Health Benefits of Beef Liver
Beef Liver is a superfood. It is one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet. Keep reading to discover all the different benefits of beef liver and how it can improve your health.
I never would have guessed that beef liver would be a major part of my diet – but here we are.
I consume beef liver or beef liver supplements on a regular basis and I try my best to get my friends and family to do the same.
But not everyone is open to the idea and I don’t blame them. I was definitely weirded out by the thought of consuming beef liver when it was first suggested to me.
I had never consumed organ meats in any form ever in my life prior to trying beef liver a few years ago.
But you may be surprised to learn that organ meats like liver were consumed in many American households prior to the 1950s. And are still consumed in many areas around the world today.
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History of Beef Liver
It was only around 100 years ago that grocery stores became a thing in the United States. And the first grocery stores that opened mainly carried non-perishables.
Many families raised livestock and lived off their land or purchased food from local farmers. Nose-to-tail eating was very common. That meant that when you purchased a cow (or another animal) to eat you consumed the majority of that animal.
Mostly everything in between the nose and tail was consumed. Nothing went to waste.
Beef liver was a staple in most American households during the Great Depression and throughout World War 2.
But with the growing convenience of grocery stores and the economic boom of the 1950s, the consumption of beef liver began to decline.
Due to its high mineral content, beef liver, in my opinion, isn’t very appetizing. It’s not hard to figure out why most people would choose ground beef or a nice juicy steak over beef liver when given the option.
Butchers would have a hard time getting rid of their beef liver so they would sell it for really cheap. This eventually led to beef liver being considered a poor man’s food which only helped to further its decline in popularity.
Consuming beef liver isn’t a new trend. Beef liver has been consumed for generations. It’s only been the last few generations that have stopped eating it on a regular basis.
And I can’t help but think that the lack of mineral-rich organ meats in the standard American diet has greatly contributed to the rise of chronic illness and disease in Americans.
Beef liver is one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet. It truly is nature’s multivitamin.
The nutritional profile of beef liver varies depending on a number of different factors but below you’ll find the approximate amount of some of the vitamins and minerals that are contained in a 3.5-ounce serving of beef liver.
- Vitamin A – 4900mcg
- Riboflavin (B2) – 2.8mg
- Biotin (B7) – 90mcg
- Pantothenic acid (B5) – 7.2mg
- Vitamin B12 – 59.3mg
- Choline – 333mg
- Copper – 9.8mg
It also contains calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, selenium, zinc, thiamin (B1), niacin (B3), vitamin k, and more.
Beef liver is also high in protein and low in calories and the nutritional content far surpasses that of fruits and vegetables.
So-called superfoods such as spinach and kale are no match for beef liver.
The Importance of Vitamin A
What makes beef liver such an important addition to the American diet is its high vitamin A content.
Vitamin A (also known as retinol) is essential for eye health, skin health, iron metabolism, and more.
Vitamin A regulates iron metabolism and dozens of other metabolic pathways. It is also essential to hormone D metabolism as well.
You can click here to learn more about the importance of vitamin A.
Most people aren’t getting enough vitamin A in their diets. True vitamin A (retinol) is only found in animal products.
Foods high in vitamin A are beef liver, lamb liver, cod liver, mackerel, goat cheese, raw milk (from grass-fed cows), grass-fed butter, eggs from pasture-raised chickens, and Limburger cheese.
Most people aren’t consuming these types of foods on a regular basis although many of our ancestors did.
Beta-Carotene vs Retinol
People who consume a large number of carrots and sweet potatoes might think they are getting plenty of vitamin A in their diet. But the truth is they are consuming beta-carotene and not retinol.
And there is definitely a difference. Both are referred to as vitamin A but retinol is the true vitamin A.
Beta-carotene is a precursor to retinol. The body converts beta-carotene into retinol. Beta-carotene does not convert to retinol at a 1:1 ratio though.
It can range anywhere from 3:1 to 28:1 depending on a multitude of factors. There are certain conditions that can decrease beta-carotene conversion or block beta-carotene conversion completely.
100 grams of cooked carrot contains around 17,000IU of vitamin A which converts to around 852 micrograms of retinol activity equivalents (RAE). 100 grams of beef liver contains around 26,000IU of vitamin A, or 7,700 micrograms of RAE.
