Are Organ Meats Healthy? Here is What You Should Know

Once a delicacy, organ meats are slowly making a comeback. Even though they are not a staple, organ meats are full of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients vital for your health.

If you have not got used to the idea of consuming organ meats yet, you’ll be surprised to learn that they are much higher in nutrients than traditional muscle meat.

So, is it worth introducing organ meats to your diet? Read on to discover the benefits and risks of organ meats, and how you can enjoy them more.

What Are Organ Meats?

Organ meats, also known as offal, are animal organs that you can cook and consume as food. They usually come from cows, ducks, pigs, lambs, goats, and chickens.

Although offal isn’t widely popular in Australia and North America, for centuries, organ meats have been the main ingredients in many European and Asian dishes.

"Certain cultures use organ meats to add flavour and nutrients to soups, stews, and patés. Menudo uses tripe, Basque recipes serve tongue in soups, and French recipes make delicious patés."

Lynell Ross, Founder and Managing Editor at Zivadream

The most common organ meats include heart, liver, kidneys, sweetbreads, tripe, and tongue. Some people also eat such animal organs as intestines, brains, and even testicles (usually referred to as “oysters”.)

Even if you find the idea of adding organ meats to your diet a bit off-putting, you shouldn’t overlook their nutritional value. They’re an excellent source of protein, iron, vitamin B2, and folate.

What Are The Different Types of Organ Meats?

While offal gets less attention than some muscle meat, organ meats have a higher concentration of minerals and nutrients than some famous superfoods like broccoli, kale, or spinach.

Depending on where you live, you can commonly come across these types of organ meats:

Liver

Both chicken and beef livers are a great source of nutrients. For example, the chicken liver has only 116 calories, yet it contains twice as much vitamin A and vitamin B12 as the recommended daily value. Vitamin A is known to be beneficial for eye health and fighting against such diseases as Alzheimer’s and arthritis.

Liver is also known for the high amounts of vitamin B6, niacin, pantothenic acid, iron, phosphorus, folic acid, chromium, selenium, and copper. So, it can be good for increasing hemoglobin levels in the blood.

If you prefer beef liver more, here’s what you’ll get from 100 grams (3.5-ounces) of cooked meat: 

  • Calories: 175
  • Protein: 27 grams
  • Vitamin A: 522% of the RDI
  • Vitamin B6: 51% of the RDI
  • Vitamin B12: 1,386% of the RDI
  • Niacin: 87% of the RDI
  • Copper: 730% of the RDI
  • Iron: 34% of the RDI
  • Zinc: 35% of the RDI
  • Riboflavin: 201% of the RDI
  • Selenium: 47% of the RDI

*RDI = Recommended Daily Intake

 

That said, no wonder why liver is considered to be the king of organ meats.

Kidneys

We know the thought of eating kidney meat might not make your mouth water; however, you should still be aware of its nutritional benefits.

Cow kidney contains omega-3 fatty acids and is rich in protein and nutrients. It's known for providing 228% of the daily value recommended for selenium. Thus, eating kidneys can have a very positive effect on your health. They’re also believed to be good for the heart and prevent certain types of cancer.

Heart

Beef heart contains the most CoQ10 than any of the organ meats. It’s also rich in iron, phosphorus, copper, zinc, niacin, selenium, folate as well as vitamins B2, B6, and B12.

Thanks to being an excellent source of coenzyme Q10, heart meat can help prevent heart disease, improve energy levels, and slow down the aging process.

Tongue

Tongue meat has a little bit less nutritional value than other types of offal, yet it’s still very beneficial, especially for those recovering from illness. It’s rich in zinc, choline, iron, and vitamin B12. However, you should also remember that the tongue meat is full of fatty acids and has over 250 calories per serving.

Are organ meats healthy?

Even though organ meats cannot be found in every household yet, they’re sometimes referred to as superfoods. Generally, organ meats have a lot of nutrients vital to our health and have been proven to be useful for preventing certain diseases.

 

Organ meats also contain a significant amount of vitamin A, especially liver. Although vitamin A is critical during pregnancy, its excessive intakes can cause severe congenital disabilities. So, if you’re taking supplements containing vitamin A, you should monitor your intake of organ meats closely.

Benefits of Adding Organ Meats to Your Diet

Although it might be hard to get over the mental fact of consuming organ meats, they have a lot of advantages not only for your health but also for your wallet. Here are a few of them:

1. Great source of vitamins A & B

Vitamin A is a potent antioxidant, and offal contains a lot of it. It can support your immune system, maintain skin and eye health as well as protect from some diseases associated with inflammation.

