I have a confession to make: I used to be a confirmed liver hater. But now I love the stuff. While I don’t eat it every day, I consume it at least once a week, sometimes more. I just love how many nutrients it has, and how satisfied I feel after eating it. I mainly eat lamb, beef and chicken liver, as they’re the ones I find easiest to buy. I would eat others if available near me, but sadly not every sort I’d like to try is available.
I mainly eat liver in combination with onion and mushrooms. And, apart from a failure when I substituted leeks for onion and used lard, I generally find it appetizing. But, I think it was a failure because lard doesn’t suit leeks, as opposed to the liver being at fault. I also add chicken livers to my rissoles (meat patties), along with pork and beef mince and nitrite-free bacon. One trick I’ve picked up to improve the flavour is to soak the liver in water with lemon juice for a few hours. This does make it taste better. Though I should add, I don’t find it necessary to soak chicken liver, as that’s mild enough.
While generally liver is nutrient dense, each animals’ liver differs in nutrient composition. Turkey liver has the highest amount of Vitamin A of any type of meat, with 21,704 microgram (mcg) per 100 grams. Almost as impressive, is goose liver, which has 9,310 mcg per 100 grams. If you’re like me, and can’t source these, lamb (7392), pork (6503), beef (4968) and chicken (3296) also have more than the RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) of this important Vitamin.
But, liver isn’t just a powerhouse of Vitamin A. It also packs a lot of B Vitamins, especially B2, B5, B9 and B12. Here too turkey liver is a star, with more 100% of the RDA of B2, B5, B6, B9 and B12. But, other varieties come very close: goose has 100% of B5, B9 and B12; lamb and pork have 100% of B2, B5 and B12, and between 75-100% of B3; beef has 100% of B2 and B12, and 75-100% of B3 and B5; and chicken has 100% of B2, B5, B9 and B12.
Similar to vitamins, the mineral content of liver highlights its nutrient density. Goose, turkey and pork are best for iron, with over 100% of your RDA. Beef and lamb are almost as good: 75-100% of RDA. Turkey, lamb and goose are great for selenium, providing over 100% of the RDA. Pork too is excellent: between 75-100% RDA. Beef, lamb and goose will give you more than 100% of copper; and pork has 75-100% RDA. Whatever liver you eat, be it beef, lamb, goose, pork, turkey or chicken, you’ll also ingest good amounts of phosphorus, around 25-50% of your RDA.
Like other animal products, liver is a complete protein, though each type does vary in its protein content. Beef has 20.4g protein per 100g; chicken, 16.9g; goose, 16.4g; lamb, 18.6g; pork, 21.4g; and turkey, 17.8g.
Generally, all varieties of liver are low in saturated fat, though if you’ve read my earlier blog, Why Animal Fats Are Paleo And Belong In Healthy Diets, you’ll know that saturated fat isn’t bad. According to the USDA’s data, most liver is higher in omega 6 than omega 3 fatty acids. But, I take this data with a huge pinch of salt, as they don’t differentiate between conventionally raised, feed lot animals and grass-fed animals.
Some people might be concerned with the cholesterol levels of liver, but as dietary cholesterol hasn’t been shown to raise cholesterol in the body, and cholesterol is an essential nutrient, or should be seen as one, that doesn’t worry me. For instance, did you know that cholesterol is the precursor to most of our hormones, and that our bodies can’t make Vitamin D without it? While it is true that our bodies are capable of making their own cholesterol independent of dietary intake, it is a complicated, and a bodily costly process, so our bodies prefer to get it from food. This a very complex topic, and I don’t have the scientific background to do it justice. If you’d like to learn more, you should check out, Why Cholesterol is Essential to Your Health, and other articles on The Cholesterol Truth. After reading that article, I was fascinated that cholesterol is used by the brain, and part of its function is involved in the creation of memories.
So, I hope after reading this post, you agree that liver is marvellous. It’s such a rich source of so many essential nutrients, so I’ll continue to eat my liver with gusto. I just wish I could get goose, turkey or pork liver at one of my local butchers. But, I’m happy that I can buy lamb, beef and chicken liver.
Source: all the USDA data was taken from The Paleo Approach by Sarah Ballantyne.