I’m a huge fan of carrots. You can click here to check out my raw carrot salad recipe that I eat daily. But when it comes to retinol beef liver is my go-to!
Synthetic Vitamin A
Synthetic vitamin A is sometimes added to different foods like milk and other dairy products.
But synthetic vitamin A is not the same as retinol.
Since becoming a Root Cause Protocol consultant I’ve learned a lot about the dangers of synthetic vitamins and synthetically enriched foods.
They are not the same as the real thing. Vitamins and minerals work synergistically with other vitamins and minerals. They do not operate in isolation. Foods naturally rich in vitamin A also contain the necessary cofactors to metabolize vitamin A.
There are risks associated with consuming isolated synthetic vitamins and foods enriched with isolated synthetic vitamins.
Nature knows what it is doing and it knows best!
Many people assume they are consuming a sufficient amount of vitamin A because the ingredient label lists vitamin A. But just because the label lists vitamin A doesn’t mean that it is retinol, true vitamin A.
Grass-Fed Beef Liver Vs Grain-Fed
Keep in mind, not all beef liver is created equal. Quality definitely matters and grass-fed beef liver is superior to grain-fed.
Cows were meant to eat grass and grass-fed beef is much healthier for you.
Grass-fed beef liver contains higher amounts of retinol. The cows eat grass that contains beta-carotene which they then convert to retinol.
I’ll be sharing more about what to look for in beef liver and sourcing tips below.
Benefits of Eating Grass-Fed Beef Liver
Beef liver can be extremely healing to the human body due to its high vitamin and mineral content. As I mentioned before, it is one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet.
Below you’ll discover some of the different ways beef liver can improve your health and overall well-being.
May Help to Improve Liver Function
It’s believed that eating a specific organ from a healthy animal has beneficial effects on that same organ in your body.
I’m not sure if there have been studies done on this theory or not but it makes sense that beef liver would be beneficial to the human liver due to its abundance of B vitamins.
B vitamins are needed for phases 1 and 2 of liver detoxification and B vitamins also help to protect the liver.
May Help to Improve Various Skin Conditions
If you want clearer, healthier, younger skin then you need beef liver! Vitamin A is an antioxidant and it helps to protect skin cells from oxidative stress.
So many people look to skin care products containing synthetic retinol (retinoids) to improve their skin but in my opinion, they have it completely backward.
To get the most out of the antioxidant benefits of vitamin A you should be consuming the real thing internally instead of applying the synthetic version topically.
Many people blame the sun for premature aging but they fail to realize that premature aging is most likely due to a lack of retinol in their diet.
The more time you spend in the sun the more vitamin A your body requires. The less vitamin A your body has in its tissues the more likely you will experience skin damage from the sun.
There has been a noticeable reduction in fine lines around my eyes since I started consuming beef liver on a regular basis.
Beef liver is also amazing for other skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, and acne.
Accutane, which is used to treat acne is a synthetic form of vitamin A. It definitely helps to combat acne but unfortunately not without very negative side effects.
Addressing the issue with real vitamin A is a much safer solution.
But keep in mind that some skin conditions like acne can get worse before they get better when beef liver is first introduced.
May Help to Improve Thyroid Function
There have been many studies done on the connection between vitamin A and thyroid function.
Vitamin A is required for the activation of thyroid hormone receptors and has been shown to regulate thyroid hormone metabolism.
But with all of that being said please keep in mind that too much vitamin A can be thyroid suppressive if you currently have low thyroid function (which many women do).
So although vitamin A can help to improve thyroid function over time, if you have a sluggish thyroid it’s important to introduce beef liver into your diet very slowly.
Start with a very small amount and gradually increase the amount you consume over a long period of time.
May Help to Improve Eye Health
Vitamin A helps to protect the eye. It can help to reduce the risk of vision loss and macular degeneration. Vitamin A deficiency can cause dry eye, night blindness, and even complete blindness.
Getting an adequate amount of vitamin A in your diet can help prevent many eye conditions and as I shared above beef liver contains a very high amount of vitamin A.
I wanted to share a personal story real quick. Please keep in mind, this is 100% anecdotal but I still find it fascinating.
I have absolutely terrible vision. I first got glasses in 4th grade and my eyes have gotten continually worse every single year ever since then.
