Is Liver Good For You? Beef Liver Nutrition (+8 Nutrients You Need)
In the last year I’ve cured my IBS, cut down my body fat, and I feel more energized than ever.
All of this is the result of one simple act: I’ve only eaten meat and drank water.
The carnivore diet has transformed my life.
But, until I added liver I had low energy and lingering skin issues.
Adding liver was like a cheat code.
My energy is through the roof, I have increased mental clarity, my workout performance increased by 20%, and my skin is clearer than ever before.
If you’re anything like me, you’re probably a little hesitant to start eating organ meats. But as you’ll quickly find out, beef liver is the most nutrient-dense food on the planet.
Before we get into the meat and bones of why everyone should be eating beef liver, let me quickly tell you about my own personal story.
Table of Contents
Beef Liver: Here’s How I Got Into It
Before I adopted the carnivore diet, I was riddled with issues: everything from IBS to rheumatoid arthritis, to acne.
I looked like a Humira commercial merged with a proactive one.
I went to countless doctors, but none thought my diet was the culprit. I was eating a diet high in foods that I thought were healthy: whole wheat bread, fruit, carbohydrates post workout, a lot of vegetables and “heathy sandwiches.”
But after reading extensive literature I realized that my diet and carbohydrates were causing issues.
Long story short, cutting carbs eviscerated most of my issues. But it wasn’t until I fully went zero carb and adopted the carnivore diet, that ALL of my issues disappeared.
The carnivore diet has completely transformed my health. But I have to be honest, the first couple weeks weren’t the greatest.
I wasn’t getting the mental clarity, fat loss, and strength benefits that other carnivores were experiencing…
So I decided to do more research and noticed that most of the carnivore dieters encouraged eating liver.
Like most people, I was a little grossed out at the thought of eating beef liver. After all, why would I want to eat an animal’s organs?
It turns out it’s providing much needed nutrients that beef alone doesn’t.
Once I made it a priority to have at least 400g / week, I felt and looked like a new person.
Adding beef liver into my carnivore diet made me more energized than ever before, my skin was clear, and all of my digestive issues were gone. My muscle growth even improved more than it did when I was taking everything from GNC.
I’m not joking around when I tell you that I go about my day feeling like the energizer bunny even when I didn’t get a full night’s rest.
But enough about me.
Let’s dive into what this “superfood” actually is and why it’s so good for you.
What is the Liver? The Inside Scoop
The liver is one of the most vital organs in humans and animals.
Not only is it the largest internal organ, but it’s responsible for a ton of important functions. These include[*]:
- Storing glucose, vitamins and nutrients correctly
- Filtering and removing toxins and drugs from your blood
- Processing digested food from the gut
Beef Liver Nutrition: Liver is Nature’s Multivitamin
Even though it hasn’t been getting the same attention as it used to, the liver is quite possibly the most nutrient-dense food on the planet.
Liver used to be an extremely popular delicacy before people started favoring muscle meats for their flavor. Often hunter gatherers would go straight for the organ meat before anything else.
Most people assume that fruits and vegetables are the best way to get your essential vitamins and minerals but beef liver is loaded with even more nutritional value.
Just 100g amount of liver contains more than 100% of the recommended daily value for various micronutrients and it’s a great source of protein.
Most animal livers can be eaten but the most popular sources include cow, chicken, duck, lamb, and pig. My favorite (along with the majority of carnivores) is beef liver.
Bottom line: Beef liver is the most nutrient-packed food source on the planet.
Is Liver Good for You? You Need These 8 Essential Nutrients
Whether you’re on the all-meat carnivore diet, or you’re just trying to improve your overall health through healthy eating, beef liver should be a staple in your nutrition regimen.
After incorporating beef liver into my diet:
- I’m way stronger in the gym
- I’m more focused on tasks at work (even without coffee)
- My mood is lifted (amongst other things)
- I wake up with boundless energy (I should consider venturing into competitive sports rather than cleaning my house after work every day)
Imagine it like the one food your body needs to get every single essential nutrient you need to thrive and revitalize your health. It’s also super cheap compared to other protein sources and can be found at most butchers and grocery stores.
Let’s go over beef liver’s nutrition:
In fact, vitamin A is one of the most important nutrients on the planet. Even Orcas know the importance of it and kill sharks only to eat the liver.