Organ meats provide you with such types of vitamin B as vitamin B12, niacin, vitamin B6, riboflavin. All of them can help you lower the risk of getting heart disease. Plus, offal meat high in vitamin B can contribute to keeping your brain healthy.

2. Keeps you feeling full longer

Since organ meats are rich in protein, they can reduce your appetite and make you feel fuller. A high-protein diet is also known for boosting your metabolism and promoting weight loss.

3. Excellent source of iron

Unlike the non-heme iron from plant foods, your body better absorbs the heme iron found in organ meats. Iron is also responsible for the creating of your hemoglobin-filled blood cells.

4. Helps build and retain muscle mass

Protein is one of the primary nutrients that contribute to tissue growth and repair. So, if you want to build muscle mass and preserve it, organ meats can provide you with a lot of high-quality protein.

5. Easy on your wallet

Since organ meats aren’t as popular as other types of meat, you can usually find them for a much lower price. Plus, by consuming offal, you can contribute to reducing food waste.

How to Eat More Organ Meats & Enjoy Them

Before you start incorporating offal into your diet, first make sure you’re buying high-quality grass-fed organ meats sourced by farms that apply organic practices. It’ll make it easier for you to enjoy dishes with offal as well as prevent any risks from consuming grain-fed organ meats.

Start small

There’s definitely a mental aspect to get over when eating organ meats. If ingesting organ meat isn’t part of your culture or how you grew up, trying to eat, it can turn into a mind game. If you’re just getting started, organic chicken livers are a great place to start. They’re very mild tasting and easy to prepare. Saute some garlic and onion with olive oil and add the chicken livers and pan-fry them until they’re cooked. Heart meat from cows or other ungulates (i.e., wild game) is another mild-tasting organ option. I recommend slicing thin, dredging in flour and spices, and pan-frying. Liver is the most nutritious of the organ meats, but it also has a distinct flavour and texture that doesn’t appeal to everyone. The liver served with caramelized onions is a popular option.”

Melanie Musson, Lifestyle Writer for QuickQuote.com

Let someone else prepare them

To enjoy organ meats, it can be best to order them from a restaurant menu. Organ meats are not like a steak or a chop -- most need some specific prep techniques and TLC to remain tender. Kidneys, for example, have a tough membrane in the centre that needs to be removed. Kidneys and sweetbreads both need to be soaked for several hours, or they'll have an unpleasant taste. Improperly prepared organ meats probably account for much of people's aversion to them. For example, when prepared well, sweetbreads are delicious (they’re my personal favourite, but I only have them at the restaurants.)

Keith-Thomas Ayoob, EdD, RD, FAND, Associate Clinical Professor Emeritus, Albert Einstein College of Medicine

Don’t be afraid to experiment

The easiest way to incorporate organ meats into your diet is simply to substitute them for the meat components in other dishes. So if you enjoy eating Bolognese once a week, swap out the beef for some ground-up liver or kidney. I know it sounds strange, but you’ll be surprised by how similar they taste. I also like to incorporate organ meats into soups with other, more traditional meats. The organ parts blend in, and you can’t even tell they’re there!

Heloise Blaure, Founder of HomeKitchenLand

Open your mind

The first step is simply to understand that a whole-animal approach to eating is absolutely natural and healthy and that your initial fear or disgust around organ meats is arbitrary and learned, not inherent. Throughout human history, and to this day around the world, humans enjoy, benefit from, and even covet, offal. And while some organs are more challenging to eat and have stronger flavours that may be unfamiliar, many are surprisingly mild and even decadent. Heart, for example, is just another muscle (much like your steak) and, when prepared properly, has a delicious, steak-like flavour and texture. Sweetbreads (the thymus gland of a cow or lamb) have a mild, creamy flavour and tastes delicious when fried. Chicken liver makes a nutritious and rich pâté that goes excellently on a charcuterie board. The best way to open your mind—and palate—to these types of cuts is to start small: go for chicken hearts and livers, as they’re easy to find and cook and mild tasting, and consider buying (or making your own) a combination of ground heart and beef for burgers or sausages—you’ll find you don’t even taste the organ at all, but you’re getting the health benefits all the same.

Kristin Zamani, Senior Publicist at Victory Belt Publishing

Try organ meat supplements

If you can’t get over the idea of eating organs of animals but still want to try adding them to your diet, you should consider supplements made from organ meats. For example, we offer a wide range of grass-fed supplements that can help you reap the benefits of organ meats without having to deal with the preparation. Check out delicious recipes you can follow using our organ meat supplements.

The Bottom Line

Organ meats have very high nutritional value. They're rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that might be hard to find in other foods.

Including offal into your diet can help you get more nutritional value for much cheaper. Plus, there are a lot of delicious dishes you can prepare with organ meats that can satisfy even the pickiest taste buds.