I’m always suspicious when it comes to anything labeled a “superfood.” Most people assume that these foods have to come from an exotic, far-away land. But in reality, some of the most nutrient-dense foods are ones that our ancestors ate, but have been neglected in recent years.
In the past, animals were utilized for their entire bodies, not just the muscle meat. Organs were harvested and eaten, and the bones and necks were used to make broth. In some traditional cultures, organ meats are the most valued part of the animal because of their nutrient density.
Liver is commonly referred to as nature’s multivitamin because of the breadth and concentration of vitamins and minerals it contains. When consuming liver it is important to choose a product that comes from a grass-fed or pasture-raised animal.
Let’s take a closer look at the nutrients you get from liver, and why it’s the healthiest food you aren’t eating.
- Vitamin A: Vitamin A is important for vision, proper cell development in the immune system, and reproductive capabilities.1,2,3
- B Vitamins: The B vitamins play an important role in the protection of the myelin sheath that covers neurons and helps conduct electrical signals in the body.4 B12 deficiency is associated with cognitive dysfunction, and B12 is needed for the production of neurotransmitters and the metabolism of fats and carbohydrates.5,6,7 B vitamins help to prevent DNA damage, and aid in the production red blood cells. They also act as a coenzyme for reactions that are essential to cellular function.8,9
- Iron and Copper: These minerals contribute to the formation of red blood cells, and play roles in the structure, function, and reproduction of cells. Iron and copper also support proper thyroid function, which impacts metabolism.10,11,12
- Phosphorus: Phosphorus is an essential component in our cell membrane structures that impact our bone mineralization, cartilage, and enamel formation. Phosphorus is also crucial for energy metabolism and cell-to-cell communication.13,14,15
- Magnesium: Magnesium is required for every enzymatic reaction that results in the production of ATP, our main energy currency.16 Magnesium works with insulin to help maintain glucose homeostasis in the body, and a deficiency of magnesium has been shown to impair insulin function. Insulin dysfunction can lead to metabolic problems such as type 2 diabetes and a greater risk for cardiovascular disease. Magnesium contributes to signaling between cells, and plays a structural role in our bone formation and cell membranes, which control what enters and leaves our cells.17,18
- Iodine: Iodine is a crucial component of our thyroid hormones (T3 and T4). The thyroid gland regulates normal growth, metabolism, and reproductive capacity.18 When thyroid function suffers, the metabolism will slow down, resulting in lower body temperature, slower pulse and digestion, and decreased libido.
- Zinc: Zinc is required for the activity of more than 300 enzymes in the human body. Zinc-dependent enzymes are found in every known class of enzymes, and play a role in the structure of proteins and gene expression.19,20
- Chromium: Chromium is a mineral thought to be a cofactor that enhances the effects of insulin, and helps with blood sugar regulation. Chromium has also been shown to improve glucose tolerance in people with varying degrees, ranging from mild glucose intolerance to type 2 diabetes.21
- Coenzyme Q10: Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is a crucial component for the process in the mitochondria that transforms fatty acids and carbohydrates into our main source of energy, known as ATP.22 CoQ10 acts as an antioxidant for cell membranes and lipoproteins. Lipoproteins transport cholesterol around the body. When lipoproteins become oxidized, there is a greater chance of cardiovascular problems. CoQ10 protects these lipoproteins from getting oxidized.23
I used to struggle to eat liver, because I wasn’t a fan of the taste. But because I knew the health benefits, it was my mission to find a way to incorporate it into my diet. After trying a ton of different ways of cooking liver that didn’t taste good to me, I found one that did: liver pate.
This liver pate recipe is an unbelievably easy and delicious way to get liver into your diet, even if you’re not a big fan of the taste.
[Photo courtesy of stu_spivack via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0]
Prep Time: 7 minutes (assuming you already hard boiled the eggs )
Cook Time: 10-15 minutes depending on how well done you want the liver
Yield: 4-6 servings (depends on how big of a cracker you use!)
- 3/4-1lb pasture raised chicken livers
- 1/2 medium onion
- 4 garlic cloves
- 1 Tablespoon grass-fed butter
- 1 Tablespoon coconut oil
- 2 hardboiled eggs
- Salt and pepper
- Mustard (optional)
- Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a sauté pan over medium heat. Meanwhile, mince the garlic and 1/2 of the onion.
- Once the butter is melted, add the minced onions and garlic to the pan with salt and pepper. Cook until the onions and garlic are translucent.
- Place the chicken livers on top of the onions and garlic in one even layer and cook for 3-4 minutes.
- Flip the chicken livers and cook an additional 2-3 minutes.
- Remove the pan from the stove and allow to cool for 3 minutes before adding the mixture to the food processor.
- Add 2 hardboiled eggs, 1 tablespoon coconut oil, mustard (optional), and a few shakes of salt and pepper.
- Process until smooth, adjusting salt and pepper to taste.
- Put the liver pate in a container and place in the fridge to harden a bit before serving. The pate is delicious served with plantain chips. Bon Appetit!
Note: If you don’t have a food processor, put the ingredients in a mixing bowl and use a hand blender to mix everything together. The consistency will be less smooth, but it will taste just as delicious.
Don’t forget to use the bones:
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2. Ross, A. Catharine, Qiuyan Chen, and Yifan Ma, “Vitamin A and retinoic acid in the regulation of B-cell development and antibody production,” Vitamins and hormones 86(2011):103.
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10. Schultze, M. O., C. A. Elvehjem, and E. B. Hart. “Further studies on the availability of copper from various sources as a supplement to iron in hemoglobin formation,” Journal of Biological Chemistry 115(1936):453-457.
11. Zheng, Yang, Xiao-Kun Li, Yuehui Wang, and Lu Cai. “The role of zinc, copper and iron in the pathogenesis of diabetes and diabetic complications: therapeutic effects by chelators,” Hemoglobin 32(2008):135-145.
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14. Heaney, Robert P. “Phosphorus nutrition and the treatment of osteoporosis,” Mayo Clinic Proceedings 79 (2004)91-97.
15. Boyer, Paul D. “The ATP synthase-a splendid molecular machine,” Annual review of biochemistry 66(1997):717-749.
16. Reinhart, Richard A. “Magnesium metabolism: a review with special reference to the relationship between intracellular content and serum levels,”Archives of internal medicine 148(1988):2415-2420.
17. Paolisso, G., André Scheen, F. d’Onofrio, and Pierre Lefebvre. “Magnesium and glucose homeostasis,” Diabetologia 33(1990): 511-514.
18. Laurberg P. Iodine. In: Ross AC, Caballero B, Cousins RJ, Tucker KL, Ziegler TR, eds. Modern Nutrition in Health and Disease. 11th ed: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2014:217-224.
19. McCall, Keith A., Chih-chin Huang, and Carol A. Fierke. “Function and mechanism of zinc metalloenzymes,” The Journal of nutrition 130(2000):1437S-1446S.
20. Trumbo, Paula, Allison A. Yates, Sandra Schlicker, and Mary Poos. “Dietary reference intakes: vitamin A, vitamin K, arsenic, boron, chromium, copper, iodine, iron, manganese, molybdenum, nickel, silicon, vanadium, and zinc,” Journal of the American Dietetic Association 101(2001): 442.
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22. Crane, Frederick L. “Biochemical functions of coenzyme Q10,” Journal of the American College of Nutrition 20(2001):591-598.
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