My optometrist told me when I was in my twenties that my eyes would stabilize by the time I was 30 and as soon as they stabilized I would be eligible for laser eye surgery.
Well, that didn’t happen. My eyes continued to get worse every year -until my last eye exam.
For the first time in over 30 years of getting a yearly eye exam, I didn’t need a more powerful prescription.
When I started consuming beef liver I noticed that my vision was a lot clearer and I wasn’t having dry eye anymore but I didn’t make the connection to the beef liver until that exam.
But what makes this even more fascinating is that my teenage son has bad eyes as well. Although nowhere near as bad as mine were at his age.
Every year he has needed a stronger prescription as well – until he started consuming beef liver.
He had his eye exam the same day I had mine and his eyes hadn’t worsened either. That was the first time that happened since he had started having yearly eye exams.
We haven’t had another eye exam since then. We’ll be going in the next few months and I’m so curious to find out if our vision has continued to stabilize or if it has possibly even improved.
I 100% understand that correlation does not equal causation, but I find all of this absolutely fascinating.
May Help to Increase Energy
Beef liver is loaded with B vitamins which convert food energy into chemical energy for your cells.
Beef liver contains B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B9, and B12. Eating beef liver is a safe and natural way to increase your overall energy.
What to Look for When Buying Beef Liver
You might be familiar with the saying “you are what you eat” but in my opinion, that is only partly true. You are not just what you eat, you are also what you eat eats.
It is so important to know what type of diet the animal consumed and how the animal was raised when buying beef liver or any meat for that matter
Because whatever that animal consumed, whether you realize it or not, you will be consuming also.
Below are the things I look for when buying beef liver.
- Grass-fed & Grass-finished
Where to Buy Beef Liver
I currently get my beef liver from a local farmer. I highly recommend you try to do the same. That way you can communicate in person with them and get all of your questions answered.
If this is not a possibility you can purchase beef liver online. I’ve purchased beef liver from US Wellness Meats in the past and I highly recommend them.
Their cows are pasture raised on pesticide-free grass. Their cows are not just grass-fed, they are also grass-finished and they are never given hormones or antibiotics.
You can click here to check them out.
If you would rather try freeze-dried beef liver supplements rather than fresh beef liver, then I recommend you give this brand a try.
How To add Beef Liver to Your Diet
Beef liver can be added to your diet in a variety of ways. Below you’ll find some of my favorite ways to consume beef liver.
Beef Liver & Onions
Beef liver and onions is a great way to create a full meal from beef liver. All you need is a few simple ingredients – beef liver, onions, and olive oil.
You can click here for a yummy beef liver and onions recipe.
Beef Liver Pate
Beef liver pate is typically made by combining beef liver, butter, onions, and seasoning and blending it all in a food processor. This creates a spread that you can put on crackers or bread.
You can click here for a great beef liver pate recipe.
Raw Beef Liver
This may sound like the least appetizing way to consume beef liver but it’s actually my preferred method.
I cut the raw beef liver into very small pieces and freeze it. When I’m ready to consume the beef liver I thaw a few pieces in cold water in the fridge. Once it is fully thawed I swallow it like a pill and wash it down with some OJ.
You can click here for step-by-step directions.
Beef Liver Chips
Beef liver chips are the perfect way to turn beef liver into a yummy snack. You can click here to learn how to make beef liver chips at home or you can click here to buy premade beef liver chips.
Beef Liver Supplements
Beef liver supplements are a great alternative for people who can’t stomach the idea of consuming fresh beef liver.
You can get the same amazing benefits of beef liver from beef liver supplements.
You can click here to check out my favorite brand of freeze-dried beef liver.
How Much Beef Liver Should You Eat
There is not a one size fits all answer when it comes to how much beef liver someone should consume.
The Root Cause Protocol, which I’m a huge fan of, recommends 4-6 ounces of fresh beef liver per week.
But I personally believe the amount that each person should consume varies and depends on each individual person.
Vitamin D synthesis from the sun depletes vitamin A. So if you are someone who spends a lot of time in the sun your body’s vitamin A needs are probably quite high and you might feel great consuming 4-6 ounces of beef liver every week.
You might also discover that you benefit from consuming more beef liver in the summer and less in the winter.
