We eat differently in America.
Our diet may not seem so very strange to us (because we all eat this way, and very few of us travel abroad and discover that people generally eat somewhat differently than we do). I know that I never thought that I ate strangely. I loved my pizza (with a can of Pepsi every Sunday, a once-a-week treat), mac-and-cheese, and pastas. When I was young, we didn’t eat out much because it was expensive for a family of seven, but as I got older I started to add more and more fast food to my menu. I loved anything that involved ice cream or coffee (or anything that blended the two together — I love you, Beef-a-Roo mocha shake!) When I felt like eating “healthy”, I would go to Panera Bread and get a soup bowl or to Happy Wok and enjoy some MSG-smothered sesame chicken.
Eventually, I married my husband, who is from Eastern Europe, and this introduced me to a few new foods; delicious foods like cevapcici (little meat rolls), pita and burek (meats or cheese wrapped in dough and curled into a snail shape, drenched in oils), baklava (yum!), and delicious fresh breads and desserts like kifle and krempita (and don’t forget my personal fave, hurmasica, which is a cookie-like roll that is soaked in a sugary lemon syrup until the entire cake is saturated with sweetness). I loved these “ethnic” foods. I was really branching out in my diet now!
Problem is, these foods weren’t extremely healthy for me either. Many of these foods are smothered in fats and fried (fats as in trans fats, not the good kind, although baklava IS smothered in butter — I knew there was a reason I loved it so much 😉 ) And really, this wasn’t always the traditional Balkan diet either.
Now that we’re on GAPS and I’ve been introducing some really “strange” foods into our diet, there are things (like liver) that I have to choke down; meanwhile, my husband is smiling, “This reminds me of home!” as he chows down on cabbage soup and sautéed liver and onions. Recently he even commented on how similar the GAPS Diet is to the diet that he grew up with.
Foods like fermented vegetables, cultured dairy and “superfoods” like liver have always played a part in traditional cultures; only in recent times have we began to get away from these nourishing foods. The result is an epidemic of very unhealthy people. Perhaps it’s time that we revisited the diet of our grandparents.
The Benefits of Eating Liver
Liver has been called a “powerhouse of nutrition”, and it truly is. It’s interesting to note that in many traditional cultures, only the organ meats were consumed, where the lean meats that we tend to eat today were reserved for animals like dogs or were thrown out. Liver and other organ meats were highly prized and were given to the sick, the pregnant, and the young.
Liver is full of nutrients like vitamins A, D, E, K, B12 and folic acid, and minerals such as copper and iron. In general, organ meats have 10 to 100 times the nutrients of the corresponding muscle meats. (For a comparison of liver versus other foods, see the chart at the end of this article.)
Often, people are concerned about eating liver because the liver is responsible for filtering toxins in the body, and they worry that they will acquire more toxins by eating a “toxic” liver. While it is true that the liver is responsible for filtering toxins, it does not store these toxins. One of the best ways to support YOUR healthy liver is by eating liver.
Of course, the most nutritious liver comes from animals that are grass fed, raised without the use of synthetic hormones, antibiotics or commercial feed. It is essential to only eat organ meats from animals that were raised this way to obtain the most nutritional value.
For more information about the benefits of regular eating liver, please refer to the following excellent articles:
Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride recommends the following regarding eating liver:
- A child needs a small amount, 1-2 Tbs. of cooked ground liver every other day (which can be mixed with other foods), or a full liver meal once a week
- An adult should eat a full liver meal at least once a week
She states that eating “some liver on a regular basis will do immeasurably more for [a GAPS patient’s] nutritional status than the best and the most expensive supplements in the world”.
So, I bet you’re just dying to run out and buy some organic, grassfed liver right now, right?
Unfortunately, despite the fact that we know that liver is so ridiculously healthy for us, there is one thing that makes us hesitate slightly: the taste.
Despite the fact that my husband consumes liver like it’s going out of style, I must admit that I still have to choke it down. The thing that motivates me, however, is I know how much liver can help to nourish my body and rebuild health in my boys. So, I keep trying new recipes and looking for better ways to cook liver. I will be sharing some of these recipes with you this week.
One way to get liver into your diet regularly is to cook it up ahead of time in the following way:
I take a pound or two of liver (chicken, beef, whatever I have available; always organic, always grass fed or pastured). I put a tablespoon or two of ghee or butter in a large frying pan and slowly cook the liver over low-medium heat. I add a little fresh lemon juice squeezed over top of the liver to help neutralize the flavor somewhat. I brown the liver (with the insides still just slightly pink), and when it is finished, I allow it to cool a little.
After it is cooler, I put the whole mixture into my blender and puree it. Then, I put it in my freezer in a container (or you could even put it into individual molds into 1-2 Tbs. portions). If I’ve froze it together in one big batch, after it is frozen I take it out and bust it into little pieces (about 2-3 Tbs. sized portions). Then I store these in baggies in my freezer and add them to different soups I’m making. Honestly, you can’t even tell that there’s liver hidden in the soup, and it’s a great way to get extra nutrition in everyone without the fight over how the liver tastes.
I’ve said before that eating healthy doesn’t have to mean sacrificing taste. Often, I find that real food actually has more flavor and color and appeal than much of the junk food I used to find so irresistible. This can even be true with the “nutritional powerhouse”, liver! You may find that the food that you once ran from is now something that you look forward to eating. Even if you don’t add it to your top ten most beloved foods, you’ll find that your body will thank you for eating it.
Eat liver regularly, and enjoy it, too!
The following chart compares the nutritional value of three foods compared to beef liver (the last column).
|per 100g||APPLE||CARROT||RED MEAT|
|Calcium||3.0 mg||3.3 mg||11.0 mg||11.0 mg|
|Phosphorus||6.0 mg||31.0 mg||140.0 mg||476.0 mg|
|Magnesium||4.8 mg||6.2 mg||15.0 mg||18.0 mg|
|Potassium||139.0 mg||222.0 mg||370.0 mg||380.0 mg|
|Iron||.1 mg||.6 mg||3.3 mg||8.8 mg|
|Zinc||.05 mg||.3 mg||4.4 mg||4.0 mg|
|Copper||.04 mg||.08 mg||.18 mg||12.0 mg|
|Vitamin A||None||None||40 IU||53,400 IU|
|Vitamin D||None||None||Trace||19 IU|
|Vitamin E||.37 mg||.11 mg||1.7 mg||.63 mg|
|Vitamin C||7.0 mg||6.0 mg||None||27.0 mg|
|Thiamin||.03 mg||.05 mg||.05 mg||.26 mg|
|Riboflavin||.02 mg||.05 mg||.20 mg||4.19 mg|
|Niacin||.10 mg||.60 mg||4.0 mg||16.5 mg|
|Pantothenic Acid||.11 mg||.19 mg||.42 mg||8.8 mg|
|Vitamin B6||.03 mg||.10 mg||.07 mg||.73 mg|
|Folic Acid||8.0 mcg||24.0 mcg||4.0 mcg||145.0 mcg|
|Biotin||None||.42 mcg||2.08 mcg||96.0 mcg|
|Vitamin B12||None||None||1.84 mcg||111.3 mcg|