Here’s a cheat sheet on organ meats and how to safely consume them
(NaturalHealth365) Organ meats, called offal, have been a part of traditional hunter-gatherer diets for centuries. More recently, trends like the carnivore diet have made offal more mainstream, although organs from cows, pigs, deer, lambs, goats, chickens, and duck are regularly consumed in cultures throughout the world.
But is offal worth incorporating into your daily diet? Let’s take a closer look.
Should you try eating organ meats? Here are three possible benefits (and some precautions to keep in mind)
You might not love the idea of eating beef liver, tongue, kidneys, heart, brain, sweetbreads (from the thymus gland and pancreas), or tripe (stomach lining), but these animal organs offer a surprising number of potential benefits.
First, organ meats are highly nutritious and contain nutrients like folate and other B vitamins, choline, iron, and protein – essential for things like satiety and brain and muscle health. Here’s a breakdown of the nutritional profile of one 100-gram serving (3.5 ounces) of beef liver, which is among the most popular types of offal:
- 175 calories
- 27 grams of protein
- 1,386% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin B12
- 522% of the RDI of vitamin A
- 34% of the RDI of iron
- 35% of the RDI of zinc
- 47% of the RDI of selenium
- 730% of the RDI of copper
Second, organ meats are often more affordable than other more popular cuts of meat. If you’re trying to increase your animal protein intake, incorporating more offal into the mix could be a way to do so while still maintaining your food budget.
Finally, offal also promotes the use of the entire animal, which may help cut down on food waste.
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However, there are some important considerations to keep in mind when deciding whether offal is right to add to your grocery list:
- According to research published in the New England Journal of Medicine, pregnant women who consume too much vitamin A (more than 10,000 IU/day) are 80% more likely to have children with birth defects compared to pregnant women who consume less (up to 5,000 IU/day). Since offal is a potent source of vitamin A, pregnant women should be mindful of how much organ meat they consume, especially if they are taking other prenatal supplements or eating other foods that contain vitamin A, too.
- Offal may not be a great choice for people with gout, a type of arthritis that occurs due to a build-up of uric acid in the blood. This is because organ meats tend to be high in compounds known as purines, which form uric acid.
Interested in adding offal to your diet? These tips will help you select and prepare them well
As with all foods, start by considering the source of your offal.
Is your organ meat coming from ethically and sustainably raised animals? Tissues like the liver and kidneys help filter toxins, so conventionally raised, lower quality organ meats might contain higher levels of contaminants, including heavy metals. Some studies suggest these levels (at least from wild game like deer) may not be high enough to pose any health risk to you as an adult consumer, but it’s something to consider if you are trying to reduce your family’s toxin load.
Assuming you can find high-quality offal, the next question is: how do you prepare it? To gradually develop a taste for them, consider:
- Starting with more mildly-flavored organs, like the heart
- Grind up your organ meats and combine them with other meats you normally eat, like ground beef or pork
- Try slow-cooking them with other meats
And if cooking offal yourself just doesn’t sound like something you can stomach, but you’re still interested in adding some to your diet, you can purchase beef liver and other types of organ meats in dehydrated encapsulated form.
Sources for this article include: