What comes to mind when you think of superfoods? Kale? Blueberries? Perhaps salmon? Beef heart or chicken liver probably don’t roll off your tongue. Eating organ meat likely isn’t your idea of a gourmet meal.
Believe it or not, the foods that had you running from the kitchen as a child were once highly sought after by our ancestors for their rich nutritional profile. Utilizing the entire animal, everything from nose to tail, was the norm back in the day.
Our ancestors knew something that we’ve since forgotten: organ meat is the most superior food available. This nutritional powerhouse is packed with vitamins, minerals, and amino acids not found in the same abundant quantities elsewhere.
Sadly, the tradition of eating the entire animal has fallen out of favor in most American families. It’s likely no coincidence that health has also plummeted.
There’s no better time than now to begin using organ meats to optimize health and protect your heart.
Offal is not awful
Americans eat a lot of meat. In fact, we eat more meat per capita than any other country. Given our affinity for consuming animals, it’s surprising that we are one of the very few countries that don’t regularly indulge in organ meat.
To this day, many traditional societies focus their plates around organs. From Portuguese dobrada to Mexican tripas, there is no shortage of delicious organ meals consumed worldwide.
Additionally, many cultures place profound psychological value on consuming organ meat. For example, some believe that the energy from eating a healthy organ benefits the corresponding organ of the one who consumes it. As such, Chinese health practitioners sometimes treat heart disease patients with hearts from a healthy cow.
Surprisingly, even wild animals intuitively understand the value of consuming organ meat. Predators first feast on their prey’s liver, heart, and other vital organs.
Organ meat, also referred to as offal, is the meat that comes from the organs of animals. The most commonly consumed organ meat derives from cows, pigs, goats, lambs, and chickens. The most widely eaten organ meat in America is the liver.
While many organs are difficult to find in this country, all are edible. From the brain to the intestines, and even the tongue! Each offers an array of nutritional benefits.
Organ meat benefits the body, especially the heart!
When thinking of vitamin-rich foods, most people’s minds go directly to vegetables. While there’s no doubt that they are a nutritious and vital part of a healthy diet, there are some ways that veggies simply can’t match up against meat, particularly organ meat.
Here are just a few differences between the two:
- Non-organic vegetables contain toxins, both from the environment and nature.
- Meat contains some essential vitamins not present in plants, such as vitamins B12 and D3.
- Some nutrients in plants need to be converted before the body can use them effectively, such as vitamin A and iron. However, these nutrients are immediately usable from meat.
- Plants are not a reliable source of certain essential amino acids.
- Most plants have poor omega-3 to omega-6 fatty ratios.
The difference between the vitamins present in animals and plants is evident when examining vitamin K. This vitamin plays a vital role in heart health, including blood clotting. In addition, vitamin K also activates a protein that helps prevent calcium buildup in the arteries.
Both animals and plants contain vitamin K1, or phylloquinone. On the other hand, only animals have adequate amounts of life-sustaining K2, also called menaquinone.
Studies have found a clear association between low K2 levels and heart disease. For example, researchers followed nearly 5,000 Dutch people and found that increasing vitamin K2 in the diet improved cardiovascular outcomes, while vitamin K1 had no impact.
Compared to the commonly consumed steak or ground beef, organ meats are much more nutrient-dense. For example, they are an incredibly high source of B vitamins, which can lower homocysteine levels and reduce the risk of stroke and cardiac disease.
Except for certain fish, organ meats have the highest concentrations of naturally occurring vitamin D of any food source. Studies have found vitamin D cardioprotective as it lowers inflammation, blood pressure, and death from heart disease.
Comparing the nutrient density of 3.5 ounces of beef liver versus steak is self-explanatory:
With double the selenium, over six times the amount of vitamin D, thirty-five times the amount of Vitamin B12, and one thousand times the amount of vitamin A, the winner is clear.
Benefits beyond nutrition
In addition to the abundant amount of nutrients, there are many other benefits to eating organ meat, including:
- Slims down the budget – Not only does eating organ meat slim your waistline, but it may also help to reduce your budget. Because the demand for organ meat is low, you can often find it at a fraction of the price.
- Reduces waste and honors life – It can be easy to take food for granted in our abundant society. However, our ancestors worked hard to hunt their food, and waste was unheard of. Eating the entire animal shows respect for life and the environment.
- Makes eating more exciting – A diverse palate produces a healthy body. It’s important to eat a variety of food, including food that is bitter, sweet, pungent, salty, and sour.
What kind of organ meat is the best?
Each kind of organ meat offers its own nutritional and taste profile. The most common varieties of offal include:
Liver is one of the most concentrated sources of retinol, a type of vitamin A. Most people are deficient in this vital antioxidant, which protects against infection, improves vision, and decreases the risk of cardiovascular death.
