Liver: Nature's Most Potent Superfood | Chris Kresser

Liver: Nature’s Most Potent Superfood

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Adding things like beef liver and onions to your diet is a nutritional win. iStock.com/freeskyline

Conventional dietary wisdom holds that the micronutrients (vitamins, minerals and trace elements) we need from foods are most highly concentrated in fruits and vegetables. While it’s true that fresh fruits and veggies are full of vitamins and minerals, their micronutrient content doesn’t always hold up to what is found in meats and organ meatsespecially liver.

The chart below lists the micronutrient content of apples, carrots, red meat and beef liver. Note that every nutrient in red meat except for vitamin C surpasses those in apples and carrots, and every nutrient—including vitamin C—in beef liver occurs in exceedingly higher levels in beef liver compared to apple and carrots.

In general, organ meats are between 10 and 100 times higher in nutrients than corresponding muscle meats. (That said, fruits and vegetables are rich in phytonutrients like flavonoids and polyphenols that aren’t found in high concentrations in meats and organ meats, so fresh produce should always be a significant part of your diet.)

In fact, you might be surprised to learn that in some traditional cultures, only the organ meats were consumed. The lean muscle meats, which are what we mostly eat in the U.S. today, were discarded or perhaps given to the dogs.

A popular objection to eating liver is the belief that the liver is a storage organ for toxins in the body. While it is true that one of the liver’s role is to neutralize toxins (such as drugs, chemical agents and poisons), it does not store these toxins. Toxins the body cannot eliminate are likely to accumulate in the body’s fatty tissues and nervous systems. On the other hand, the liver is a is a storage organ for many important nutrients (vitamins A, D, E, K, B12 and folic acid, and minerals such as copper and iron). These nutrients provide the body with some of the tools it needs to get rid of toxins.

Remember that it is essential to eat meat and organ meats from animals that have been raised on fresh pasture without hormones, antibiotics or commercial feed. Pasture-raised animal products are much higher in nutrients than animal products that come from commercial feedlots.

For example, meat from pasture-raised animals has 2-4 times more omega-3 fatty acids than meat from commercially-raised animals. And pasture-raised eggs have been shown to contain up to 19 times more omega-3 fatty acids than supermarket eggs! In addition to these nutritional advantages, pasture-raised animal products benefit farmers, local communities and the environment.

For more information on the incredible nutritional benefits of liver and some suggestions for how to prepare it, click here.

APPLE (100 g)CARROTS (100 g)RED MEAT (100 g)BEEF LIVER (100 g)
Calcium3.0 mg3.3 mg11.0 mg11.0 mg
Phosphorus6.0 mg31.0 mg140.0 mg476.0 mg
Magnesium4.8 mg6.2 mg15.0 mg18.0 mg
Potassium139.0 mg222.0 mg370.0 mg380.0 mg
Iron.1 mg.6 mg3.3 mg8.8 mg
Zinc.05 mg.3 mg4.4 mg4.0 mg
Copper.04 mg.08 mg.18 mg12.0 mg
Vitamin ANoneNone40 IU53,400 IU
Vitamin DNoneNoneTrace19 IU
Vitamin E.37 mg.11 mg1.7 mg.63 mg
Vitamin C7.0 mg6.0 mgNone27.0 mg
Thiamin.03 mg.05 mg.05 mg.26 mg
Riboflavin.02 mg.05 mg.20 mg4.19 mg
Niacin.10 mg.60 mg4.0 mg16.5 mg
Pantothenic Acid.11 mg.19 mg.42 mg8.8 mg
Vitamin B6.03 mg.10 mg.07 mg.73 mg
Folate8.0 mcg24.0 mcg4.0 mcg145.0 mcg
BiotinNone.42 mcg2.08 mcg96.0 mcg
Vitamin B12NoneNone1.84 mcg111.3 mcg

459 Comments

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  1. Im pregnant and borderline anemic.I really feel better when I eat liver. I sauteed onions and tomato in ghee added liver cubes and some bombay spices.it was amazing. You should cook liver nomore than few seconds.if cooked too long tastes really rubbery. Also fried livers are so delicious.cut in small cubes toss in seasoned all purpose flour and fry it obly for few seconds.squueze some lemon on top. If you want you can have same size patatoe cubes. Tastyyy 🙂