What are some of the functions of Vitamin:
- Essential for preserving your eyesight
- lowers risk of certain cancers
- supports a healthy immune system
- reduces acne
- promotes healthy reproductive function[*][*][*][*][*]
Pretty much anything important, Vitamin A plays a role in.
When I started adding beef liver, my skin looked like porcelain. Beef liver is the original botox.
Beef liver is one of the only food sources that contains ample amounts of vitamin A. Just 100g of it has 2200% of the recommended daily intake.
It’s also in the form of Retinol which is much more bioavailable than beta-carotene, which is found in plant foods.
There also aren’t ways to supplement retinol on the market. The best and only way to get sufficient vitamin A is from beef liver.
Many people have a vitamin B deficiency today. Especially people who don’t consume plenty of animal foods.
It’s vital for neurological function, DNA production and repair, red blood cell development, amino acid metabolism, cell growth, helps convert food into energy, and also acts as an antioxidant[*][*][*].
One serving of beef liver contains:
- Riboflavin (B2) – 220% of the Recommended Dietary Intake (RDI)
- Folate (B9) – 60% of the RDI
- Cobalamin (B12) – 2000% of the RDI
B9 and B12 are both critical for brain function.
The first time I had beef liver, I got a jolt of energy from the high vitamin B concentration.
Plays a substantial role in maintaininga healthy bones, reducing the risk of flu and diabetes, optimizing hormones, cell regeneration and even helps prevent cancer[*].
Vitamin D deficiency is extremely common. Most people don’t get anywhere near the recommended daily amount which can lead to fatigue, depression, back and bone pain, impaired wound healing, and hair loss.
While beef liver only contains around 5% of the RDI of vitamin D, every little bit counts when you’re deficient. Make sure to get some sunlight every day and consider supplementing with vitamin D to avoid this common deficiency.
Vitamins A and D also help to heal leaky gut.
Plays an important role in several processes including brain development, liver function, DNA synthesis, a healthy nervous system, fat transportation and metabolism, cell structure, and cell messaging[*][*][*].
Beef liver is the richest source of choline, containing over 300mg which is around 85% of the RDI.
Acts as a key to activate a number of enzymes which go on to regulate energy production, brain function, and iron metabolism[*].
100g of beef liver contains over 466% of the RDA for copper.
Helps cells generate energy, plays a crucial role in oxygen circulation throughout your body, and helps your immune system destroy harmful pathogens like bacteria and viruses.
Beef liver is one of the best sources of iron in the world. 100g of beef liver has 63% of the RDA for Iron.
Plays a crucial role in wound healing, bone health, and prevents blood clotting[*]. It also helps to decalcify the bloodstream.
Beef liver is packed with vitamin K2. 100g of beef liver has 127% of the RDA for k2.
Protein: Beef Liver is a Workout Supplement
If you’re trying to build muscle, you need to add beef liver to your diet. Throw away the protein shakes and eat beef liver instead.
To build muscle, you need three things:
- Resistance Training
- mTOR stimulation
- Amino acids
Beef liver can’t help with 1, although maybe you can do some curls with it before you eat it.
But it’s one of the best foods you can eat for mTOR stimulation and amino acid intake.
Amino acids are essential building blocks for muscles. They stimulate mTOR, the cellular’s master controller for protein synthesis and growth.
You may have heard of Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs). They’re a group of essential amino acids, that trigger muscle growth and slow muscle breakdown. Leucine has been shown to be the most effective BCAA [*] [*] [*].
Just 100g of beef liver has 2.7g of Leucine.
Protein plays an important role in just about every biological process. It’s responsible for building, strengthening, and repairing tissue.
Your body needs it to make enzymes, hormones, boosts metabolism and acts as the building block for bones, muscles, blood, skin, and cartilage[*].
Beef liver is a great source of healthy, easily-digestible protein, containing 20g with each 100g serving.
The protein will also help to heal your leaky gut.
Liver Nutrients vs. Multivitamin: Which One is Better?
At first I thought supplementing with a multivitamin was all I needed to provide my body with all the essential nutrients I may or may not have been deficient in with the carnivore diet.
But boy was I wrong.
There’s been a lot of debate whether or not synthetic nutrients (multivitamins) provided the same benefit as natural nutrients.
