How & Why to eat Organ Meats
If you follow me closely you know that I am a certified coach of the AIP diet, the leading nutritional therapy for autoimmune disease. The AIP diet took my healing to the next level and allowed me to achieve health rather than just being “relatively functional” after my diagnosis of Celiac Disease and Hashimoto’s. For me, going gluten-free wasn’t enough. I had to think about not only what I was eliminating but also what I should be ADDING to my diet.
To my dismay, organ meats are highly recommended on the AIP protocol. Weekly consumption is suggested! I had never had organ meats in my life so the idea of incorporating it weekly was completely flabbergasting, especially coming from a background of having been vegetarian for years. The benefits, however, seemed undeniable and if I really wanted to take my health seriously I knew I had to do everything I could.
Before we dive into the benefits, let’s just take a quick sec to clarify what we’re talking about here.
WHEN YOU SAY ORGAN MEATS YOU MEAN…LITERAL ORGANS?
Yup! I know… gross, right?
Well, I mean, it’s all about mindset. Our ancestors wouldn’t have even thought about just eating the muscle tissue like we do and throwing the rest of the animal away. That would be considered wasteful, foolish and simply insane because you’d be throwing out the most nutritious parts of the animal… not that they really knew, but I assume they had some intuition cause you feel damn good after eating them.
ANYWAYS, yes, consuming organ meats means eating the liver, heart, brain and maybe even tongue, kidneys, tripe (which is actually the lining of an animal stomach) or sweetbreads (gluten-free! It’s actually made from the thymus gland and pancreas).
I know… hard to wrap your head around. But once you do, organ meats can be a game-changing addition to your diet. They were for me! Here’s why:
THE BENEFITS OF EATING ORGAN MEATS
1) Incredible source of Iron
Iron can be a tricky little mineral. It can be difficult to find in some of our modern diets, especially the vegetarian & vegan variety but it can also be difficult to absorb. Organ meats contain plenty of heme-iron, the more bioavailable form or iron (as opposed to the non-heme iron found in plant foods), and many of the co-factors needed to absorb that iron.
Iron is essential for blood building, oxygen delivery, fighting infection & supporting the immune system
2) Crazy amount of Choline
Choline is an essential nutrient for your brain, muscle and liver health. Many of us don’t get enough of it.
Three ounces of beef liver contains almost three times as much choline as one egg, which is the next best dietary source!
3) Excellent source of Vitamin E
Vitamin E is important for any diet to help increase circulation, aid in tissue repair, healing, deactivation of free radicals and anti-aging.
4) Amazing Amounts of Vitamin A (retinol)
Vitamin A is a potent antioxidant that plays a vital role in prevention of birth defects and infection. It is also essential for hormone production, thyroid function, good digestion, good vision and health bones & blood. Without it, we are unable to utilize protein, minerals and water-soluble vitamins.
Liver is one of the highest sources of pre-formed vitamin A (retinol), which is the most bioavailable form. In fact, the vitamin A coming from plants (beta-carotene) is quite difficult to convert and many of us are incapable, especially if your digestive processes are compromised.
From the autoimmune perspective, Vitamin A is especially important for healing and sealing the gut lining to prevent autoimmune activation and achieve remission.
5) Busting with B’s
Organ meats contain the full spectrum of B-Vitamins, including B12 and folic acid, which are essential for energy production, something we could ALL use a little bit more of. They are also integral for detoxification, brain health, fetal development as well as the digestion, absorption & assimilation of other nutrients
6) Copious amount of CoQ10
CoQ10, also known as ubiquinol, was given it’s name because of it’s ubiquitous nature in the body! It has a myriad of important jobs to do, including supporting energy production and cardiac function. It is also a potent antioxidant.
If you are taking statins, it is essential to get plenty of CoQ10 both in your diet and supplementally as it depletes this essential nutrient that is so important for your heart health.
7) Plenty of Purines
Purines are nitrogen containing compounds that serve as precursors to DNA & RNA, allowing for cellular repair & regeneration, creating a potent anti-aging effect.
8) Doses of Vitamin D
Vitamin D is now considered more of a hormone than a vitamin, interacting with all of your bodies systems and playing an integral role in immune function, hormonal balance, & mood to name a few!
Vitamin D is actually extremely difficult to find in the diet naturally. Aside from synthetically infused milks, bread, & cereals (which aren’t really helping you in many other ways!), your only helpful food sources are fish and organ meats!
9) Fantastic source of Fats
All the good kinds of course! Organ meats contain plenty of omega-3 fatty acids, which are integral for reducing inflammation associated with most chronic disease including heart disease, autoimmune disease & cancer. Omega-3’s are also essential for brain health, nervous system function, mood regulation, hormonal regulation and the immune system.