  2. Alright, so I grew up hating everything about the taste of liver. That all changed this past December. I have been water fasting regularly for years. Did 23 days just water several times but have always desired to do a real 40 water fast. So I prepared all last year to end the year with a forty day water fast. My preparations included gaining 45 lbs to sustain me for 40 days. Thought gaining weight would be quick. Took almost 6 months of fast food twice daily to hit 200 lbs from my start weight of 155. Process was not near as enjoyable as anticipated. I got to experience my joints all loosen up. Acid reflux, got sick, headaches, tired sore and pissed off. Process really sucked. Felt my body degenerate fast.
    Dec 21 I started my 40 day water fast. Amazing experience. At the end my eyes were opened as to why anyone would subject them selves to this level of self denial. The 37th night my eyes were fully opened for several hours to the divine.
    Anyways I spent those 47 days (took over a week longer to turn my digestion back on. Didn’t anticipate this. Was forced into 47 days and not 40) designing my new feed program for when I was to start eating again.
    Liver. Here’s my point. Hated it. Fasted and choose it for my first solid meal and loved it. Couldn’t believe how good out made me feel. I felt led to easy it raw. New nothing about eating raw meat at all. Didn’t know others ate it raw. After a week of eating nothing but raw organ meat I finally googled eating raw meat, and the benefits of eating raw liver.
    Now I’m hooked. I feel like I’m really on to something. Since December I cut out all fruit and veggies except for one day a week as more of an intestinal sweep. I cut out all fiber. My feeding since then has consisted of only gras feed lamb liver, grass feed beef heart, wild caught fish with the skin, bone broth, pastured eggs, chicken with the skin on, lots of coconut oil by the spoon full, lots of butter, home made yogurt and lots of clean water. I consume all my food in one meal at 6pm. Daily feeding is the same everyday. One dozen egg yolks. 1 to 2 lbs of raw lamb liver. About a lb of beef heart, quart of raw yogurt, several big spoons of coconut oil and either 5 or six pieces of pastured chicken with the skin or trout with the skin.
    Yup. All that in one meal over the course of about an hour and a half of steady feeding. Pure protein and tons and tons of saturated fats.

    Results……lost 55 lbs during the fast. Have gained over twenty pounds of lean muscle since then. All my joints are stronger than when I was a kid. No acid reflux at all. At 37 I suddenly naturally became a morning person with no alarm. I require very little sleep now. Friends say I look 25 all of the sudden. I have veins, muscles and a six pack for the first time in my life. My digestion system works perfectly. I can Beatty all my old pt scores from when I was infantry at 20. My skin and hair have totally changed. Here’s something that most don’t know. Farting and burbing are signs of improper digestion. I hasn’t farted or burbed since my third week of my water fast. I have quit using deodorant completely since fasting as my sweat no longer has any odor.Weird but awesome. I feel like I have a brand new body. Anyways if you hate the taste, it might be time for a pyridine shift in your thinking. Instead of eating to satisfy your mouth and stomach only, how about a shift to feeding your body instead. Be your own science project. Instead of being your very own victim! PS. I hasn’t been into a grocery store since November. I get all I eat from 1 butcher shop. I’ve never looked or felt better.

    • Nathan,
      My boyfriend and I stumbled across this page when looking for more information on liver (he’s trying to get me to eat it) and we were amazed by your testimony. Is there any way you can tell us more about your diet and transformation?
      Cheers,
      Marie-Ève

    • Nathan,

      If you are still alive, I would love to know how you are doing. 🙂

      Just kidding….but it does seem to me that that much organ meat might be a bit much on a daily basis. Does this post still describe your daily diet?

      Paul Jaminet advises people to eat what we are…..which would mean a balance of muscle, skin, bones, organs, etc. It seems like sage advice to me.

    • That’s a great story. But how would a smelly, colorless, flammable, liquid organic base (pyridine) shift in my thinking help me? Or maybe you meant to say something else?

