Why you should eat liver. (And how you can get over the “ick” factor).

Why you should eat liver. (And how you can get over the “ick” factor).

Eat liver!? Are you crazy!? If you had asked me five years ago if I would ever eat liver I’m pretty sure I would have said “no.”

Emphatically.

In fact, in my head, eating liver was a bad idea. I mean, I took anatomy. I knew what the liver’s job was. Who would want to eat the organ that’s primary function is dealing with toxins. No thank you.

But like so many other things in my life, I’ve changed my thoughts about liver. In fact, I think liver is pretty super. Kind of like superman, but not as attractive.

Super Liver to the rescue!

Historically speaking liver has a long tradition of respect and honor. It’s been considered a super food to help the battling warrior, a delicacy throughout the world, and was once believed to have almost magical curative powers.

Why?

Well, gram for gram, liver contains more nutrients than any other food. In fact, liver provides:

  • An excellent source of high-quality protein
  • Nature’s most concentrated source of vitamin A
  • All the B vitamins in abundance, particularly vitamin B12
  • One of our best sources of folate
  • A highly usable form of iron
  • Trace elements such as copper, zinc and chromium; liver is our best source of copper
  • CoQ10, a nutrient that is especially important for cardio-vascular function
  • A good source of purines, nitrogen-containing compounds that serve as precursors for DNA and RNA.
  • An unidentified anti-fatigue factor

Um, Anti-fatigue factor? What’s that?

This factor was described by Benjamin K. Ershoff, PhD, in a July 1951 article published in the Proceedings for the Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine. (source)

Here’s the Reader’s Digest version of the study:

Three groups of lab rats.

The first ate a basic diet, fortified with 11 vitamins.

The second ate the same diet, along with an additional supply of vitamin B complex.

The third ate the original diet, but instead of vitamin B complex received 10 percent of rations as powdered liver.

The results:

After several weeks, the animals were placed one by one into a drum of cold water from which they could not climb out. They literally were forced to sink or swim. Rats in the first group swam for an average 13.3 minutes before giving up. The second group, which had the added fortifications of B vitamins, swam for an average of 13.4 minutes. Of the last group of rats, the ones receiving liver, three swam for 63, 83 and 87 minutes. The other nine rats in this group were still swimming vigorously at the end of two hours when the test was terminated. Something in the liver had prevented them from becoming exhausted. To this day scientists have not been able to pin a label on this anti-fatigue factor.

Putting aside the cruel animal testing (poor rats!), liver clearly has some super powers. So let’s all eat liver!

What about all those toxins?

As I mentioned early, one of the primary roles of the liver is to neutralize toxins. But the liver doesn’t store toxins, instead it stores a lot of powerful nutrients that the body uses against the toxins.

Keep in mind that the best liver comes from the best animals… those who were raised humanely and appropriately.  The best choice is liver from animals that spend their lives outdoors and on pasture. The next best choice is organic chicken, beef and calves liver. If you don’t have access to quality liver, and your local Walmart is your only option, try to find calves liver  as in the U.S. beef cattle do spend their first months on pasture. Livers from conventionally raised chicken and hogs are not recommended.

But I can’t eat liver. It’s just so…. icky!

I hear you. Really, I do. I had read plenty of literature on the benefits of liver before I ever ventured out to buy some. And when I did it sat in my freezer for far too long.

Liver has a strong taste, to say the least. For many people it’s a familiar and delicious taste. But if you grew up on a Standard American Diet you may need a little help eating liver. Here is my easy method for getting more liver into your diet… without dealing with the flavor.

How to eat liver: A guide for beginners:

1. Thaw liver slightly. While still mostly frozen, cut liver into chunks. Like this:

Why you should eat liver (and how to get over the icky factor).

2. Place chunks in a food processor. Like this:

Why you should eat liver (and how to get over the icky factor).

3. Process until it’s all gross and gooey. Like this:

Why you should eat liver (and how to get over the icky factor).

4. Scoop liquefied liver into an ice tray. Like this:

Why you should eat liver (and how to get over the icky factor).

5. Cover and freeze.

What to do with my liver cubes?

Next time you are cooking a meal that requires ground meat, simply throw in a cube or two of liver. Just brown it with the other meat. You don’t need to defrost these cubes either, as they are small enough to break up just fine frozen. (Awesome!)

It’s  best to hide liver in dishes with lots of spices and flavor. I can usually throw 2 or 3 cubes into our taco meat without anyone knowing a difference. Chili is another great place to use these cubes. Spaghetti with meat sauce. Etc. The possibilities are endless.

Start small… use one cube and see how it goes. If you can’t tell the liver is there, add another next time. Start by adding liver into one dish a week. See, It’s really not that hard to boost your nutritional profile.

Another option for the truly squeamish:

Grab a bottle of my favorite dissected liver capsules. This liver comes from grass-fed, pastured-raised cows. It’s a super easy way to boost your body with nourishing real food… no icky involved. Get them here.

 

What’s your favorite way to eat liver?


