All you Paleo diet fans out there, this one’s for you! I recently started eating organ meats twice a week. Although it hasn’t been easy, I feel stronger already. Liver, heart, or kidney might help you, too. Here are some things to consider.
I had never eaten organ meats in my life, even though my mom used to make chopped chicken liver regularly. I didn’t like the taste or the thought of eating icky vital organs.
Then I encountered the work of Terry Wahls, MD, a doctor who has recovered significantly from multiple sclerosis. She did it through a landslide of vegetables and fruits (nine plate-sized servings a day) and organ meats twice a week.
I was with her on the vegetables. I like them, even though nine plates a day sounds a bit crazy. I figured I would give the organ meats a pass.
But I’m serious about trying to get out of this wheelchair. I’m doing some other treatments too, so it seemed like time to give it my best efforts. I looked into organ meats and this is what I found.
Dr. Andrew Weil writes,
Liver is packed with vitamins. A four-ounce portion of calves’ liver gives you more than 1600% of the daily value of vitamin A and hundreds of times the daily values of vitamins B12 and B2 (riboflavin) as well as lots of iron, zinc, folate, and other essential nutrients.
Paleo diet health blogger Chris Kresser, LAc, says,
Liver is by far the most important organ meat you should be eating. It’s one of the most nutrient-dense foods in existence, and contains many nutrients that are difficult to get elsewhere.
When you think about all the jobs the liver has in a body, it makes sense that it would need a lot of nutrients to get them done.
Heart is also full of nutrients, especially coenzyme Q10. CoQ10 is a vital part of energy production, and hearts use a huge amount of energy. So they’re full of CoQ10. I tend to be deficient in CoQ10 and take 800 mg a day just to keep my heart beating normally.
There are almost certainly other nutrients in organs that we don’t even know about yet. When carnivores kill, they go right for the organs. That’s where the good stuff is. Lions often eat the organs and leave the rest of the body for the jackals.
Among hunting people, like the Inuit of the Arctic, the heart, lungs, and liver of the seals were the most prized parts. And they ate them raw.
Dr. Wahls’ theory is that these “micronutrients” are needed for good health in people who have chronic conditions. It seems to be working for her. She went from getting around in a reclining electric wheelchair to riding a mountain bike in a couple of years.
So I figured to start with liver and heart. But friends warned me about the possible high toxic chemical load in liver. After all, livers detoxify the body, so wouldn’t a lot of toxic things be stored there?
Perhaps not. Livers don’t store toxins; they break them down and excrete them. So by the time you eat them, the liver might not be any more toxic than the rest of the animal.
Dr. Weil quotes a Pakistani study that found that liver, kidney, and lean meat had varying amounts of heavy metals. Organs were higher in some (such as arsenic), but lower in others (such as mercury). A study in the Slovak Republic found high levels of metals in organs of animals who grazed near metalworking plants.
Dr. Weil says “Don’t eat any meat — organ or otherwise — from animals raised in toxic environments.”
Experts seem to agree it’s best to eat liver from organically raised animals, so they’ll be less toxic. Also, calves’ liver might be better than beef liver, because calves have less time to accumulate toxins.
Getting used to organs
The first time I bit into liver and onions, I almost choked. It didn’t taste that bad, but for some reason I wanted to gag. Probably a mental aversion to eating something so obviously animal.
But then I thought, the animal is being killed for its meat. To not eat the most healthful part is just wasting the animal. Maybe if you’re going to eat meat, you should be required to eat some organ meat, too. It’s good to connect with what we are eating, I think.
Still, changing my attitude didn’t help with enjoying the taste. My mom suggested using loads of ketchup. That and large swallows of water allowed me to get the liver down, but I didn’t like it.
Then Thanksgiving came, and there was lots of leftover turkey gravy. That turned out to be the charm. Aisha cooked up some liver in turkey gravy, and it was fine! It smelled like turkey, so it tasted OK too. Smell is 80% of taste.
I haven’t found any direct evidence that organ meats help people with diabetes. The American Diabetes Association lists heart, kidney, and liver as good protein sources, but leaves it at that.
I suspect organ meats might be good for diabetes, though. Do you have any thoughts or experience that might shed light on their value? Let us know.