It turns out, whole foods like beef liver are superior to taking multivitamins because of something called food synergy. This means specific vitamins and minerals interact with each other to increase the overall effectiveness[*][*][*].
Our bodies have evolved to get just the right amount of nutrients from food.
Bottom line: Vitamins are more readily absorbed from food sources rather than supplements.
Do You NEED to Eat Liver on the Carnivore Diet?
Just like every other diet, there’s a right and wrong way to approach it. This is a very contentious topic in the carnivore community.
But I think without liver on the carnivore diet, you will not be at your optimal health.
The team at Paleomedicina in Hungary has cured everything from Crohn’s disease to Rheumatoid Arthritis with the Carnivore diet. An essential part of their protocol is having at least 400g of organ meats a week.
Muscle meat is very nutrient dense. This is a big reason why the carnivore diet works in the first place.
But, because our hunter gatherer ancestors were frequently eating organ meats, our bodies and brains adapted to require a number of micronutrients that aren’t present in sufficient quantities in meat alone.
If you look at the RDAs, you can see that you’ll be deficient in some from eating muscle meat and ribeyes alone.
Many carnivore dieters live by beef liver because it helps them get optimal amounts of vitamins A, B, E, D, choline, copper, and iron.
I recommend getting 50g-100g of beef liver a day. This comes out to approximately:
This will give you a great baseline to work with. With 400g of beef liver a week, you’re close to hitting the recommended amounts of every essential vitamin and mineral even without anything else. Couple this with some eggs, bone marrow and grass-fed muscle meat and you’ll be getting more nutrients than 99% of people.
Now, some will argue that the RDAs are actually too high and that we need fewer nutrients on the carnivore diet. RDAs were created using the standard american diet, which includes a substantial amount of carbohydrates and vegetables.
These carbs and veggies can actually block nutrient absorption, thus increasing the required intake.
They’re definitely right with regards to certain nutrients, such as Vitamin C and Magnesium.
However, there are certain vitamins that are our hunter gatherer predecessors got much more of, where our RDAs are probably too low.
Like with anything, experimentation is necessary (okay, not everything. Don’t do drugs kids).
The worst case scenario is that adding liver is supplying you a very potent source of cancer fighting, acne fighting and immune system supporting nutrients.
Examples of Carnivores Eating Beef Liver
Beef liver has always been a delicacy. For many primitive tribes, it was the first food they’d go after when killing an animal.
It was equivalent to Fruit Roll Ups for children. They couldn’t get enough of it.
Nature is simple. Our physiological response directed us to what our body required. And most primitive carnivores required the nutrients in beef. This is what made it taste so good or why people craved it.
I know it’s hard to believe given nobody eats beef liver today. Below are some examples:
West Nile Tribes
Dr. Weston Price traveled throughout Africa in the 1930s to examine dental health. He noticed that Tribes in Africa still eating primitive diets had little to no signs of tooth decay and beautiful teeth.
Meanwhile the United States counterparts were ridden with issues.
I was a brace-face for three years. I envy these children who didn’t need head gear or rubberbands for all that time…
According to Dr. Price, the children of the west Nile were highly immune to dental caries and were physically very healthy. The women were over 6 ft tall and many men were over 7 ft.
The people at the Nile prized liver as a sacred obsession:
I learned that they have a belief which to them is their religion, namely, that every man and woman has a soul which resides in the liver and that a man’s character and physical growth depend upon how well he feeds that soul by eating the livers of animals. The liver is so sacred that it may not be touched by human hands. It is accordingly always handled with their spear or saber, or with specially prepared forked sticks. It is eaten both raw and cooked — Dr. Weston Price [*]
Tribes in the Outer Herbides exhibited a similar immunity. One of their dietary staples was a dish consisting of cod’s liver and cod’s head.
“This diet, which included a liberal supply of fish, included also the use of livers of fish. One important fish dish was baked cod’s head that had been stuffed with oat meal and chopped cods’ livers. This was an important inclusion in the diets of the growing children. The oats and fish, including livers, provided minerals and vitamins adequate for an excellent racial stock with high immunity to tooth decay.” [*]
The Comanche were one of the most powerful American Indian tribes in history. Their diet consisted largely of buffalo and meat.
The Children of the Comanche were obsessed with liver.
“Children would rush up to a freshly killed animal, begging for its liver and gallbladder. They would then squirt the salty bile from the gallbladder onto the liver and eat it on the spot, warm and dripping blood.” [*]
Some other notable accounts of native American’s eating liver existed.