This post is part of Make Your Own Monday, Meal Plan MondayMotivation Monday, Healthy 2DayMonday Mania, Clever Chicks, Fat Tuesday, Scratch Cookin’ Tuesday, Wow Me WednesdayFrugal Days Sustainable WaysThe Mommy Club, Allergy Free Wednesday, Fresh Food Wednesday, Real Food WednesdayParty Wave WednesdayTasty TraditionsCreative Juice ThursdaySimple Lives Thursday, Keep it Real Thursday, Freaky FridayFight Back FridayKitchen Fun and Crafty FridayAnything Goes Friday, and Sweet Sharing Monday.

NOTE: Due to an never-ending cesspool of spam, I have made the tough decision to close comments 14 days after the original posting of all posts. Sorry to anyone left out of the conversation. I just needed to spend less time monitoring spam and more time with my kids. Best wishes, Robin!

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About the author

Hi! I'm and I’m passionate about healthy living: feeling nourished, having energy, getting good sleep, and feeling strong. I believe healthy living does not have to be complicated or stressful. I’m a Registered Somatic Movement Therapist (RSMT) and a Certified Laban/Bartenieff Movement Analyst (CLMA). I’m also an avid researcher and love to read about nutrition, the body, and toxic-free living. Learn more.

View all articles by Robin Konie

77 comments

  1. Amy

    Woohoo! Thanks!!! Ive got a whole lotta beef liver in my freezer from our very own cattle. I love it. My family does not. And now I know how to use it. I never thought I’d be so excited about…liver.

  2. Crystelle

    This is such an informative article! I used to eat liver as a child because of anemia, then with the pregnancy of our second child I actually CRAVED liver! But I haven’t eaten it since…

    And now, with your tips I am motivated to start again, and your method makes it easy to do! Thank you so much for writing this!

    x Crystelle

  3. Karen

    I really want to try this…but first I need to get over my gag reflex. Sorry…liver goo?

    Please give me a moment.

    ok. I’m better now. I’ll try it.

  4. jenny

    We raise pastured turkeys. At butcher time we usually cut the meat off of a few to grind. As we are grinding the meat I throw in the livers kidneys and hearts. They are all ground up and mixed into all of our meat. Easy way to sneak it in our diets! I also do this when grinding the meat from our old laying hens for chicken sausage!


    1. Post author
      robin

      Such a great idea. I really think grinding the meat somehow it key. For me the thing that I hate most about liver is the texture.

  5. Crystal

    It’s funny to see this post. I made a turkey for the first time this year, and had plans to try liver for the first time – except I didn’t cook it on the day that I cooked the turkey, and read in a couple of places that liver goes bad quickly. I panicked and didn’t try it. Do you have information about this? (Hope you are well!) :)


    1. Post author
      robin

      From what I’ve heard Liver will keep for a couple of days after it’s been cooked (in the fridge). And it should keep a couple days raw in the fridge and a few months in the freezer. But if you ever have doubt, definitely go with your gut. :) (Hope you guys are well, too!)

  6. Leslie @ Real Food Freaks

    I have been trying to gear myself up to eat liver for so long… I keep chickening out and giving it to my in-laws instead.

    I think I could add some “liver cubes” to my ground meat, but am not sure I can handle the pureeing part… I’m such a baby. :)


    1. Post author
      robin

      Ha ha, I totally understand. But it’s not as bad as you may think. It only takes a few moments in the processor. No weird smells or anything. Just pretend it’s ground meat. :)

  7. Amanda @Natural Living Mamma

    HA! You crack me up. Process until its gross and gooey…mmm. You know how to sell it! I add organ meats to meatballs and anything with ground meat. As long as I don’t tell anyone they don’t notice. I even had it in our grain free sausage stuffing for Thanksgiving! People loved it. Thanks for sharing :)

  8. Katie M

    I’ve been chopping up about a Tbsp of liver and tossing it in with ground meat dishes for a little while now. I wish I had a food processor to do big batches like that, chopping it up as needed is kind of a pain.

  9. Kristel from Healthy Frugalista

    Love the cube idea. I have venison liver in the freezer. I’ve been trying to sneak it in so no one notices but I think I’m using too much. I always get caught. I’ll try grinding it and using less until everyone gets used to it. Thanks!

  10. Dawn @ Small Footprint Family

    The liver goo cubes are such a great idea! I have texture issues and simply chopping the liver kinda grosses me out. But I can throw stuff into a machine just fine! Wish I wasn’t allergic to dairy or I’d try the milk soaking too…

    Some people have recommended that I slice slightly thawed liver into tiny pieces the size of vitamin capsules, refreeze the pieces, and then swallow them whole and frozen as a supplement every day. I might try that too. I have CFS and am often bedridden, so I could use that “mystery anti-fatigue factor.”

    Thanks for this post!!

    1. Erik

      Pork liver is really mild and tasty if you care to venture past the ice cubes. I just posted on my favorite way to do it but pork liver works well with pretty much any traditional liver preparation.


    1. Post author
      robin

      Tip the ice cube tray sideways and run some hot water underneath the ones you want to pop out. They should come pretty easily if warmed up a bit… every now and then I have to use a butter knife to pop it out after I warm it. Hope this helps!

