Your ancestors prized organ meats as sacred…but today they are completely absent from diets.
This organ meats list below should be your new food pyramid…Frame it on your wall.
These were true superfoods…unlike Kale — what I refer to as green toilet paper…
Read more here on the wild world of organ meats and which ones are best.
What Are Organ Meats?
What exactly is organ meat, you ask? Well King Obvious, organ meats are the ORGANs of an animal including the liver, kidneys, brain, tripe (stomach), gizzard (digestive organ in poultry), sweetbreads (thymus and pancreas glands).
Animal organ meats and other components like bones and fat often provide nutrients that fuel the same organs in humans. That’s because the vitamins and minerals will be found where they are stored or used the most. For example, B vitamins that support detoxification are found in the liver – the body’s main detoxification organ. Calcium and phosphorus are found in the bones of animals and also support human bone health. Make sense?
While they all provide vitamins, minerals, protein and healthy fats, some have more nutritional value than others. Let’s review.
Liver is the superstar of the organ meat family and with good reason, it is filled with vitamin A, a range of B vitamins, vitamin k2, choline and branched chain amino acids.
Check out all the nutrients a single serving of liver provides:
The nutrients in liver go a long way in supporting optimal health.
- The vitamin A in liver is retinal – the most potent and active form of this nutrient. Vitamin A has long been known to support skin health but is also vital for reproduction, vision, cancer prevention and supporting the immune system.
- The B family of vitamins energy by helping turn food energy (calories) into cellular energy. B Vitamins play other important roles like supporting fat burning – another method of fueling our cells with the added benefit of improved body composition for you (less fat, more muscle).
- Choline is the front runner for nutrients associated with brain health. Research shows that choline improves cognitive performance and prevents anxiety and mood disorders (*,*).
- Vitamin K2 helps with calcium balance – an essential nutrient for bone health. Research shows that vitamin K2 helps direct calcium into the bones and keeps it out of the arterial walls (*,*). Calcium in the arterial walls can be very, very bad, calcifications on arterial walls essentially = heart disease. So if you want strong bones and not stiff arteries, K2 is essential.
For a full rundown of the amazing health benefits of liver, check out our full article on this topic here.
If you’re interested in consuming liver in the most nutritious and easiest way possible, check out our crisps here.
This one may take a little getting used to – kidneys are also a nutrition frontrunner when it comes to organ meats containing a boat load of B12 and Riboflavin.
A single serving also provides about a ⅓ of your days needs for selenium, an essential mineral that acts as an antioxidant protecting your cells. Selenium also helps repair damaged DNA, so it actually helps prevent chronic disease like cancer. Selenium also plays a role in heart health by protecting against inflammation in the cardiovascular system (*). Finally, selenium supports a well functioning immune system – something we could all use a little help with!
Given the function of our own human brain you would think of the organ meats, this might be the winner but it actually doesn’t even come close to liver and also carries some risk.
First, the good stuff – brains are filled with anti-inflammatory omega 3 fatty acids. Brains are also a good source of choline and do contain small amounts of some antioxidant nutrients like vitamin A, vitamin E and selenium.
Now, the bad and the ugly – mad cow disease affects the brain and spinal cord of cattle. Eating the brain or nervous system tissue of an infected cow can cause a human variant of the disease called Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD), which is fatal (*).
If you’re like most people you’ve probably heard of tripe but have no idea what it is or how it’s prepared. Tripe comes from the stomach of any ruminant animal like cows, sheep, and deer. It most commonly comes from cows and is another organ meat filled with nutrients.
Like other organ meats, tripe contains protein, selenium, iron, b-vitamins and choline but unlike liver, it has no vitamin A. A single 3 oz serving of tripe has about 90 calories, 13g of protein, a little shy of half your daily need for choline and vitamin B12 and 25% of your need for selenium.
Because of its nutritional value, tripe is enjoyed around the world in a variety of dishes from sausages to stews. But, it does have a chewy texture so it is typically slow cooked to tenderize it.
Another food most of us need an anatomy lesson on…gizzards come from the digestive tract of birds. Gizzards are a cheap source of protein that also provides some vitamins and minerals as well.
