And no, it’s not with fava beans and a nice chianti 🙂
Liver is an incredible superfood rich in many nutrients and trace minerals in which we are often deficient. Here’s a primer on how to eat liver so you can reap its incredible benefits.
In an ongoing effort to always practice what I preach, I’ve been experimenting with eating different types of organ meats. And yes, I’ve been preaching to my clients that organ meats are some of the most nutrient dense (and overlooked) animal proteins. It’s a shame that we turn our noses up at the “nasty bits” that our ancestors used. They used the whole animal and knew the nutrient dense punch that organ meats packed. I’m talking heart, offal, liver, kidneys. Brains, even. Organ meats are richer in nutrients, vitamins, and minerals than muscle meats and a good way to rotate the proteins you’re consuming. (something else I preach–don’t get stuck in the eggs/chicken/fish rut! Rotate in other proteins like lamb, bison, beef, and–you guessed it–organ meats.
Let’s talk liver.
It’s a great gateway organ meat because it’s very easy to find and prepare. I think the most frequently asked question I get about liver is, “Isn’t it toxic?” There is a common misconception that liver is toxic because it is the liver’s job to filter toxins and chemicals out of the body. While it’s true that the liver is a part of the body’s filtration system, the liver does not store toxins: it’s a FILTER, meaning the toxins pass through but don’t stay in the liver. Any toxins that get backed up in the body are stored in fatty tissue. So let’s put that one to rest.
Liver is an excellent source of vitamin A, a necessary antioxidant that is great for skin (listen up if you suffer from acne, eczema, psoriasis or scaly skin conditions) and needed for sex hormone production. It’s also great for maintaining a healthy immune system. Liver provides a lot of Vitamin B12, needed to combat fatigue, stress, and impaired mental function.
Actually, liver is a great source for a good deal of the vitamin B complex. Bs are needed for red blood cell formation, cognitive function, and as a co-factor to neurotransmitter synthesis (read: provides you with feel-good serotonin and dopamine). Liver is also a great source of zinc (good for immune function), trace minerals that are so lacking in our diets, protein, and iron–the iron in liver is a great way to treat anemia. It’s worth mentioning that common wisdom says that eating liver is good for the health of your liver.
I personally recommend beef or lamb liver over chicken liver, because the former are the more nutrient dense. But if you’re a liver virgin, start out with chicken livers. ALWAYS always buys organic/grass fed/pastured liver. Never conventional which do contain toxins and chemicals (like all conventional meats). It should be shiny, brightly red or deep red colored, and smell pleasant, not rank. Also, don’t cook it to death–some of the vitamins it contains are heat sensitive, so cook it til it’s no longer raw but not stiff. If overcooked, liver will be rubbery and have a stronger liver taste. Soaking in lemon juice apparently helps decrease the liver taste. Sally Fallon of the traditional foods organization Weston A Price recommends freezing liver (to kill any potential pathogens) and then grating it. She uses this in a homemade baby formula recipe, and you could also mix it in with other meats (if you’re hard core I guess). Liver is an absolute superfood for babies, pregnancy/breast feeding women, and pre-conception, too.
OK! Recipe time. Here is the best starter recipe to introduce liver into your diet. I mean, you could just buy some chicken livers, melt some butter in a cast iron skillet, and saute it with onions, red wine, and garlic, but this may go down a bit easier if you’re squeamish. Seriously delicious.
I used 1 pound of pastured beef liver (use chicken if you’re a pate virgin), cut into smallish pieces
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 cup red wine, red wine vinegar, or balsamic
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
2-4 tbsp miso paste, to taste (optional, gives it a good umami flavor)
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 sprig fresh thyme
1-2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup Kerrygold butter
cracked black pepper
Saute the liver and onions in a couple of tablespoons of the butter in a cast iron skillet until the livers are browned and the onions are tender.
Add wine, garlic, mustard, herbs and lemon juice and cook uncovered until most of the liquid is gone.
Transfer everything to food processor and blend to a smooth paste along with the rest of the butter and the miso paste. Taste and add more miso paste or sea salt if needed. Add cracked pepper before serving. Eat with cucumber, carrot, celery, red peppers, or Mary’s Gone Crackers.
Mary Vance is a Certified Nutrition Consultant and author specializing in digestive health. In addition to her coaching practice, she offers courses to help you heal your gut and kick nagging digestive issues for good. Mary lives in San Francisco and Lake Tahoe in Northern California. Read more about her coaching practice here and her background here.