Once again, your only alternatives for getting this kind of bioavailable omega-3 are fish & eggs. The plant based sources like flax, chia and hemp are very difficult to convert. In fact, most commonly, you are only absorbing about a half of 1 percent of the omega-3’s from plant-based sources.
10) Perfect Protein
Organ meats contain plenty of bioavailable proteins, including the full range of essential amino acids, that will help you build & retain muscle mass, increase metabolic rate and promote weight loss.
BONUS: Save money & reduce waste
Organ meats are not super popular (yet!), so you can often get them at crazy cheap prices. Naturally, consuming organ meat will reduce food waste as well!
I THOUGHT IT WAS UNSAFE TO EAT ORGAN MEATS!
I know! Me too!
I will say quality does matter. The diets, veterinary drugs and living conditions of animals raised in our traditional confined animal feeding lots are not likely to result in healthy organs.
However, the grass-fed or pastured variety are completely safe and, as noted, extremely healthy!
Many people are concerned about the idea that liver and kidneys are detoxification organs and, therefore, believe that they must contain loads of toxins. However, upon laboratory testing, it has become clear that this is not the case. Organ meat does not contain any more toxins than muscle meat & fat, in fact, they usually contain less. This is because the job of these organs is to neutralize and eliminate toxins, not store them.
The only caution I may pose would be to pregnant woman. Studies show that an excess of vitamin A during pregnancy can lead to birth defects. However, this is mostly looking at synthetic vitamin A. We are not seeing many studies where the naturally source vitamin A does not have the same effect. Furthermore, vitamin A is still needed to aid in fetal growth and development. Liver being an extremely high source of vitamin A, most practitioners will advise avoiding it. However, I believe consuming organ meats even just 1-2 times a month may be extremely beneficial for a growing fetus.
OK, I GET IT, IT’S HEALTHY, BUT I STILL DON’T WANT TO EAT IT… GROSS!
Fair enough. I’m not going to force it down your throat. All I can tell you is what a big difference it made from me in my healing journey, what a game changer it has been for many of my clients and, if you’re willing to keep an open mind, how I have actually made liver a delicious & exciting food to integrate into my diet.
Some of my favourite ways to use organ meats:
Try grinding up liver and/or kidneys and combining them with some ground beef or pork & herbs to create more familiar dishes like bolognese sauce, burgers, or meatballs!
Add organ meats to a slow-cooked stew with other meats like beef or lamb shank.
Once you get more used to the flavours try a traditional liver & onion dish, this is a delicacy!
I find adding bacon and plenty of herbs to my homemade pate distracts from the strength of the flavour of the liver. Pate also removes the visual of a literal piece of organ but rather provides a little bit of a more traditional dish that you can serve up as a snack and not have to consume for a main dish!
To get you started, here is my favourite, tried & tested (& picky husband approved!) homemade pate recipe!
Bacon & Herb Liver Pate
Time: 30 minutes
4 slices organic bacon
1 1/2 cups leeks
1 lb chicken livers
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves (minced)
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp ground sage
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup bone broth
1 tbsp parsley (fresh, chopped)
1 tbsp rosemary (fresh, chopped)
1/4 tsp sea salt
1) In a large non-reactive skillet, cook the bacon over medium heat. Once cooked through, remove from the pan, reserving bacon fat in the skillet
2) Add the leek greens to the plan & sauce for about a minute.
3) Remove leeks from the pan, placing off to the side, and add the livers & garlic. Drizzle with olive oil & cook for 4 minutes, or until brown on one side.
4) Once one side as browned, flip the livers & add the wine and dried herbs. Stir to combine, cover the pan & reduce to low-heat. Simmer for 15 minutes. Remove the lid and then cook an additional 3 minutes. (This is when the alcohol will cook off so you don’t have to worry if you’re on AIP)
5) Add the liver mixture to a large food processor, along with the cooked bacon, bone broth, fresh herbs & salt. Puree until smooth. Taste & add additional salt, if needed. (I always do!)
6) Portion into small cups or 1 big container and chill in the fridge until cold.
Ideally, you want to consume this deliciousness within 4 days, or freeze for longevity. Just a heads up though, if you freeze it & thaw it the pate will become a bit more grainy & firm. Still tastes amazing though!
Serve this with veggies or fruit. I love it with cucumber or apple! :)
It’s a whole new world once you start including organ meats and I promise you, if you just take that dive in, you will feel the difference. I promise you’ll get used to the taste too and maybe even start to crave it! I know I do.
P.S. If you make this recipe, don’t forget to take a pic and tag me on instagram @realistic.holistic - I wanna see hear how you like it! <3