Organ Meats are Packed With Vitamins and Minerals
by Evan DeMarco on Jul 19, 2022
In the United States, organ meats are a more unusual choice than standard cuts. While some people dislike the unusual texture and strong flavors, they’re actually an incredibly healthy choice. If you like to eat meat, consider supplementing your steaks, ground meat, poultry and roasts with organ meats like heart, liver, kidneys and more.
If that made you gulp, consider this: many cultures around the world eat organ meats because of their dense nutritional value. And because it’s not as in demand in America, organ meat is often less expensive than other cuts.
Here’s why you should consider eating organ meats more often.
What kind of organs do people eat?
Also known as “offal,” organ meat includes brain, tongue, kidneys, liver, sweetbreads (pancreas), intestines and even testicles (occasionally referred to as “mountain oysters”), depending on the animal. Poultry, lamb and beef are the most popular sources of organ meats.
If you’re new to organ meat, you might wonder how popular it can really be. In America, giblet gravy and pate are two common organ-based dishes—in fact, if you’re not a cook, you might not have even realized how those two dishes are made. Liver and onions used to be a staple in the early to mid-20th century, and some restaurants have been exclusively dedicated to offal.
Other countries and cultures also make use of organ meat—consider haggis, which is made from stomach, heart, liver and lungs (commonly from sheep). France, too, goes wild for rich and nutritious organ meat. Kokoretsi, a dish made from “lamb innards wrapped in lamb's intestines,” is popular in Greece. In fact, the New York Times suggests that what separates European culinary cultures from America is the willingness to eat organ meats.
Health benefits of organ meats
When you eat responsibly-sourced organ meats, you’ll enjoy the following benefits:
- Great source of iron: Organ meats are rich in iron—a single serving is usually all you need to meet the recommended daily allowance. Plus, the type of iron is better, too: organs have highly-bioavailable heme iron, which is superior to that found in plants.
- Rich in peptides: Peptides are small amino acid molecules that act as messengers in the body. While more research on their specific benefits is needed, organ meat is packed with peptides and can contribute to your overall good health.
- Packed with choline: Choline is an essential nutrient for the liver, brain and muscles. Many Americans are choline-deficient, so eating more organ meat is an easy way to make up the difference.
- Heavy in fat-soluble vitamins: Fat-soluble vitamins are essential for bone health, but they also benefit your overall health. Vitamins D, K2 and A work together in concert to help your body absorb and utilize calcium appropriately, giving you stronger bones and teeth.
- Feel fuller, longer: Because organ meats are rich in protein and fatty acids, you’ll probably feel fuller, longer. That’s great news for anyone who is trying to curb their appetite or needs more fuel for their workouts.
- Retain more muscle mass: Your muscles need nine essential amino acids in order to function properly. Organ meats have all of these amino acids, which can help you build and retain your muscle mass—which boosts your metabolism at the same time.
Depending on the type of organ meat you choose, you may get larger doses of specific vitamins and minerals. For example, liver is typically the most nutritious organ meat, packed with vitamin A. Kidneys are full of anti-inflammatories and omega-3 fatty acids. Heart has high levels of B vitamins, as well as iron and zinc.
Are there any risks?
Organ meats are safe to eat, as long as you get them from a responsible source. Organ meats from stressed animals often have fatty buildup around the organ meat, and may not be as nutrient-dense as animals from free-range, regenerative farms.
Furthermore, organ meats are high in saturated fat, so be careful to include that consideration when making daily dietary choices. Saturated fat should make up no more than 10 percent of your daily calories, and no more than five to six percent if you’re trying to lower your cholesterol.
Eat more organ meat
Bottom line: you should consider adding more organ meat to your diet. There are plenty of recipes to help you get started, whether you’re hosting an elegant dinner party or just trying to maximize your nutritional content. We predict you’ll love them—you might even say organ meat is offal good.