Photo courtesy of Tracey Grant on Instagram.
What if there was a food that could fulfill your resolutions to eat healthy, try something new and help your body get the proper balance of vitamins and nutrients?
Well, we have some not-so-offal news for you: Incorporating organ meats — also known as offal (pronounced aw-ful) — in your regular eating plan can check all of those boxes.
Organ meats — most commonly the liver, heart and kidney of various animals — are like nature’s often-overlooked multivitamin, says Tracey Grant, a registered dietitian at Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Centers.
“Organ meats are incredibly nutrient-dense, not to mention generally more affordable than the typical cuts of meat we are used to consuming,” says Grant, who includes organ meats in her eating plan.
They are capable of providing plentiful amounts of nutrients, such as B vitamins, phosphorus, iron, magnesium, potassium and zinc, as well as fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K, and the essential fatty acids EPA and DHA.
While eating organ meats may not be anything new for older adults who were exposed to them growing up, Grant believes many younger adults have never had or considered eating offal, but they should, if just for access to one critical nutrient.
“Beef liver, for instance, has a higher percentage of vitamin A than any other food, which is essential for healthy vision, immunity and reproduction,” she says. “It is commonly thought that beta carotene, found in many vegetables, is the same as vitamin A. In reality, beta carotene is a precursor that must be converted to vitamin A, a process which is very inefficient in adults.”
Grant says there are minimal downsides to eating organ meats.
“Unless you are eating several ounces of liver on a daily basis during pregnancy, then there are no major concerns,” Grant says. “Organ meats do tend to be higher in cholesterol and saturated fat, but according to recent research, neither of these factors is of major concern for heart disease. If you have gout, you may consider limiting your consumption of offal due to the high purine content.”
If you’re considering trying organ meats, Grant advises to first experiment by mixing small amounts into recipes such as chili, meatloaf, stews and burgers to mask the taste. She also says chicken liver has a milder flavor than beef liver, and may be a good starting point.
Grant suggests trying her recipes below to include the nutritional powerhouse of organ meats into your regular eating plan.
Beef and Liver Meatballs
Yields 16 meatballs
1 pound ground beef and liver mix (available at many farmers markets)
1 teaspoon pink Himalayan salt
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried sage
Heat oven to 425° F. In a small bowl, mix the seasonings until combined. Transfer seasoning mixture to a large bowl and add the meat. Mix well to combine, but avoid over-mixing.
Portion the mixture into 16 meatballs. Bake 12 minutes, or until internal temperature reaches 165° F. Serve and enjoy.
Chicken Liver Pate
Yields 6 to 8 servings
1 pound chicken livers, whole
1/4 cup grass-fed butter, ghee or coconut oil
1/2 cup leek greens or green onions, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons fresh sage, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, stems removed and finely chopped
2 whole cloves fresh garlic, peeled
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
In a medium skillet over medium, heat 2 tablespoons of butter or oil. When hot, add chicken livers. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes, until no longer pink in the middle.
In a food processor, pulse together leek greens (or green onions), sage, thyme, garlic, salt and apple cider vinegar. Add cooked chicken livers and process until very smooth. Add in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter or oil and pulse to combine. Transfer to a serving dish and enjoy with fresh, sliced vegetables.
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