  11. Jackie

    I love liver. I usually buy veal liver it’s milder tasting than beef. Soak the liver in milk and while it is soaking fry bacon in a skillet, then saute a sliced sweet onion. Once that is done dredge the liver in seasoned flour and fry it in the same skillet. Serve the liver smothered in onions and top with a couple of bacon slices.

    1. CrazyCatLady

      YES! Exactly how to cook liver! My mom cooked it that way. One day a friend was over playing with me, and begged to stay for dinner because her mom was making liver. Well, so did my mom – but she then proceeded to beg my mom for the recipe because it was so good!

  12. Katie

    I’m down to try just about anything and I’d love for my family to have the nutrients, but I think my husband would kick me out of the house if I tried to sneak-feed him liver. (lol. Not litterally) What about the powdered liver that study spoke of. Is that available anywhere and is it as effective as ‘normal’ liver? Thanks for enlightening me! :-)

    1. Erik

      Some who want liver’s benefits but can’t stomach it take it in the form of dessicated liver capsules. A few brands use grass-fed, which you should be able to find if you google around.


    2. Post author
      robin

      There are liver supplements that are powdered liver. Just be sure to find one that’s from pastured, grass-fed cows.

  13. Erik

    As a veteran liver lover, I surprised myself earlier this week by coming up with a new favorite way to prepare liver:

    http://nautyideas.blogspot.com/2012/11/tuesdays-dinner.html

    The broiler is rapidly becoming my best friend.

    I feel lucky to get a lot of beef liver from the grass-fed ranch I intern at, but lately the folks at the farmer’s market know me and have been happy to offload their goat, lamb, pork, chicken, and turkey livers on me. Definitely the best underrated food out there.

  14. Noel McNeil

    Thanks for this tip! I’ve been trying to figure out how to get myself and the family to eat liver. I’m definitely going to give this a try! Glad I found your blog!

  15. kristy @ Gastronomical Sovereignty

    i LOVE liver! i grew up eating it – with a big side of peas and KD. Yes, i was fed KD as a child. these days i prefer it with onions and mashed potatoes or as a pate – i make a fabulous chicken liver pate with thyme and booze. of course. :)

    thank you for sharing with us at the Wednesday Fresh Foods Link Up! I hope to see you again this week with more seasonal & fresh/real food posts. xo, kristy

  16. Steph

    Great idea! We hide liver a lot and this is a really easy way to have it ready to go! Also if you don’t want to waste a single drop of your raw milk (me!) you can soak liver in lemon juice. I throw it in around breakfast and by dinner it has done it’s job. It cuts the flavor waaay down. :)

  17. ASusan

    Another thing to do with those cubes is to toss one or 2 in the bottom of a blender and make a smoothie. Preferably a green smoothie. The liver (at least, the lamb’s liver I use) is almost tasteless, and, if anything, it tastes a bit sweet.

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  19. Amanda Scapini

    Isn´t liver great? In my family we use to saute stripes of liver in a bit of olive oil and garlic. When it´s done, we throw in lots and lots and LOTS of sliced onions, letting them still lightly crisp. This and and liver paté are the best ways to me.

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  21. Tai

    I have been doing this for a while. If I feel I need a quick boost, I take 1 liver cube, a pressed garlic clove and cook in butter in a skillet. I just eat it straight with a dollop of sour cream.

    I mostly eat deer/elk liver because my hunting friends usually leave the liver (and other lovely organs) behind. So if you know someone that hunts, they are probably willing to share!

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  23. Kate

    That freezing idea is great! I have even tried cooking, freezing, and then cutting it into pill size pieces and swallowing a few every day with dinner…

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  26. Lou

    Ok, I am about to cave.. fine I will eat the liver. I will try anything that will help with fatigue issues. To the store first thing in the morning. If I notice any difference after a couple of weeks I will report back! Thank you so much for your website, I have been reading all night. Can your books be bought on amazon as well?


    1. Post author
      Robin Konie

      Thanks, Lou. At the moment my books can’t be bought on Amazon… but that might change in the future. :)

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  29. Tania

    Someone here asked about powdered liver. My doctor told me how to make your own. You put the raw liver in the blender (might need to chop it up a little first) then blend it up, adding some water if needed, to liquefy it. Then dehydrate it , either in a food dehydrator or in pans in the oven on low, until it is completely dried. Then break it up into chunks and blend it again, into a powder. Add it into your daily smoothie, a spoonful at a time. If you can taste it then just cut back a little. The flavours of the smoothie disguises the taste of the liver. You should be able to take a tablespoon or two at a time this way.

    I haven’t tried this yet, but I have grass-fed beef liver in the freezer waiting for me…I will also try Robin’s method so that the whole family can benefit. Thanks!

  30. Anita Wilson

    I just made my home made liver pate and it is awesome! It’s super easy and super tasty! I am from Denmark and liver pate is on our table everyday for lunch. It tastes little bit different (better) than the pate I have had here in US. My recipe is for the danish version. If anyone is interested I will be happy to share.

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