By Jena Covello and Alexa Ouaknine
I know what some of you are thinking when you hear organ meat, but hear us out. While not the most glamorous topic, organ meats, also referred to as offal, are nature's multivitamin and offer significantly more nutrition than their muscle-meat counterparts. Organ meats are the most concentrated source of nearly every nutrient we seek. We’ve been all about lean meats as of late, but our ancestors used to consume everypart of the animal, and even prioritized organ meats because of the incomparable nutrients they offer. In some traditional societies, organ meats were often saved for tribe leaders, pregnant women, and those believed to be at the top tier of society. Now we seem to have it totally reversed. For those of you who are weary about organ meat, it might be smart to ease into them by incorporating some of the more common types into your diet, like heart, kidney and liver. These are nutritional powerhouses and are loaded with nutrients that are hard to find elsewhere. Liver, for example, has more than double the daily-recommended value for vitamin A and vitamin B12, and is believed to be one of the most nutrient dense foods one can consume. Kidney provides us with an outstanding amount of lean protein and folate, and heart is the best food source of CoQ10. There are ways of sneaking these organ meats into your diet so you hardly know they are there, like grinding them up and adding them to meatballs or ground meat dishes. It is paramount to source these meats properly, meaning grass-fed and raised on pasture. The health of the animal greatly affects the health of its organs, so choosing a healthy source is a must. It might take some getting used to, but because of their benefits, organ meats sell themselves. We’ve outlined some of our favorite benefits below.
For starters, organ meats are a great source of Vitamin A, which is one of the most powerful antioxidants there is, protecting us from diseases associated with oxidative stress and providing us with immune support. Liver is an important source of retinol, which is pre-formed vitamin A, meaning our bodies don’t need to convert it for it to become active. Vitamin A is one of the fat-soluble activators present only in animal fat and is needed for a number of biochemical processes. Without it, the body is not able to utilize protein, minerals, and water-soluble vitamins. It is useful for healthy pregnancy, infection prevention, hormone production, optimal thyroid function, healthy digestion, and eye health. And one of our personal favorite benefits, Vitamin A helps skin keep its elasticity and stay supple. In regards to Vitamin A toxicity, we are talking about Vitamin A from a natural, animal-derived source, not synthetic Vitamin A, and it is therefore not an area of concern. More on this here. https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/12/30/eating-organ-meats.aspx
Organ meats are also packed with a wide array of B-complex vitamins such as B1, B2, B6, folate, and B12. These vitamins help us maintain healthy blood pressure levels, boost learning and memory, help improve mood and protect against depression, anxiety, and heart disease, to name a few. Usable B12 is found only in animal products, and when B12 is depleted, deficiencies such as anemia, impaired eyesight, panic attacks, schizophrenia, and nervous disorders may arise. (https://www.amazon.com/Nourishing-Traditions-Challenges-Politically-Dictocrats/dp/0967089735) They contain important trace minerals, such as copper, zinc, and chromium, and offer a highly bioavailable form of iron, which helps protect from anemia. Further, B-complex vitamins are especially useful for nursing moms. B6 is known to decrease pain caused from menstrual cramps and helps with “morning sickness” phase of pregnancy, and folate is one of the key nutrients found in almost all prenatal supplements, known for its role in promoting a healthy pregnancy. (https://draxe.com/offal/)
Another amazing benefit is the high content of CoQ10 found in Heart, a nutrient known for its role in promoting cardiovascular health. CoQ10 has similar benefits to the B-complex vitamins because of its antioxidant properties and its role in disease prevention. The Heart is also known to contain twice as much collagen and elastin than regular meat, two important nutrients for healthy connective tissue and digestion. Organ meats are also rich in minerals like iron, magnesium, selenium, zinc and important fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Additionally, Organ meats are known to have some of the highest concentrations of naturally occurring vitamin D of any food source. The protein we get from animals is our only source of complete protein, providing us with all nine essential amino acids our bodies need to function effectively.
Of all the new, and expensive, Super foods we are constantly being introduced to, perhaps the most nutritionally well rounded are right back at home and are easy on the wallet. Food has become increasingly processed, commercialized, and standardized in recent years, leaving us with poor immunity and weak constitutions. By reincorporating traditional, nutrient dense foods that we need in order to be and grow optimally healthy, we are reminded that our food hasn’t always been this way. It seems we have stopped trusting tradition and instead started following the ways of food companies and medical doctors with no real nutritional training to tell us what and how to eat. The culinary traditions of our ancestors should serve as a model for contemporary eating habits, especially during this time of highly processed and denatured food. Remember, organ meats in the old days were savored as a special treat and often reserved by the alpha and the tribe leaders. So lets all be kings and queens and get involved.