Just one 3.5 ounce serving of beef liver provides nearly 500 percent of the recommended daily intake of vitamin A.
Liver is also extremely high in vitamin B-12, iron, copper, zinc, and folic acid. Finally, eating liver protects against anemia, increasing oxygen-carrying hemoglobin.
Beef liver has a strong, earthy taste. Unlike most other meat, liver does not tend to take on the flavors of the food it is cooked with. If beef liver is too strong, try the milder chicken liver.
Heart is a complete protein, containing all nine essential amino acids in one bite. It’s also an excellent source of zinc, iron, B-vitamins, and selenium.
However, the real value comes from its CoQ10 content. CoQ10 is a powerful antioxidant that helps cells produce energy. Unfortunately, most individuals are deficient in this important enzyme that protects the heart by destroying free radicals, dilating the blood vessels, and slowing LDL oxidation.
Pork and beef hearts are the absolute best food source of CoQ10, providing twice as much as sardines.
Most people are surprised when they taste heart, as its taste and texture are similar to steak. For this reason, the heart is an excellent organ for beginners.
Kidney contains many similar nutrients to liver and heart, but is also very high in selenium. Along with iodine, this trace mineral is needed to maintain a healthy thyroid gland.
Additionally, studies link low selenium levels to an increased risk of heart disease. The high levels of selenium in the kidney help reduce inflammation and oxidative stress in the body, thus preventing plaque buildup in the blood vessels.
Kidney has a strong and bitter taste that is not everyone’s cup of tea. However, lamb and calf kidneys are milder and perhaps an easier place to start.
As one might expect, the brain is the richest source of omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA. It’s also rich in copper and selenium. The brain is also a rich source of B vitamins, including B5 and B12.
While brain is a nutritionally-dense food, it’s also susceptible to disease. Therefore, only consume reputable grass-fed sources of cow to avoid acquiring infections like mad cow disease.
Unlike other organs, the brain has a soft and creamy texture, similar to firm tofu.
Some animals, such as cows, have multiple stomachs that help them digest food. Tripe refers to the edible muscular lining between the compartments of an animal’s stomach. Like many of the other offals, tripe is loaded with nutrients, including vitamin B12, selenium, zinc, and calcium.
Tripe is one of the milder meats on the offal spectrum. This dense, chewy meat is typically prepared in a soup or stew.
Other popular organs used in cooking include the tongue, intestines, thymus/pancreas (sweetbreads), and spleen.
Shopping for organ meat: quality matters!
Diversifying your diet to include nutrient-dense offal is counter-productive if you purchase your meat from an unreliable source. Organs both filter and accumulate toxins.
Therefore, it’s imperative to eat organic, grass-fed, pasture-raised animals from a trusted supplier. Ideally, the animals will derive from regenerative farms on healthy lands.
The best way to obtain quality meat is to establish a relationship with your local grass-fed farmer or butcher. If you cannot find quality offal locally, you can shop online.
Tips for those new to eating organ meat
For most people, organ meat is unfamiliar. Most families don’t serve it, and thus the majority of children are not exposed to it at a young age. Additionally, as local farms and butcher shops have closed in favor of large grocery store chains, it’s more difficult to find quality organ meat.
Some people enjoy offal immediately. For others, it takes a bit of time to become familiar with the distinct taste. If you are one of those who can jump right in, that’s great! Sauté up some liver and enjoy.
However, for those who need a slower approach, try mixing small amounts of minced organs with your meals. Alternatively, you can purchase ground meats that already have organs mixed in such as Force of Nature.
Typically, this “primal” meat is approximately 30 percent organ meat and can easily be hidden in your regular dinner recipes.
What if I simply can’t eat organ meat?
As delicious as organ meat truly is, some individuals simply do not enjoy eating it. While there is no replacement for real food, there is a supplement that comes close. Natural Heart Doctor highly recommends taking 100 percent grass-fed bison liver or wild elk liver supplements.
3 easy organ meat recipes
A quick internet search will reveal many organ meat recipes. However, to get you started, here are a few of our favorite ways to enjoy offal.
Note: Always use organic ingredients.
Grass-Fed Beef Bolognese
This rich and hearty beef bolognese will fool even the pickiest eaters. Made with organic beef and organs, this delicious dish is sure to please.
