How to Eat More Organ Meats | Chris Kresser

How to Eat More Organ Meats


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While organ meats have gotten a little more attention in the Paleo community recently, many people still don’t quite appreciate how vital it is to include these nutritional powerhouses in their regular diet. Plus, knowing we should be eating offal and actually eating these foods are two very different things. Though some people do love the taste of foods like liver, most people (myself included) don’t like the taste of organ meats and need to be persuaded to eat them.

In an effort to help you take the plunge into eating the whole animal, here are my thoughts on the top three organ meats to start out with and why.

Afraid to start eating organs? Learn how to ease into eating these #Paleo super foods.Tweet This

Beef Tongue

Because tongue is still technically muscle meat, the nutritional profile is similar to that of other beef muscle meats. It’s a good source of iron, zinc, choline, vitamin B12, other B vitamins, and trace minerals. (1) Tongue is a fatty cut of meat, with about 70% of its calories coming from fat, making it one of the most tender cuts of beef you can find.

Surprisingly, one of tongue’s biggest claims to fame is the taste. It’s also one of the easiest organ meats to cook. Once people get over the fact that it’s a tongue, they often find they like it better than other, more ‘normal’ meats! If you’re venturing into the world of organ meats for the first time, tongue is a great starting point. It will probably take a couple tries to get completely over the ‘ick’ factor (after all, it looks like a tongue), but the ease of cooking and the agreeable taste should make that process easier. Further, it should prepare you mentally for other organ meats, which can be a little harder to tackle!

Here are some tongue recipes to try:


Once you’re comfortable eating tongue, heart can be a good next step. As with tongue, many people are pleasantly surprised when they taste heart, because despite its somewhat threatening outward appearance, its taste and texture have been compared to that of steak or brisket.

Like other red meat, heart is a good source of iron, zinc, selenium, and B vitamins, but where heart really shines is its CoQ10 content. CoQ10 is vital for energy production and prevention of oxidative stress, and people with chronic health conditions are often deficient. There are also some genetic factors that can impede the biosynthesis of CoQ10, making it more important for those people to have a source of pre-formed CoQ10 in their diet.

Heart is the best food source of CoQ10, with pork heart and beef heart topping the list at approximately 127 mcg/g and 113 mcg/g, respectively. (2) By comparison, sardines supply only about 64 mcg/g, beef liver contains 39 mcg, beef muscle meat contains 31 mcg, and pork muscle meat has anywhere from 24 to 41 mcg.

Unlike tongue, heart is extremely lean, so you want to be sure to cook it properly. One option is to grind it up and add it to ground beef. Here are some other ways to eat heart:


You didn’t think I’d write an article on organ meats without including liver, did you? While tongue and heart are both excellent choices and great introductions to organ meat consumption, 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.

Liver is an important source of retinol, which is pre-formed vitamin A. Just three ounces of beef liver contains 26,973 IU of vitamin A, while pork liver and chicken liver contain 15,306 IU and 11,335 IU, respectively. (3) If you aren’t supplementing with cod liver oil, you’ll probably want to eat liver a couple times a week to make sure you’re getting enough vitamin A, especially if you have skin problems.

Folate, choline, and vitamin B12 are three more nutrients that are found abundantly in liver, and they can be especially important in the context of a Paleo diet. Two Paleo staples – muscle meat and eggs – contain a high proportion of the amino acid methionine, and higher intakes of methionine increase homocysteine production. This increases the need for vitamins B6, B12, folate, betaine, and choline, which recycle homocysteine. (4, 5)

Although all meats contain some amount of vitamin B12, liver (especially beef liver) blows everything else out of the water, with almost three times as much B12 as kidney, seven times as much as heart, and about 17 times as much as tongue or ground beef. (6) Choline is concentrated mainly in egg yolks and liver, so if you aren’t eating egg yolks it’s important to get some liver into your diet. And as Chris Masterjohn points out, it can be difficult to get enough folate on a Paleo diet without including liver, because other than liver, beans are actually one of the best sources of folate. This is especially true if you eat lots of muscle meat and not enough folate-rich greens.