A 4 oz portion of gizzard contains 20 g of protein, 70% of your daily selenium needs and about 25% of your daily needs for zinc, phosphorus, niacin and riboflavin.
While gizzards are a digestive organ they also are a muscle so you’ll find they taste similar to dark meat chicken. Like tripe, gizzards can be tough too so low and slow is the way to go with these as well – braising or slow cooking will do the job.
Sorry, were you expecting to see a picture of your aunt Linda’s cinnamon streusel bread? I hate to burst your bubble but sweetbreads refer to the pancreas and thymus glands of animals, veal and lamb are the most common. Not surprisingly, these too are nutrient filled additions to your favorite muscle meats.
Sweetbreads are set apart from other organ meats by their high level of vitamin c – a powerful antioxidant that supports cellular health and immune function. A 4 oz serving contains 39 mg of vitamin C – almost half of what you need for today. It’s also an excellent source of other familiar nutrients we’ve seen in other organ meats like phosphorus, zinc and B12.
Sweetbreads are rich so typically served with spices or acidic foods to balance out the flavor.
Beef heart is very similar to muscle meat in many ways, but has a higher amount of the B vitamins and energy supercharger coq10. CoQ10 is a compound that helps to generate energy in your cells. And some studies show that increasing coq10 intake can improve energy levels.
Based on the concept of like supports like, traditional people with unhealthy hearts would feed them the heart of a healthy animal.
According to Dr Ron Schmid, “Radioisotope labeling studies in animals have shown conclusively that, when eaten, organs and glands selectively travel to the corresponding organs and glands in high concentrations. This research, done at the University of Scotland in Edinburgh, lends credence to the ancient practice of eating animal organs to help ensure health in one’s corresponding organs…”
We’ve forgotten all of this ancient wisdom because organs are too “weird or gross”.
What are the Health Benefits of Organ Meats?
Organ meats are a great source of unique nutrients that you cannot get elsewhere in your diet.
Adding organ meats to your diet may have benefits and help to support:
- Immune function
- Skin elasticity
- Energy levels
- Cognitive function
Most people are missing critical nutrients that are only found in organs…and when they start to eat them they notice big shifts fast.
Eating Nose to Tail – Other Animal Bits Worth Your Time
#1 Suet and Tallow
Suet is the hard white fatty layer that surrounds an animal’s organs. It is often rendered down into tallow and used for cooking. Tallow is high in conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), an omega 6 fatty acid that may support fat lass in humans (*). CLA content varies based on the diet of an animal, in the case of CLA it is higher in animals that graze.
Fats are required for the absorption of vitamins A, D, E, K. Using animal fats in cooking, particularly non industrial farmed animals, is a good source of healthy fats that supports adequate absorption of the fat soluble vitamins. Because ADEK like to travel in fat, suet and tallow can also be a source of some carotenoids, the precursor of active vitamin A.
Suet and tallow are also carb free and help maintain nutritional ketosis (using fat for energy instead of sugar).
Bone broth has been a staple in traditional healthy diets for centuries. Bones are made from minerals – calcium, magnesium, phosphorus so eating them provides a good source of these nutrients that in turn can help build up your own bones.
Bones are also full of collagen, a type of protein that keeps joints cushioned and wrinkles at bay. You can access the collagen in bones as well as the other nutrients by cooking them down slowly. You’ll need to include an acid to help break them down but done right, you’ll end up with a vitamin, mineral and protein filled broth that is miles better for you than the salt water parading as stock at the grocery store.
Animal fats and bone broth are a simple way to start reaping the benefits of eating more than muscle meats and are easy to include for even a novice carnivore. Cook your meats in tallow, sip on bone broth for an added protein boost and for hydrating electrolytes.
For optimal health go beyond the muscle
The bottom line here is that animals are nutrient powerhouses and that includes all parts of the animal, particularly the parts that store vitamins and minerals and do the most work – the vital organs.
If the idea of eating organ meats and other animal parts makes you squirm, get the most bang for your buck with liver – it is the superstar of organ meats.
If you want to try the most convenient and tasty form of beef liver in the world, check out our brand new beef liver crisps below.