I can not tell you the exact amount that you should eat. Tune into your cravings, listen to your body, and pay close attention to how you feel whenever you consume beef liver.
Vitamin A Toxicity
There is a lot of fear and concern around vitamin A toxicity. It is my understanding that vitamin A toxicity is most commonly caused by vitamin A supplements and not vitamin A rich foods.
Vitamin A toxicity can occur when several hundred thousand international units (IUs) of vitamin A are consumed over the span of a few months.
Most people who consume beef liver or other foods high in vitamin A don’t need to be concerned about vitamin A toxicity.
But with that being said vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin and it can accumulate in the liver and fat tissue over time.
So although I do believe most people have a high need for vitamin A, I also believe there still may be a possibility of developing vitamin A toxicity from food.
Sun exposure and thyroid function both play a role in how your body uses vitamin A. The higher your thyroid function is the more vitamin A your body will require.
The less active your thyroid is the less vitamin A your body will require.
Also, vitamin D synthesis from the sun will deplete vitamin A. So if you are someone who spends a lot of time in the sun your body’s vitamin A needs are probably quite high.
Your diet will also determine your vitamin A needs. If you’ve been on a vegan or vegetarian diet in the past your vitamin A needs are going to be much higher compared to someone who has been on a paleo or carnivore diet.
My point in all of this is that vitamin A toxicity from food is not very likely but everybody is different. So it is important to familiarize yourself with the symptoms of vitamin A toxicity and listen to your body.
Symptoms of hypervitaminosis A can include nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, dizziness, drowsiness, and more.
You can click here to learn more about vitamin A toxicity.
It’s also important not to confuse histamine intolerance for vitamin A toxicity.
Histamine intolerance occurs when the body develops too much histamine.
Symptoms of histamine intolerance include:
- Nasal congestion
Diamine oxidase (DAO) is the enzyme responsible for breaking down histamines. DAO deficiency usually leads to histamine intolerance.
Beef liver can trigger a histamine response in some people.
Many people who experience negative side effects from beef liver tend to blame the beef liver but they fail to realize the side effects are most likely due to a DAO deficiency.
Side Effects of Beef Liver
Side effects from beef liver are typically caused by either hypervitaminosis A or histamine intolerance.
If you experience any of the side effects above it’s important to figure out whether it’s caused by too much vitamin A or a lack of DAO.
Tips For Consuming Beef Liver
My philosophy when it comes to introducing new supplements or new foods is to go low and slow.
Start with a very small amount and see how you feel. If you don’t experience any negative side effects you can increase the amount you consume gradually over an extended period of time.
When I first began consuming beef liver I could only tolerate a very small amount.
If you don’t seem to tolerate beef liver at all and the negative side effects are not due to hypervitaminosis A, I would suggest trying grass-fed beef kidney instead.
It has similar benefits to beef liver but it is also high in DAO.
Final Thoughts about Beef Liver
Beef liver is amazing. It has helped improve my health in all of the ways listed above and more. But with that being said beef liver isn’t for everyone.
I think the people who experience the most benefits from beef liver are people who are extremely deficient in vitamins and minerals.
Breast milk is very high in vitamin A so if you weren’t breastfed you may be more at risk for vitamin A deficiency.
And this study concluded that preterm infants are born with low body stores of vitamin A and are at high risk of vitamin A deficiency.
Also, vitamin A is essential for developing fetuses. The fetus relies on the transfer of vitamin A from its mother via the placenta during gestation and at birth.
So if the mother is vitamin A deficient this means the baby would also be deficient.
If all three of these circumstances apply to you plus you grew up hardly eating any foods that contained true vitamin A (retinol) you would probably benefit from beef liver.
If you ate a generally healthy diet growing up and if your mother also ate a generally healthy diet growing up, you were carried to full term and you were breastfed – you might not experience the benefits of beef liver as much as someone who didn’t have those things.
Also, you may not need to consume beef liver regularly for long term. People who aren’t dealing with extreme vitamin and mineral deficiencies may benefit from consuming beef liver for a short amount of time.
Once their vitamin and mineral levels become optimal they may discover they are not experiencing as many of the good benefits of beef liver and they may actually begin to experience negative effects.
It is possible to get too much of a good thing. So if you decide to try beef liver please keep all of this in mind and listen to your body!