Liver is eaten all around the world. While many dislike the flavor or disapprove of the idea of eating liver, many adore its unique taste and texture. There are many different livers, including beef, pork, lamb, and chicken, as well as goose, cod, and calf. Should you incorporate liver into your diet? And what are the pros and cons of eating liver?
The pros of eating liver include its many health benefits, such as being a rich source of protein, vitamins, and minerals. Overeating liver also has its cons. These include high dietary cholesterol, posing a risk of vitamin A intoxication, and interference with a particular medication.
On top of the fact that many people genuinely enjoy eating liver, the health benefits make liver a superfood. While in many cases it can be, there are potential risk factors when it comes to enjoying liver a little too much. If you have any medical conditions, it is always recommended to seek clarity with a health professional before indulging in a bowl of liver.
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Is It Healthy To Eat Liver?
Liver is one of the most nutritious food sources to exist, with loads of essential vitamins and minerals. Here are, among others, some of the pros of incorporating liver into your diet.
Overall Very Nutritious
In general, it is incredibly healthy to incorporate liver into your diet. This is because of the significant amounts of a diversity of vitamins and minerals you consume when eating liver. This includes large quantities of iron, vitamin A, vitamin B, riboflavin, copper, and plenty more.
A single serving of liver contains more than enough vitamins and minerals to meet your daily recommended amount for most of these vitamins and minerals. Eating liver every now and then is definitely healthy, especially when you have or are at risk of nutrient deficiencies.
Contains A Lot Of Protein
All types of liver contain loads of protein. Liver actually has the most protein out of all organ meats. 4 ounces (uncooked) beef or lamb liver contains about 23 grams of protein. Pork liver contains about 24 grams of protein. In comparison, you can expect back 19 grams of protein in a serving of 4 ounces (uncooked) chicken liver.
Amongst many other benefits, protein is an essential portion of our diet. Protein is an important source of our daily energy and crucial for the production and repair of the cells in our body. It is vital for the growth of children, the development of babies in the mother’s womb, and overall muscle maintenance and growth.
Lower Your Risk Of Anemia
Iron is a crucial component of hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells. Red blood cells transport oxygen between the lungs and the rest of the body. A lack of iron generally causes fatigue due to a shortage of red blood cells. If you have an iron deficiency (Anemia), liver might be an excellent way to boost your body’s iron.
Iron also plays a vital role in a child’s growth, especially concerning healthy brain development. It is also needed for the production of different hormones and cells and the successful functioning thereof.
Improves Bone Health
Liver contains vitamin K, which is critical in maintaining and strengthening your bones. Although Calcium is mainly responsible for increasing the strength of the skeletal system, vitamin K helps with the processing of Calcium and the addition of Calcium to your bones. Vitamin K also aids in maintaining a healthy circulatory system.
A healthy amount of vitamin K intake also lowers the risk of osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a disease causing a dangerous decrease in your bones’ strength, causing them to break more easily.
An Excellent Source Of Vitamin A
Liver is one of the richest animal-based sources of vitamin A. Vitamin A is essential for vision, growth, and reproduction. Vitamin A also has properties that act as an antioxidant. Links have been found between healthy vitamin A levels and lower risks of cataracts and breast cancer.
A Good Source Of Vitamin B
There are eight different B vitamins, and liver is packed with all of them. Most B vitamins cannot be stored by the body; therefore, the body needs to consume new B vitamins regularly. These B vitamins are essential for lasting energy and successful functioning of the metabolism.
Vitamin B1 and B2 are crucial for transforming carbs and fats into energy. Vitamin B3 is involved in brain functioning and the regulation of metabolism while also acting as an antioxidant. At the same time, vitamin B6 keeps the brain, heart, and immune system healthy.
Vitamin B12 helps to keep the blood cells and nerves in the body healthy while also formulating red blood cells. Vitamin B6 supports the brain, heart, and immune system in good condition. Vitamin B9 (Folate) is involved with the protection of the heart. It has proved to aid against strokes, congenital disabilities, and depression.
The above-mentioned B vitamins are merely a few. Still, it is already evident that vitamin B plays a crucial role in the body. The large amounts of vitamin B obtained from liver consumption are, therefore, extremely good for the body (if taken in moderation, of course).
A Good Source Of Vitamin C
Vitamin C plays a role in a multitude of bodily functions. It helps to strengthen the body’s immune system, protecting it against many harmful intruders. It also, under more, aids in making collagen, healing wounds, and maintaining strength in the bones and teeth. Liver’s large amount of vitamin C is a strong pro if taken in moderation.
A Good Source of Potassium
Potassium is involved in many critical bodily functions, including the chemical reactions taking place in the body. Potassium aids in transmitting nerve signals and is crucial for contracting muscles and maintaining the body’s fluid balance. Potassium is commonly used to lower blood pressure, prevent strokes, and reduce the risk of kidney stones reoccurring.
A Good Source Of Phosphorus
It might come to you as a surprise, but phosphorus is one of the minerals you have most of in your body, with Calcium being on top. Phosphorus, in combination with Calcium, plays a vital role in keeping your bones and teeth healthy and strong.