One of the main nutritional differences among the livers of different animals is copper content. Beef liver contains 14.3mg of copper per 100g, while chicken and pork livers contain less than 1mg. (7) Thus, beef liver is a great choice if you tend towards a copper nutrient deficiency, but as I mentioned in this podcast, copper excess can also be a problem. Luckily the choline, zinc, and B vitamins in liver significantly reduce the risk of copper toxicity, but if you need to limit copper in your diet, you can always opt for chicken or pork liver instead.

Unfortunately, the taste of liver can take some getting used to. But even if you’re one of the unlucky people (like myself) who don’t particularly enjoy the taste, it’s possible to develop a tolerance for it, especially if you find a good recipe. You can always start out by grinding it up and adding it to ground meat, but if you’re ready for something a bit more adventurous, you can try these recipes:

Once you’ve started eating liver regularly, maybe you’ll be interested in trying other unorthodox cuts of meat and less popular parts of the animal. Mark Sisson has written before about eating heads, feet, tails, and everything in between. Perhaps you’ll give tripe a try, or attempt a kidney recipe. Maybe you’ll even get the guts to try some of the more adventurous animal parts, such as “sweetbreads” (pancreas), blood, or maybe even “oysters” (testicles). In fact, Chowstalker even has a whole list of offal recipes to get creative with. No excuses… and no fear!

Research Spotlight: Health Coaching and Nutrient Deficiencies

Multiple Nutrient Deficiencies Are Common in U.S. Children and Adults

For decades, it was thought that nutrient deficiencies were relatively uncommon in the United States due to our abundant food supply and food fortification programs. However, a 2017 epidemiological study indicates that nutrient deficiencies are actually quite common in the United States, affecting nearly one-third of children and adults.

Study Summary

  • A secondary analysis of data from 15,030 children and adults ages 9 and older involved in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) was performed to ascertain the relationship between nutrient intake, age, sex, body mass index, pregnancy and breastfeeding status, sociodemographic factors, use or non-use of dietary supplements, and biochemical nutrient status.
    • Biochemical measures of nutrient status were performed for vitamins A, B6, B12, C, D, E, folate, and iron.
    • Two 24-hour dietary recalls were performed to assess dietary adequacy.
  • Thirty-one percent of U.S. children and adults were found to be at risk for at least one vitamin deficiency or anemia. According to the authors, “A low proportion of the U.S. population has an adequate diet.”
  • The highest risks of deficiency were identified in women, non-Hispanic blacks, individuals living in low-income households, individuals without a high school diploma, and underweight and obese individuals.
  • Forty-seven percent of pregnant and breastfeeding women demonstrated an elevated risk of micronutrient deficiencies.
  • Dietary supplement non-users had a 40 percent risk of micronutrient deficiency, while only 14 percent of multivitamin-multimineral users were at risk.

Key Findings

This research indicates that micronutrient deficiencies are common in the United States, despite an abundant food supply. The standard American diet (SAD) is characterized by a high intake of refined carbohydrates and industrial seed oils, which are poor in nutrients. Thus, consumption of the SAD has “considerable potential” to influence the risk of vitamin and mineral deficiencies. The high prevalence of nutrient deficiencies in pregnant and breastfeeding women is very concerning, as maternal deficiencies put infants at risk for nutrient deficiencies and adverse long-term health outcomes.

A weakness of this study was that it assessed micronutrient intake adequacy using the Estimated Average Requirements (EARs) and Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) for nutrients. The EARs and RDAs are the amounts of nutrients estimated to meet the requirements of half and 97 to 98 percent, respectively, of individuals in specific age, sex, and life-stage groups. They are based on the amounts of nutrients required to prevent nutrient deficiency diseases, not to optimize health. The quantities of micronutrients needed to support optimal health are often much higher than the EARs and RDAs. Therefore, this study may have underestimated the severity of nutrient inadequacies in U.S. children and adults.

Another weakness is that the study relied on less sensitive and late-stage biomarkers for nutrient deficiencies, such as hemoglobin concentration and mean corpuscular volume, to assess iron deficiency rather than ferritin, which can identify iron deficiency much sooner. This means the researchers likely missed many cases of nutrient insufficiency, on the way to becoming deficiencies.

A strength of this study was that it ascertained the nutrient status of the participants using biochemical assessments and two 24-hour dietary recalls, rather than relying solely on less precise measures such as food frequency questionnaires.