In The Ways of My Grandmothers, Beverly Wolf describes how they’d prepare the entire cow, nose to tail to be eaten. The liver, of course, was important:
“All the insides, such as heart, kidneys and liver, were prepared and eaten, roasted or baked or laid out in the sun to dry. The lungs were not cooked” [*]
Other Native Americans, called Mountain Men here, prized the liver even over the meat of the Buffalo. The lean meat was often discarded and left to scavengers, while the mountain men prized the fats and organ meats for themselves.
“When game was plentiful, however, only a few choice parts were taken, and the vast bulk of the meat was left to scavengers. The small and large humps were usually taken first….The tongue was removed by “ripping open the skin of the lower jawbone and pulling it out through the oriface. The heart and liver were added to the fare.”
When deprived of food for an extended period of time, Mountain Men would go straight for the liver and organs. They didn’t show much table manners either:
“When mountain men had been without meat for several days before slaying a buffalo, all traces of Anglo-Saxon civilization vanished instantly. The liver was torn from the body cavity. Bloody and unwashed, it was seasoned with gunpowder, or by squeezing the gall bladder’s contents over it, and then consumed without further preparation.”
Kids…don’t try this at home.
Lions exhibit a similar behavior. After killing an animal, they go straight for the liver. Its like a game of operation
“While in the lion country, he observed the lion kill a zebra. The lion proceeded then to tear open the abdomen of the zebra and eat the entrails at the right flank. This took him directly to the liver.” [*]
After getting the liver, they often abandoned the animal entirely.
According to scientists who observed this behavior, the nutrients in organs were necessary to make lion reproduction possible.
How to Cook Liver
This may be the understatement of the year, but beef liver has a pretty unique taste. It may take some time getting used to. Luckily, there are a ton of different recipes and approaches to cooking it.
I recommend getting high-quality, grass-fed or grass-finished beef liver over conventional. While it may be slightly pricier, it’s well worth the cost.
Grass-fed beef liver is loaded with much more nutritional value and the cows were never injected with antibiotics or hormones. The higher quality liver also tastes much better.
Here are my favorite ways to eat beef liver:
- Pan-fried. Use a fat-based oil like tallow or ghee to add extra fats and flavor.
- Mix with ground beef. One of my favorite ways to eat liver is to mince the liver and mix it into 80/20 grass-fed beef to make nutrient-dense burger patties.
- Add lots of seasoning. Don’t be afraid to use a lot of seasonings as long as they are zero calories. This will help mask the flavor for people who don’t like the taste.
- Soak liver in milk before cooking. Soaking it before you cook beef liver will mitigate the strong flavor. If you can tolerate lemons you can try that.
- Make a pate with bone marrow, cream and other fats.
Common Concerns About Beef Liver
Now that you understand how awesome beef liver is, you’re probably driving around looking for the nearest cow to steal its organs. Kidding, don’t do that. Just go to your local grocery store and stock up.
If you still have some doubts or maybe you saw something about the dangers of eating beef liver, here are a few of the most common concerns people have.
Q: Aren’t there risks of vitamin A toxicity from liver?
No. Some people think that too much vitamin A can compromise bone health and become toxic. These concerns have stemmed from studies where scientists used extremely high doses of synthetic vitamin A. The vitamin A used in these trials did not contain the fat-soluble vitamins D, E, and K (found in liver) which are crucial for vitamin A metabolism.
Q: Can you have too much beef liver?
It depends. Just like anything else, too much of one thing is never good. While I just explained to you that vitamin A toxicity is highly unlikely, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Q: If the liver filters out toxins, wouldn’t it be unhealthy to eat?
No. The liver filters toxins, it does not store them. Once the liver identifies toxins, they are immediately excreted so there is nothing to worry about.
Try the Carnivore Diet for Just 30 Days
If you want to maximize your nutrient intake and make yourself immune to chronic disease, try the carnivore diet and make sure to add in beef liver.
If you’re interested in the carnivore diet, join my Facebook group Carnivore Nation and sign up for my weekly newsletter for FREE access to the 30 Day Guide to Mastering the Carnivore Diet below. I also tweet daily, where I share nutritional science and debunk the dietary dogma.
And make sure to eat your beef liver!