Phosphorus also plays a crucial role in nerve and muscle activity. Further, it helps to maintain the pH level in your blood and aids in turning nutrients into energy. Healthy levels of phosphorus in your body are thus of utmost importance.
Is There A Downside To Eating Liver?
Incorporating liver into your diet will, in most cases, hold more health benefits than negative effects. Still, the downside of liver usually only arises when you are overconsuming. Here are some of the negative aspects of overeating liver.
If you are taking medication to lower your cholesterol, eating large amounts of liver might not be healthy. The liver is high in dietary cholesterol and might harm individuals struggling to lower their cholesterol. While many individuals can enjoy such high-cholesterol foods without a second thought, a severe case of cholesterol could lead to heart disease.
Too Much Liver Might Cause Vitamin A Toxicity
Due to liver being so rich in vitamin A, too much liver might cause your body to react badly to an excess of it. Vitamin A intoxication occurs when the human liver is unable to process the excess vitamin A fast enough.
Some effects of this intoxication include nausea, mental status changes, and heightened risks for seizures, headaches, and vision problems. It could cause liver damage, skin changes, bone pain, and pressure on the brain.
Too Much Liver Might Cause Copper Toxicity
Liver is high in copper. Too much copper could have severe complications despite being crucial for bodily functioning. Although chronic copper toxicity is rare, it is possible. Some of the difficulties of copper toxicity include a decrease in blood cells, failure of the kidney, failure of the heart, brain damage, and even death.
Possible Interference With Medication
Vitamin A is known to be quite reactive with some medicine. Some available medications that interact with vitamin A are Orlistat and some psoriasis medications. Since liver is extremely rich in vitamin A, it is always essential to consult a health professional about the possible interaction between your prescription and vitamin A.
In 2017, a concern was brought about regarding detectable levels of antibiotics found in beef liver. The cause was most likely because of the antibiotics given to animals before they were slaughtered. In the case of antibiotics residues present in liver bought today, in most cases, it would not be nearly enough to cause concern.
In the extreme case of high consumption of antibiotic residue, it might cause the body to build resistance against antibiotics. This could lead to allergic reactions, toxicity, and in more severe cases, disruption in embryo development.
Possible Negative Affect On Unborn Babies
Like in most scenarios, moderation is key. While small amounts of liver will mostly be very beneficial for the baby’s growth and development, over-consumption might have some negative consequences for the unborn baby. This is due to the high levels of vitamin A found in liver. An excessive amount of vitamin A could lead to congenital disabilities in the embryo.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Often Should I Eat Liver?
Since every person and all bodies are different, there is no perfect amount of liver to consume in your lifetime. You will be fully capable of a healthy diet with all necessary nutrients without eating liver once in your lifetime. Therefore, there is no such thing as “not enough liver,” but you can definitely consume too much liver, so where should you draw the line?
Some sources warn against eating liver daily. Other sources state that daily liver consumption is acceptable if you sneak small amounts into your food for health benefits. A 100-gram portion of beef liver contains over 800% more vitamin A and over 1500% more copper than the recommended daily intake. Since liver is so rich in a diversity of essential nutrients, eating liver once a week is enough.
It is recommended to consume between 100g and 250g of liver per week, depending on age and sex. In cases where someone is already receiving vitamin A through multivitamins, one’s weekly liver intake should preferably be limited. In this case, closer to or under 100g is recommended to avoid toxicity and other serious health issues.
What Type Of Liver Is Best To Eat?
Nutritional values between the different types of popular liver options vary slightly. Here is the nutritional information for chicken, pork, and beef liver.
- 100 grams of chicken liver has a total of 116 calories. 100g chicken liver contains 16.92g protein, 0g carbohydrates, and 4.83g fat. The cholesterol is 345mg.
- 100 grams of pork liver contains about 134 calories, with each serving of 100g containing 21.39g of protein. Pork liver also contains 2.47g carbs and 3.65g fat. The cholesterol in 100 grams of pork liver is measured at 301mg.
- 100 grams of beef liver has a total of 135 calories. Each serving of beef liver (100g) contains 20.36g protein, 3.89g carbohydrates, and 3.63g fat. It also has 275mg of cholesterol.
Pork and beef liver has more protein and less fat than chicken liver. Chicken livers have no carbohydrates and lower calories than pork or beef liver, which might be why some individuals prefer chicken. In contrast, some might better like pork or beef liver over chicken liver due to the higher cholesterol in chicken liver.
All types of liver are generally extremely rich in nutrients and, therefore, a good food source. Which liver is best to eat depends on your dietary needs and preferences.
Liver is one of the most nutritious food sources. It is inexpensive and readily available in most stores and holds many health benefits for the human body. The liver is high in protein and contains loads of essential vitamins and minerals.
Other than strengthening the immune system and producing energy, many individuals genuinely enjoy the taste of liver. With consuming liver, “the more, the merrier” is unfortunately not the case since too much liver could cause serious health issues.