While this study does not directly assess health coaching, it demonstrates an urgent need for large-scale nutrition education interventions. Previous research has shown that health coaches can support clients as they make more nutritious food choices. Health coaching may, therefore, be beneficial for helping people increase their intake of micronutrients, correcting deficiencies.

Finally, the finding that underprivileged individuals are at a significantly higher risk for nutrient deficiencies is concerning, and it reflects disparities in the availability of nutrient-dense, healthy foods in our society. Offering group health coaching to less financially privileged individuals and enhancing access to healthy foods on a community-wide scale represent viable strategies for improving nutrient intakes in this underserved population.

Reference: Risk of Deficiency in Multiple Concurrent Micronutrients in Children and Adults in the United States

The primary job of a health coach is not to act as a nutrition and lifestyle expert. However, having insight into core Functional Health topics—like nutrient density and nutrient status—can help coaches better integrate into a collaborative healthcare environment and relate to what their clients are experiencing. That’s why the ADAPT Health Coach Training Program includes comprehensive, evidence-backed information on Functional Health and ancestral lifestyle and nutrition. Is a future as a Functional Health coach right for you?


Join the conversation

  1. ** Why Not Purchase Grass Fed Beef Organ Supplements **

    To be certain, nothing can beat buying organ meats from your local farm or butcher. You get the opportunity to shake a hand, look them in the eye, get to know the person and their animal husbandry philosophies… This give you the opportunity to really get to know all involved in the supply chain of your food.

    Most of us know that we should be doing this… we know that we should be eating more organ meats but we’re not. Most of us know the nourishing health benefits but there’s so much effort involved in sourcing, preparing and sometimes consuming. An alternative solution is desiccated organ supplements. Supplement companies (mine included) make grass fed organ products like liver, heart, kidney, pancreas and spleen.

    I recommend for people to do things the old fashioned way… get to know their local farmers and butchers… if this doesn’t work out, don’t shut the door on the nourishment of organ meats. Try a supplement version. Visit Ancestral Supplements or reply to this post if you have any questions or concerns.

  2. I LOVE beef heart! Not only does it taste good, but I can get a 3lb beef heart for $3.00 (give or take a few cents) from my local butcher. I cook mine like a roast. A little water, unrefined sea salt and the beef heart in the crock pot. I start it the night before and let it cook on low until dinner the next evening. It’s become a favorite of ours!

  3. I have a question regarding organ meats. I just did a liver detox that had me thinking of the liver as one of the major detox organs, which actually accumulates and filters out toxins from the body, and have been relying on organic grass-fed liver as a source of iron and for its nutrient-dense properties, but the person I was doing the detox with suggested that I should be careful with organ meats for that very reason. I would love to know your thoughts on that..

    • High quality liver from pasture-raised, grass-fed cows is completely safe to consume. There is a common misconception about the liver being a storage depot for toxins which couldn’t be further from fact. One of the many roles of liver is to filter toxins and send them to be expelled — usually in the urine via the kidney. In other words, the liver does not hold on to toxins, it expels them. The liver does act as a storage depot for vitamins, minerals and glycogen. Rest assured, liver from healthy animals is safe, nutritious and time-tested.

      Need more assurance… Recall that liver is rich in choline, folate and B12. A diet rich in these nutrients supports methylation. Amongst other things, methylation is central to detoxification. What’s more, is that without adequate choline (most Americans) fatty deposits may accumulate that contribute to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Downstream issues include compromised detoxification, high cholesterol and memory problems. The take home message is this… grass-fed, pasture-raised liver is not only safe to consume but one could say that its nutrients are required to support and optimize our own detoxification pathways. Enjoy!

      • Thank you for your thoughtful reply, Brian Johnson 🙂 That is exactly what I always thought, but it is good to get confirmation.
        I will continue eating healthy organ meat, with a clear conscience!

  4. Hi there! I am wondering about the high levels of copper in liver…if I am trying to rid my body off copper overload (and estrogen issues), will eating liver contribute to my excess copper?

  5. I found pig tails and pig hearts at the market yesterday for a super good price! The hearts and tails went into a Dutch oven with lots of aromatics and cooked overnight at at a temp of 215°. Delicious and tender. I like using acv with meats. It adds flavor and extracts collagen. After straining, I’ll have a nice collagen-rich stock to use in any number of ways.

    Funny thing…when it comes to pork, I’d prefer pig offal over the pork meat (like loin, chops, etc.).

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