  3. Hi Chris all, I’ve been trying some liver (lamb) after hearing the benefits on Chris’s podcast, I feel amazing shortly after consuming it. I feel more alert and improved mood just wondering if there might be something lacking in my diet (primal/paleo) that liver satisfies?

  4. Hi, I really enjoyed reading your information about liver. I too, have eaten liver ever since I was a small child. I love it, and think it’s the best tasting meat out of all of them. The problem with liver is it can get dry and/or have a bitter taste. I quit cooking it in butter awhile ago, now I use canolla oil. My favorite way to cook liver is with onions… The more onions you put in it, the sweeter it will taste (if it’s still bitter, add some sugar). That’s how my mom fixed it, that’s how I fix it. I do have one question though, I see it lists carrots as not having any Vitamin A in them… What happened to that saying about eating carrots so your eyes will be healthy? Is that not true… Because I love eating honey carrots with liver.

    • Try soaking your liver in salted water for about 20 minutes.I bread mine in sprouted spelt flour with a little more salt and pepper,garlic powder.Then cook it in a little butter.Yum!

    • Canola oil is not a healthy oil. You should go back to butter or use ghee or coconut oil. You should throw your canola oil right in the trash and never eat that stuff ever again.

  5. You mentioned that you do think conventional liver still may be a positive…sadly that’s all I can afford. I was wondering if those stats you listed for the 100 grams were grass-fed liver? I wasn’t sure as it just says Beef Liver in the chart and I didn’t see anything making it clear what type it was.

    If that’s the number for conventional liver than grass-fed must be even more exceptional.

    • I get a hugh slice of liver for less than $2.00 at Stop n’ Shop, Pathmark, the butcher (if you can find one) is even cheaper.

  6. My family is from France so I grew up eating pate and rillettes and not thinking much of it. But once those trips to France stopped I sort of forgot about it. I’m now trying to incorporate more liver into my diet to clear up my keratosis pilaris.

    Just a question – is the Vitamin C in liver destroyed in cooking? Should I just rely on other foods to get C?

    Thanks!

  7. Justin, I’m not a food scientist, but I know that alcohol does dilate blood vessels, that’s probably why you sense an improvement in your circulation.

  8. What about Goat & Chicken liver…. how does it compare with Beef liver ?? I am a Hindu & don’t eat beef

  9. random question here. but I’ll go for it anyways.
    I have been following the paleo lifestyle for many months now and feel amasing.
    Still haven’t fully conquored my rheumatoid arthritis but see great improvements on top of elsewhere in my health. Slowly figuring it out with knowledge gained from Chris’s website aswell as all the helpful comments that have been provided by all you “health infowarriors”. Thanks a million.
    The random question at hand here is while I haven’t consumed much alcohol lately I have always noticed that when I do it helps with my circulation. Now does anyone have a reason as to why this is the case comming from the paleo view-point? and is there anyway I can expierence this beneficial effect without consuming beer/alcohol on a regular basis?
    does it have something to do with the yeast?
    (no joke intended here, by asking about alcohol that damages the liver, on a article that promotes beef liver as a very beneficial food:))
    thanks again,
    Justin

    • you need magnesium… Read the miracle of magnesium, Carolyn Dean…Dr Sircus as well. Type in your symptom and magnesium. Apparently your rheumatoid is stress related and alcohol relaxes you… at the time!! If you can drink Epsom salts half teaspoon in glass of water, its pretty amazing stuff.

  10. This article omits the plethora of evidence that demonstrates negative health impacts associated with red and processed meat consumption. See the World Cancer Research Fund’s expert report, where over 200 of the world’s scientists from 30 different countries summarized over 7000 scientific studies on the topic of lifestyle and cancer etc., for example.

    Nothing that I can see being said here outweighs this large body of research, which is not only epidemiological, but also mechanistic and experimental in origin.

    • The “largest body of research” does not guarantee truth.

      The Inuit didn’t “research” a nearly all-meat diet, they just lived it.

