By: Torie Borrelli at The Vida Well
The Secret Superfood No one is Talking About:
Did you guess it? Its organ meat!
Looking back at my formative years, I think about the many memories (good and bad) that surrounded my family kitchen. Every night we’d come together to cook, eat and talk about our day. Sometimes we’d fight over who got the first taste of marinara, and other times, my dad would fry up some chicken liver and onions, and it would quite-literally clear the room.
Dad would wrangle us back and make us try it, “just once”, he would say. That small practice of giving new and unfamiliar things a chance helped to shape me into the cook and eater I am today. I attribute so many of my foodie obsessions to dad, from creamy pâté to briny raw oysters.
While chicken livers might have been a daring feat for the seven-year-old me, they were actually sought after in earlier times for their flavor profile and nutrient density. It wasn’t too long ago that utilizing the whole animal, from nose to tail, was more the norm. Livers, sweetbreads, and tripe were widely consumed and enjoyed in the old days, and would you believe there was less disease than we have today?
You still see organ meat used in recipes across Europe, Middle Eastern, and Japan but not so much here in America. Because of large-scale farming, the Standard American Diet, and the fast commercialized food movement, we’ve stopped using the whole animal and we’ve lost that old-world connection to our food. Most people just go to the store and buy plastic-wrapped steaks with little to no understanding of where they come from. The American diet has become increasingly reliant on processed foods from factory and commercial farms, widening the gap between us and our food sources.
The good news is that times are changing thanks to the carnivore and paleo movement. Not only are people eating in alignment with our wise ancestors, they are realizing (and talking about) how much better they feel. Heck, I recently had a client text me to say that Whole Foods was sold out of bones and liver!
So why should you start using organ meats in your kitchen to optimize your health and the flavor of your food? Well, “liver is the most nutrient-dense food we can eat. The concentration of minerals, vitamins and mitochondria is so dense even just a bite will carry you through for a week. Plus, you’re helping the butcher and the farmer by eating all the parts of the animals.” — Wise Traditions
As an integrative nutritionist and author working with thousands of clients, I continue to see health issues related to our diet. Specifically the depletion of essential micronutrients, chronic disease and inflammation are all on the rise. To me, quality organ meat consumption is far better than any multivitamin you can buy. Each organ meat varies with its exact nutritional content but most are high in essential fatty acids, vitamin B12, vitamin A, folate, choline, selenium, iron and protein.
What exactly is organ meat?
Also referred to as “offal,” organ meat comes from the organs of animals that you can prepare and consume. The most commonly consumed organ meat comes from chicken, lamb, pig, cow, and goat. The most common varieties include the following; tongue, heart, liver, intestine, kidney, brain, thymus (sweetbreads), pancreas, gizzards, stomach and spleen.
Does quality matter?
Yes. Quality matters for a variety of essential reasons. You are what you eat. Same goes for what we eat. You would not want to consume liver from an animal who has been exposed to toxic substances. Toxins accumulate in the organs, so choosing organic and pastured animals is always going to be better for you.
Here are the things you should be considering when selecting any piece of meat.
ALL of these factors contribute to the quality of the animal’s meat that will either positively or negatively affect us when we eat it. Do you want to get fatter faster too?
So let me ask again, does it matter? Please make sure to always buy the highest-quality liver available. I think about spending money on food like casting a vote. I spend my money on food that supports sustainable and regenerative systems that serve our health and wellness, the environment, and the animal. Like I always say, you can pay the farmer now or the doctor later. The choice is yours
How to prepare it:
With its uniquely rich flavor, here are my favorite ways to use it. Always rinse or soak with cold water and a splash of vinegar to remove impurities and extracts the blood, then trim away any connective tissue or tough gristle. There should never be an unpleasant odor so always use your nose to check before cooking. Also, be very careful not to overcook, it can kill both nutrients and texture.
Nutritional profiles based on organ:
Liver: A, D & B vitamins, k2, copper, zinc, iron
Heart: coQ10, b12, iron, and riboflavin
Sweetbreads (thymus gland): amino acids, and protein
Kidney: omega 3 fatty acids, folate, copper, selenium, zinc
Brain: protein, omega 3, folate , iron, zinc, selenium, B vitamins
Tongue: complete protein, iron, zinc, potassium, choline, and vitamin B-12
Five Reasons Why You Should Eat Organ Meat:
At this point you might be thinking ew Torie, I don’t know if I can do this. First, as my dad says, try it once. I would start by ordering a blend of ground beef and organ meat from a reliable source (see sources below) before you totally give up. If you still can’t stomach it (literally) I recommend taking it in a pill form.
Where to buy it:
GRASSROOTS– $30 off $150+ plus free shipping with the code THEVIDAWELL or $40 off $160+ and free shipping using the code: DRJESS
NOURISHING ANCESTRAL LIVER PÂTÉ (from the Mexican Keto Cookbook page 87)
SERVES 6 TO 8 • PREPARATION TIME 35 MINUTES
Not only is liver a good-for-you ancestral superfood, it’s also cheap (because people are afraid to eat them), in an easy to absorb bioavailable form and so delicious. Liver is one of the most nutrient-dense foods in the world. It’s rich in protein, micronutrients, fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K, B12, trace minerals, purines, and antioxidants like CoQ10. It boosts our body’s phosphorus, zinc, iron, riboflavin, and folate. And quality matters, so make sure to always buy the highest-quality liver available.
1 pound pasture-raised chicken livers
1 stick (8 tablespoons) ghee or grass-fed butter, divided
2 shallots, finely minced
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar or freshly squeezed lime juice
¼ cup water
4 tablespoons coconut cream or heavy cream (if not dairy-free)
2 tablespoons MCT oil, avocado oil or coconut oil
1 teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon nutmeg
off any discolored parts, excess fat, veins, and connective tissues (the
stringy bits). This step ensures a creamy pâté consistency at the end. Rinse
the livers, pat them dry with a paper towel, and slice thinly.
(or butter) to grease the pan. Add the shallots and cook until they have
softened but not browned, approximately 3 minutes. Add the garlic for
the last minute, making sure not to burn it. Add the vinegar and cook until
most of the liquid has evaporated, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer the shallots,
garlic, and pan sauce to a food processor.
Add the water and the livers and sauté just until they are cooked through
and no longer pink on the inside. Do not overcook them. Transfer the
contents of the pan to the food processor.
tablespoons of ghee one 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, MCT oil, salt, pepper,
and nutmeg. Process until well combined; it should be very smooth.
level the surface using a small spoon or spatula. Cover and chill the pâté
for at least 2 hours or overnight so the flavors can set and come together.
Torie is a regular contributor to food and health brands and is a wellness/recipe consultant for a number of major companies, such as LYFT headquarters, The Butcher’s Daughter Group, Siete Foods, Chosen Foods, Rancho La Puerta, Thrive Market, Butcher Box, Kite Hill and many others. Torie has recently been featured in The Wall Street Journal, MindBodyGreen, Dr Mark Hyman, CBS Morning Show, Bulletproof, Thrive Market, Tastemade, and on leading blogs, such as The Skinny Confidential. You can see the full list on her media kit or website.