Prep time: 25 minutes
Total time: 1.75 hours
- 1 lb grass-fed organic ground beef
- 1/2 lb grass-fed ground organs* (liver, heart, and/or kidney)
- 4 Tbsp avocado oil
- 2 whole shallots, minced
- 8 cloves fresh garlic, minced
- 2 celery stalks, diced
- 1 carrot, peeled/ diced
- 2 whole butternut or spaghetti squash, roasted/scooped out
- 1/4 cup red wine
- 1 18-25 oz glass jar, whole peeled tomatoes
- 2 Tbsp tomato paste
- 1 oz fresh oregano
- 2 cups bone broth
- 2 oz fresh basil
- 0.5 oz Italian parsley
- 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
- Himalayan salt and pepper to taste
*Note: If you can’t find ground beef liver or heart, cut organ meat into 1/4 inch cubes and put into the freezer for 30 minutes or until firm to touch (but not frozen solid). Then, put into a food processor and pulse to desired texture.
- Preheat oven to 400°F
- Roast squash for approximately 45 minutes, or until tender.
- While squash is roasting, sweat vegetables in 2 Tbsp avocado oil, then remove vegetables from the pan.
- Add remaining 2 Tbsp oil and ground beef and organs, cooking until browned.
- Return vegetables to the meat in the pan, cooking for another 4-6 minutes.
- Add in the wine and reduce it by half.
- Add tomatoes, tomato paste, broth, and oregano.
- Cover and cook for 45 minutes on a low simmer or until sauce is slightly thickened.
- Add in balsamic vinegar and cook 5 minutes longer.
- Remove squash from oven, scooping out seeds. Pull fork through squash to make spaghetti “noodles.”
- Serve Bolognese sauce over squash noodles. Garnish with fresh parsley and basil.
Nourishing Chicken Liver Pâté
This easy chicken liver pâté is both nutritious and delicious. Serve with veggies, on grain-free crackers, or simply eat by the spoonful.
Prep time: 30 minutes
Total time: 4 hours 30 minutes
- 1 lb pasture-raised chicken livers
- 8 Tbsp ghee, coconut oil, or lard, divided
- 1 large shallot, finely chopped
- 1-2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice
- 1/4 cup water
- 4 Tbsp coconut cream
- 2 Tbsp avocado or coconut oil
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- ½ tsp nutmeg (optional)
- Remove any excess fat, veins, or discolored spots off chicken livers. Rinse in cold water and pat dry with a paper towel.
- Slice chicken livers into small, thin slices.
- Heat a frying pan over medium-low heat, using a tablespoon of ghee or lard to grease the pan.
- Add the shallots and cook until they are translucent, approximately 3 minutes.
- Add the garlic and sauté for another minute.
- Add the lemon or lime juice and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated
- Transfer the shallots, garlic, and pan sauce to a food processor.
- Grease the same pan with 4 Tbsp of ghee or lard.
- Add the water and the livers and sauté just until they are cooked through and no longer pink on the inside, being careful not to overcook.
- Transfer the contents of the pan to the food processor.
- Pulse the livers with the shallot-garlic mixture, adding the remaining 4 Tbsp of ghee or coconut oil a bit at a time, until all of the ghee has been incorporated and the pâté is very smooth, about 5 minutes (scrape the sides down as necessary).
- Add in the coconut cream, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Process until very smooth.
- Transfer the chicken liver mixture into a small serving bowl, leveling it with a spoon.
- Cover and chill the pâté for at least 4 hours, but preferably overnight, so the flavors can set and come together.
“Hearty” Beef Chili
Who doesn’t love beef chili on a cold day? This “hearty” dish is packed with flavors and is super filling.
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 2 hours
- 1 lb grass-fed beef (or bison) heart, ground
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 3/4 cup organic chili powder
- 1 Tbsp smoked paprika
- 1 Tbsp cumin
- 1 jalapeno, diced
- 1 poblano pepper, diced
- 2-18 oz glass jars organic, whole peeled tomatoes
- 2 quart bone broth
- 1/4 cup tomato paste
- 2 Tbsp coconut sugar
- 1 red bell pepper, diced
- 1/3 cup fresh cilantro
- 2 limes, cut into wedges
- Himalayan salt and pepper to taste
- Sauté vegetables over medium-low heat until onions become translucent.
- Remove vegetables from the pan and brown meat in the same pan.
- Once the meat is browned, return vegetables.
- Combine tomatoes, broth, dry spices, and coconut sugar in a pan over medium-low heat.
- Simmer for 2 hours or until tomatoes have broken down to proper consistency.
- Garnish with fresh cilantro and lime wedges.
Traditions often contain wisdom from previous generations. For example, our ancestors regularly consumed meat from nose to tail, and they stayed fit well into their later years in life.
Unfortunately, the practice of eating organ meat has been lost to time. Perhaps it’s time to channel our ancestors by honoring the entire animal. By finding our way back to basics and the restoration of health.
Organ meat is the most nutrient-dense food in the world and consuming it can help you achieve your 100 Year Heart.
Eat Well · Live Well · Think Well
Medical Review 2022: Dr. Lauren Lattanza NMD