The Unsung Superfood: Organ Meat
The offcuts: why you should be incorporating nutrient dense organ meat into your weekly diet.
Words by Dr. Marcus Cirelli
Liver. Heart. Kidney. Tongue. Although these might not be the first cuts of meat you purchase from your local butcher shop, they are by far the most nutritious. Organ meats have been a staple in the human diet since the beginning of time. Our hunter and gatherer ancestors prized organ meats for their rich nutrient content and they were often the first cut of the animal to be consumed after a hunt. In times of scarcity, organs were preferentially given to tribal chieftains, elders, and pregnant women; in times of plenty, they were enjoyed by all. Unfortunately, here in America, our consumption of organ meat has dropped dramatically.
In the 1970s, the average American was consuming around 50 grams of organ meat a week. Today, the average American eats a mere 5 grams of organ meat a week. Over the course of the past few decades, we have seen a dramatic rise in autoimmunity, cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. For the first time in American history, today’s children will have shorter average life spans than their parents. Roughly two out of three U.S. adults are overweight or obese (69 percent) and one out of three are obese (36 percent). As a nation, we are overfed and undernourished.
How did we get here?
The nutrient quality of our food today is vastly different than what our grandparents ate. This is not a new known fact. In 1936, the United States Senate stated, “food no longer contains enough of certain vitamins and minerals. We cannot get all our daily essential nutrient from the food we grow and eat.” The main culprit in this disturbing nutritional trend is soil depletion. Modern intensive agricultural methods have stripped increasing amounts of nutrients from the soil in which the food we eat grows.
Sadly, each successive generation of fast-growing, pest-resistant fruits and vegetables are truly less nutritious for us than the one before. Current industrial agriculture and meat cultivation is destroying the soil at an estimated rate of 100 to 1,000 times at which it can be replenished. The United Nations now estimates that we only have about 60 years left of harvests in many farming regions throughout the United States.
With food lacking more nutrients than ever before, we must find a way to ensure our bodies receive an adequate amount of nutrients required to function. This is where organ meat can play a crucial role. The benefits of organ meats can surprisingly be profound and, in some cases, life-changing. Organ meats are nature’s most concentrated source of virtually every important vitamin, mineral, amino acid, and fat. These nutrients make organ meats the ideal addition to modern diets of more conventional animal products.
Organ meats have been considered “nature’s multivitamin” because they contain various nutrients and mineral that we need for optimal health. Organ meats contain an impressive concentration of vitamins, minerals, dietary fats, and amino acids. Nothing short of a “superfood,” organs contain B vitamins, iron, phosphorus, copper, magnesium, and more. Additionally, organ meats contain the most important fat-soluble vitamins: A, D, E, and K.
When choosing organ meat for consumption, it’s imperative to ensure the meat comes from grass-fed, organic sources. Organ meat from grass-fed animals is a match for our genetic make-up. Conversely, organ meat from animals that consume grain and corn contain high levels of omega-6 fats which promotes inflammation, insulin resistance, and interferes with omega-3 fat metabolism.
At the top of the list of nutrient-rich organ meat is grass-fed liver. When we compare liver to some other superfoods, such as kale, we can see the huge disparity between the two in terms of nutritional value. 100 grams of kale contains 228mg of potassium, 0.9mg of iron, 0.2mg of zinc, 0 IU of vitamin d and 0 ug of vitamin B12. 100 grams of liver contains 380mg of potassium, 8.8mg of iron, 4.0mg of zinc, 19 IU of vitamin D and 18.7 ug of vitamin b12. Despite its benefits, many are hesitant to consume liver because they believe the liver is the organ that stores toxins. The truth is that the liver processes toxins to ensure the body can eliminate them and halt storing any toxins.
Consuming organ meat not only benefits our health, but also has a substantial impact on our environment. With the rising concern of global warming, modern agriculture has been under scrutiny as a large contributor to greenhouse gases. The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization estimates that livestock accounts for roughly 14.5 percent of global greenhouse gases. A recent study out of Germany showed that if we increase the amount of organ meat we consume to twice a week, we potentially could reduce that percentage to 12.5. While it may not seem like much, a two percent reduction equates to removing 214 million cars from the road every year.
The growing epidemic of autoimmune disease, cancer, diabetes, and heart disease triggered by the food that we eat is something that a foodie or cook might want to ignore, but we simply cannot. Today we understand more than ever that the environment in our cells, created by what we deliberately and unwittingly ingest and absorb, profoundly influences whether inherited tendencies toward illness are expressed or stay safely dormant. Bringing this consciousness to our plate is important. We can’t opt out of nutrition. We have to eat. We have to drink. We have the choice every day to do something about it. As our soils become more depleted due to modern farming techniques, we must look to more nutrient dense food sources to help nourish our bodies-organ meat might be our best answer.