Paleo Plan

Why You Should Eat Organs

Click here for this liver recipe to get you started.

If you’ve been around the Paleo scene for a while, you’ll have noticed the emphasis put on the consumption of entrails.  The only organs Americans usually eat are in the form of paté (before we know what paté is) at a fancy party or “Rocky Mountain Oysters“, which you’ll find as a novelty on some menus in the American West (which we only eat on a dare).  Ok, I’m exaggerating – fortunately, some people are more comfortable with eating the innards (and outards) of animals than others.  For the most part, though, when I talk to people about eating liver or kidney, they’re horrified by the idea.  “I’ll pass, thank you.”  Until you slip it into your famous meatballs at a dinner party, most people won’t give organs a chance.

I recently gave them a chance.  I made some meatballs using ground pork, ground veal and cow liver.  I blended it all up in my food processor with some herbs and egg, made gooey balls out of it, sauteed them up and served it in a tomato/vegetable sauce.  It was phenomenal.  My entrance into the world of entrails gave me some confidence in my ability to eat organs and not vomit immediately afterward.  I highly suggest you try it, too.  We’ll be adding some organ recipes to the mix soon and slowly adding them to your weekly menus.  That is, if the addition of said recipes doesn’t cause a revolt…

The main reason we should eat organ meats is that they’re rich in the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K.  The traditional diets of hunter gatherers and other non-industrialized cultures have all shown to be high in these important nutrients, which work synergistically with each other to keep us healthy.  Vitamin A is important for the health of our eyes, skin, tissue and hair, as well as for new cell growth.  Vitamin D is important for the absorption of calcium and it aids in bone growth.  It’s also been shown to have some serious effects on our nervous system.  Vitamin E is crucial for the functions of vitamins A and C and it protects our red blood cells.  Vitamin K is crucial for normal blood clotting, as well as the synthesis of proteins in our blood, plasma and kidneys.

All of these nutrients work TOGETHER.  We need all of them.  Other nutrients we need are the B vitamins, which are also found in abundance in organ meats.  They help us make neurotransmitters (keep us happy) and create energy, among many other things.

Here’s a visual so you can compare an assortment of nutrients in muscle meat and organ meat, in this case liver.   You can see that the B vitamins and vitamin A are way higher for the most part in the liver.  There’s a lot more choline (a brain nutrient), iron and relatively more vitamins K and E.  This information was taken from the USDA Nutrient Database, and it doesn’t reflect grass fed beef statistics.  These numbers are from conventional beef.  It’s known that the fat soluble vitamins increase when an animal is fed grass.  If anyone has a source for grass fed beef organ nutrient information, I’d love to see it.

Nutrient Beef Sirloin (100 g) Beef Liver (100 g) RDI*
Calories (kcal) 211 175
Protein (g) 26 27
Iron (mg) 1.7 6 18
Vit B1 (Thiamin) (mg) .07 .2 1.5
Vit B2 (Riboflavin) (mg) .1 3 1.7
Vit B3 (Niacin) (mg) 7 17 20
Folate (mcg) 8 260 400
Choline (mg) 99 418 n/a
Vitamin B-12 (mcg) 1.5 83 6
Vitamin A (IU) 0 26,088 5000
Vitamin K (mcg) 1.4 3.9 80
Vitamin E (mg) 0 .46 10
*Recommended Daily Intake based on a 2000 calorie diet

You’re going to want to make sure your organs are from at the very least organically fed animals, since the organs are where pesticides are filtered out of the animal’s body. The liver and kidneys of a conventional animal will most likely be pretty toxic. You can usually purchase frozen organs from your grocery store or you might have some luck with local ranches. At Whole Foods you can order whatever organs you want if they don’t have them there. Experiment, try something new, and eat your hearts out!

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7 Comments

  1. David

    I don’t see how the filtering organs are considered paleo, but dairy isn’t necessarily. Can you help?

    • Neely

      Before there were domesticated animals, there was no milking of animals (except for humans). We didn’t start drinking milk and eating dairy products until about 10,000 years ago – around the same time we started eating grains and legumes, etc. Admittedly, some cultures and individuals are more adept at digesting milk products, but we didn’t evolve eating them, so that’s why they’re not technically “Paleo”. Does that help?

  2. David

    Thinking more in terms of nutrition — the potential for allergens and toxins in the filtering organs are high, not to mention the danger of vitamin A poisoning from consuming too much liver. There just seem to be fewer concerns with dairy as long as you aren’t having intolerance problems.

    “We didn’t evolve eating them” shouldn’t outweigh what actually happens when we do eat them. I am trying Paleo because the science sounds promising, just not convinced that frowning upon dairy is anything more than hypothesis at this point.

    • Neely

      Here is a post a wrote about whether or not dairy is Paleo. It includes some links to research and further reading on why dairy is frowned upon (what can happen when we do eat it) by many in the Paleo world. A lot of people, when they stop eating dairy, find that they feel better. Even when they didn’t know they felt bad to begin with. Skin clears up, digestion improves, that bloating feeling goes away, phlegm decreases, allergies subside, sinus headaches stop, joint health improves. What I suggest is that people take it out of their diets for a few weeks just to see what happens. As for the question about the adverse effects of cutting out dairy altogether, I’ve never heard of any. People either feel better or the same when they cut out dairy. When your gut is clean and healthy, it can get all the good bacteria it needs from foods other than dairy. If you’re worried about getting enough of it, try drinking coconut water kefir (the brand I like is Inner Eco), which you can now buy in many Whole Foods supplement sections. It contains trillions of viable organisms in one dose, which is WAY more than you’ll get from your pasteurized yogurt or probiotic capsules. And it’s real food – just fermented coconut water. Let me know if you guys have any other questions – do read that blog post because it has some great information from Cordain in the links.

      Thanks for reading!
      Neely Quinn
      Nutrition Therapist
      Paleo Plan

  3. Brian K

    I agree with David, and am also wondering about the adverse affects of cutting out all dairy from someone’s diet who regularly consumes milk, yogurt, etc. Has there been any research or reports on that, or recommendations to slowly remove dairy from one’s diet v.s. going cold turkey. Also the baceteria from yogurt is very helpful in the body and I was wondering if there are any alternative ways to find this nutritional bacteria. Thanks.

  4. tjw6150

    Cow’s milk is designed to grown an animal very quickly and very large. It is not designed to grow humans but to grow COWS! Human milk is designed to grow babies until they can eat real food.

  5. tjw6150

    My mom knew that liver was good for us kids as we were growing up. She didn’t like it so she would cook herself some bacon; the four of us kids and dad all got liver. She didn’t cook it very well because it always reminded me of shoe leather. I look forward to your new recipes so I can fix this for my husband and me; he loves liver! Thank you!

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