      On the other hand, a *viable* Vegan diet is quite complex, you have to eat a wide array of things to insure your complete nutrition. To live on only vegetables without that complex diet leads to coining “Rabbit Starvation” to describe it.

      As far as evidence, especially as pertains to *my* health, mine consists of my blood tests. I have found that my health improves when I eat more meat, and you can hardly claim that the printout from my doctor’s office is anecdotal.

    • Much as I don’t like the ‘idea’ of eating animals, I know from experience that after a year of not eating meat (I ate animal products like eggs milk and cheese) I felt absolutely awful. On discovering the Atkins diet, my health, stamina and strength improved beyond recognition. No acid-reflux and no food cravings. We were definitely not designed to eat only fruit and vegetables and `the fact that we can eat meat and have the teeth to do it with, proves that we should. Where do you get you Vitamin B12? And don’t say spironella, because that myth has already been put to bed – your body can’t absorb it in that form.

    • Thanks for that recommendation for the liquid iron. I am searching for how to improve my iron. I’m not sure that I can eat meat or liver on a regular basis since I don’t have a taste for it. I’m not a vegetarian but eat like one most of the time with the exception of fish and eggs.

  11. The require for iron, however, varies greatly in the coursework of the life cycle. Iron deficiency is more common among quickly growing kids & females in their childbearing years. Because iron is contained in blood, iron deficiency is more likely when people lose blood. Thus females who are losing blood in the coursework of their every month periods are more likely than other adults to create iron deficiency.  liquid iron supplement

    • This kind of iron is disposed of more easily than synthetic iron. I wouldn’t worry about eating liver everyday,just don’t take iron supplements or eat any fortified foods ever as they contain synthetic iron. This is especially important for men.

  12. Chris, what do you think of Liver Tablets Supplements? some say they are from grass fed cows? is this an alternative to eating the stuff?

      • Iron overload in those that are susceptible, and possibly vitamin A toxicity in those not getting enough D & K2.

        • Thanx for your prompt reply Chris. I do take both D and K2.. ( Thorne’s MK4 ) Lots of informative info here. Much appreciated

  13. I have some in the fridge all thawed out.

    How many times per week would anyone recommend to eat liver? I don’t want this stuff to go bad!

  14. try the traditional jewish recipe for chopped liver.  my 5 year old son just ate some on toast and had no complaints.  dice an onion and begin sauteeing,cut up a half pound to a pound of broiled liver and add to onions.  sautee for another 8-12 min.  boil 3-4 eggs, add liver, onion, eggs, salt, pepper, garlic powder , oil and for that sweet flavour honey and a bit of sugar. process in a blender.  for a more savoury recipe leave out the honey.  hope you enjoy it

  15. Regarding “edible” liver:  First get it fresh, then don’t render it to leather.  When growing up my parents would get half cows and freeze them, things like liver and hamburger sat in the freezer the longest.  When it came time to cook it, my parents subscribed to (as Alton Brown’s grandmother would say) make sure it’s good and done or you’ll be good and done! Needless to say, I hated liver when I was growing up.
     
    It took some persuading, but a friend finally got me to try liver that was fresh and not cooked to death.  Buy it and fry it the same day, just a bit pink in the middle.  Very tender and not at all strong flavored.  When growing up (before chemotherapy/radiation) I still had all of my teeth and could not chew the majority of the meat my parents cooked, the stench of liver would make me nauseous.  Today with less than half of my teeth remaining (after chemotherapy/radiation in my late teens) I can not only chew it, but I can barely smell it even sitting in the kitchen while it is cooking.

  16. Is consuming liver still beneficial if it is “supermarket”  liver? I have searched my city, and I can’t find any grass fed beef.

    • Yes, it’s still beneficial because it still has all of the micronutrients. However, that benefit has to be balanced against the potential harm caused by the chemicals found in factory-farmed meat.

      Have you tried EatWild.com? They have listings of grass-fed meat suppliers in various locations. Also, you might also check the Weston A. Price Foundation for a local chapter in your area. They will be able to tell you where to buy grass-fed meat locally.

  17. Thx, interesting readings, it’s true that I gathered this info from Dr Mercola’s site. I see there’s a debate going on.

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