Let’s talk about something often overlooked – Organ Meat Benefits…
In our modern lives, we seldom stop to appreciate the history of one of the greatest wonders of human culture. Cuisine. Now I don’t mean that Beouf Bourguignon or Szechuan Vegetable Stir-Fry (although traditionally both can be very healthy), but rather something much more fundamental. I mean that common wisdom shared by many ancient and indigenous cultures. And that is that organ meats (often known as offal) are valuable additions to our diet!
“Yuck!” I hear many of you say, but they used to be the prized bounty of the hunt, fed to babies to encourage optimum growth and health, saved for those of higher status, and never wasted. Nowadays whilst they are not obsolete, I believe they certainly don’t get the attention they deserve.
Organ meat benefits are both numerous and remarkable, for, without them, we may not have become the strong species we are today. It is thought that our ancestor’s tendencies to eat meat and organs aided in the development of our large brains and robust features.
So, without further delay, in this article, I will be speaking to you about how incorporating different types of organ meats into your diet is (almost) always a great idea, and why, with a little courage you should give it a go.
Why Things Have Changed.
Now there are multiple reasons that things have changed. There have been periods of famine. Industry and Marketing have changed. Historically there were periods when the wealthy would only opt for the lean cuts of meat, throwing the rest out to the poor in an effort to differentiate themselves. And history is no stranger to such kinds of events. Just look at Henry VIII! Let’s explore that…
Whilst we know that the King actively indulged in his meats and offal (especially as a hunter) – in fact to an unhealthy extent, there is something else we can learn from his story. Through Henry VIII’s efforts to distance himself from the common people and the poor, he avoided certain foods. His bread came only from more refined flour than the peasants (which was unhealthier), he avoided many of the common vegetables, and he loved his deserts! This high-sugar and far too high protein diet paired with very few antioxidants led to an increase in scurvy for those that dined with him, and caused many problems for himself, including obesity, gut problems, and a weakened immune system. On top of this, his mental health inevitably declined. He led a very unnatural lifestyle.
Whilst there were many more factors that went into Henry’s health, there is no doubt that his unhealthy diet was one of the bigger ones. The message that we can take away from this is something that people are learning more and more: deviating from our natural diet and indulging on foods that we have not evolved to consume in the quantities or ways that many do today can have many serious effects on our health.
We have evolved to eat certain foods, and to do so in appropriate quantities. Offal is extremely nutrient dense, meaning that too much is actually bad! BUT, without at least some, many people miss out on great (often cheaper) food that could greatly help to improve health.
What Are Organ Meats, and What Are Their Benefits?
Organ meats are simply as they sound: the organs of an animal used for consumption. These include things like liver, kidneys, and heart to name a few. Compared to the lean cuts of meat, these are extremely nutrient-dense.
They are packed with essential B vitamin 12, as well as B9 (folate), B6, B2, and B1! As well as this, they are loaded with many important minerals including iron, copper, zinc, selenium, potassium, magnesium, manganese and choline amongst others, and they come with more than a fair share of fat-soluble vitamins – particularly A, D, E, and K. Not only that, but many contain healthy Omega-3 and Omega-6 fats, particularly if grass-fed.
Why is this good?
- Vitamin A (found in liver) strengthens immunity and improves vision. We only need this in trace amounts.
- Vitamin B12 has many vital functions including immune system health and energy production, and since we can’t produce it we must get it from food sources.
- Iron is vital for red blood cell production and helps to supply oxygen to the body’s tissues and organs.
- Selenium is an extremely useful mineral that many of us don’t get enough of. It supports immune function by acting as a powerful antioxidant and supports heart health.
- Copper is essential for proper growth and also helps the immune system.
- Zinc – like selenium – is another mineral that many of us don’t get enough of and acts as a powerful antioxidant. It also helps to balance hormones and increases testosterone naturally whilst aiding in cell growth and division. This is important for both men and women.
These nutritional facts are of course also organ meat benefits, due to their presence in different organ meats!
A standard 3 ounce serving of cooked beef kidney contains (according to nutritiondata.self.com):
- Omega-3 fatty acids 6.8 mg
- Omega-6 fatty acids 417 mg
- Choline 436 mg
Approx. RDA (adult 19+):
- Vitamin B2 2.5 mg 150%
- Vitamin B12 0.0212 mg 350%
- Iron 4.9 mg 27%
- Zinc 2.4 mg 16%
- Copper 0.5 mg 24%
- Selenium 0.143 mg 200%
How Can I Include Organ Meats in My Diet?
Make sure to read the word of caution before leaving this page.
There are plenty of ways to include organ meats in one’s diet, and you will be delighted to hear that they are much cheaper than the regular lean cuts of meat that you will find in a supermarket.
The most popular and easiest to find organ meat is liver, and it’s rather simple to cook. It’s often fried (if you do this use a healthy oil or fat such as olive oil), but can just as easily be cooked in an oven. Due to its extremely high content of multiple nutrients including vitamin A, it is recommended for healthy people and those not deficient in vitamin A to eat it sparingly, at most a standard serving of 3-oz once per week.
Kidneys are just as delicious as liver, but with a more meaty flavour. Make sure to watch a tutorial on how to trim the fat from the kidneys before cooking them as this is tough and shouldn’t be eaten. They are best cooked when seared, and I recommend looking up a preparation recipe.
Apart from that, there are many ways to include other organ meats in one’s diet! A fairly traditional dish in England is stuffed heart, and it’s actually not bad!
Word Of Caution.
Organ meats – whilst being extremely healthy – do also come with their points of caution. They are 100% worth eating, but you should be careful.
- Firstly, always speak to your healthcare professional before making major dietary changes or introducing new foods into your diet.
- Only buy organ meats from properly fed and raised animals, such as pastured and grass-fed cows, and try to go organic. Organs such as the liver are more exposed to hormone injections and pesticide and bacteria/virus accumulation so eating from healthy sources is important.
- Also, be careful of over-consumption and as stated above try not to eat more than one standard serving of organ meat per week. They provide many benefits to our health, but too much of certain nutrients can have side effects and sometimes be harmful.
- Something to note is to avoid eating avocado for a few hours before and after eating larger portions of liver as avocado may boost vitamin A absorption (by up to four times from plant sources)! Other fat sources will have similar effects. We typically absorb 75-100% of retinol (animal-sourced) Vitamin A, so a fat source could push this towards the upper end.
Too much vitamin A retinol (the bio-available type found in animal food sources) can be harmful as our liver can store it, and unlike the plant sources of vitamin A carotenoids it cannot flush it from our system. This isn’t something to worry too much about for most people, just don’t overdo it.
A Quick Overview.
Organ meats are very nutritious and should be a welcomed addition for most people’s diets! Our ancestors’ wisdom and common knowledge created the tendency to consume more organ meat, and it is this that many experts believe to have helped create our bigger brains and increased endurance. They have been part of human culture and tradition for thousands of years and only recently have they started to fall out of popularity.
We should only get our organ meats from healthy sources when possible, just to be on the safe side. But do try to get them, as organ meat benefits are both numerous and impressive!
Thank you for reading everyone! Let me know your thoughts about eating organ meats and experiences. Do you enjoy them often, or would like to try it out?
If you have any comments, suggestions, or questions I’d love to hear them in the comments below! 🙂
Until the next one, stay healthy
**Photos in order by Danny van Dijk, Babak Fakhamzadeh, and Paul Hermann on Unsplash