra energy, noticeable right after you eat it. The heart also contains twice as much collagen and elastin than regular meat, which is good for the skin and connective tissue, and actually helps prevent wrinkling and aging.
Because heart is such a dense muscle meat, it is a little bit tougher than other meats, but marinating the meat in an acidic-based marinade really helps to tenderize it and add delicious flavor as well.
Heart can easily be added to your favorite ground beef recipes for added nutrition with little change in taste. Get brave and try some great tasting grass fed headcheese for your next lean energy snack. Headcheese contains beef tongue and beef heart.
Now you know that there IS such a thing as a non plant-based Superfood!
So, while you may need to get up your nerve to try organ meats, you may be pleasantly surprised! Braunsweiger, liverwurst, and headcheese are all delicious ways to enjoy organ meats if you are the slightest bit squeamish.
For the more adventuresome ones, cook up some grass fed liver or heart for your next dinner, and feel the power boost you get from that high-powered nutrition!