If you’ve been around the Paleo scene for a while, you’ll have noticed the emphasis put on the consumption of entrails, also referred to as offal. 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). Okay, 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.
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*|
|Vit B1 (Thiamin) (mg)||.07||.2||1.5|
|Vit B2 (Riboflavin) (mg)||.1||3||1.7|
|Vit B3 (Niacin) (mg)||7||17||20|
|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!