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Liver: Love It or Leave It?

As a kid you may have been told to eat liver because it was good for you, but some medical professionals advise against it. So what's the answer? Should humans liver, or should we skip it? Find out.

When you were a kid, you may have been required to eat liver because it was good for you. But some medical professionals say it should be avoided. So what’s the answer? Should humans consume pate, foie gras, liverwurst, chopped liver, or liver and onions, or should we skip it?

Nutritional Value of Beef Liver

Consider beef liver. A 3.5 ounce serving has about 150 calories and more than 20 grams of protein. Being a good source of lean protein makes liver an attractive option to anyone watching his or her weight. Liver might also prevent anemia because a serving can have more than a quarter of the daily amount of iron humans require, and a whopping 988 percent of our daily value of Vitamin B-12. Iron-deficiency anemia is a risk for women of childbearing age, children and adolescents, according to the Dietary Guidelines from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Vitamin B-12 deficiency anemia is also a risk for some people. Both interfere with the production of red blood cells and can cause weakness and fatigue.

Lean protein, iron, and vitamin B-12 are benefits of liver, but it has a downside too. Too much iron, for example, can be harmful. Plus, liver may increase levels of bad LDL cholesterol in the blood.

Liver is also rich in Vitamin A, and while some Vitamin A is good, too much liver, or liver consumed by someone already taking Vitamin A supplements, might lead to Vitamin A toxicity. Effects of Vitamin A toxicity can include osteoporosis and drug interactions. (The form of Vitamin A in fruits and vegetables does not cause toxic symptoms, however.)

What About Toxins?

So, while acknowledging that liver can be a good source of nutrients, many doctors say they don’t recommend its consumption because it contains too many toxins. That’s because an animal’s liver serves as a filter, and when it encounters chemicals it can’t process, it stores them. PCBs and other toxins that animals are exposed to are stored in their livers. Finally, organic compounds called purines are found in liver and can cause gout or kidney stones in people prone to those conditions.

What is the answer? For liver lovers, it’s all about moderation. Those who take supplemental vitamin A should be wary of eating more than one serving of liver per week. And anyone who craves liver might be wise to buy organic if possible to reduce the hormones and toxins consumed along with its nutrition.

Of course, if you hate liver, you can use toxins and purines as justification for never touching the stuff again. Instead, get your protein, iron, and vitamin A from foods you actually enjoy eating.

10 Vitamin A Fruits and Veggies

When it comes to plant foods, a good rule of thumb is that fruits and veggies that are orange, yellow, or red are usually good sources of vitamin A.  Below is a list of fruits and vegetables that are good sources of vitamin A:

  1. Winter/butternut squash — 1 cup, cooked
  2. Sweet potato — 1 medium, cooked potato
  3. Mango— 1 medium
  4. Greens: Kale, collards, mustard, turnip, chard — 1 cup, cooked
  5. Carrots — 1 medium raw carrot
  6. Spinach — 1 cup raw
  7. Dried apricots — 1 ounce
  8. Broccoli — 1 cup raw
  9. Red Bell Pepper — 1 raw
  10. Canteloupe — 1 large wedge
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Judy Kneiszel

Judy Kneiszel is a freelance writer from De Pere, Wisconsin. She contributes to regional and national magazines and newsletters, writing on a wide variety of topics including food, farming, health, renewable energy, and running a small business.

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Gudrun

I would like to encourage all you liver lovers to look up the way Italians cook liver – Venetian style, it’s called Fegato and is to live for! Try it and you will love it!

Kimberly Baldridge

Love, Love, LOVE IT!!!!!!

Cackleberry Farm

Love liver & onions & love chicken livers!

skptic

I will only eat liver from an organic grass raised beef or wild elk and then soak it in milk before frying. Yummy! Liver in stores is pale brownish from the junk they feed to cattle in feeder lots filters. This is deep red and tastes like I remember as a little girl. Also only cook until barely pink in the middle, it will be perfect when you get it to the table, not grainy like some people cook it .

Susan Powell

YUCK, my mudder tried to get me to eat it. YUCK< YUCK< YUCK. I can eat onion greens more

Susan Powell

YUCK, my mudder tried to get me to eat it. YUCK< YUCK< YUCK. I can eat onion greens more

Suzan

I love liver and onions and gravy. My mother made the best ever. Mother was raised during the depression where you ate the pig from nose to tail, and whatever beef you could get. My daughter will make it for me occasionally, but won’t eat any. I also love gizzards, chicken hearts, etc. Calves liver is the best. I’ve never heard of soaking in soda water, but I’ll try it. My daddy loved kidneys, but I couldn’t stand the smell of it cooking.

Debra Newell

Love liver with lots of onions and gravy!!!! As for the toxins there is not much and if you’re afraid of toxins soak the liver in soda water either over night if fresh or for a couple of hours if out of market….People have been living well on internal organs such as liver, hearts, kidneys, gizzards, etc. Everything in moderation is the key here…Dr. Oz needs to go back to the yellow brick road……he has too many misconception’s…..

Leslie

Haha! I would be one of those people you see ordering liver in a restaurant. Good quality liver prepared in one of the many delicious ways is a great way to add a nutrient dense food to your diet. Eating it a couple times a month should be enough and if you possibly can, try to source from an animal that was humanely raised–grass fed ideally. One thing, though, the liver doesn’t store toxins any more than any other cut of meat or fat; that’s a common misperception http://chriskresser.com/natures-most-potent-superfood Never eat the liver of certain animals like bear which has toxic levels of vitamin A. Other good organ meats are heart and kidney; love steak & kidney pie 🙂

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