Beef liver is a nutritious food item naturally high in protein, vitamins, nutrients, and minerals. The nutritional properties of beef liver can benefit the immune system, tissue repair, and energy production.
However, it can also carry some health risks. People may also not enjoy its unique flavor, but they can prepare certain dishes to help disguise its flavor.
This article will discuss the nutritional information of beef liver, its health benefits and risks, and some recipes for people to consider.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture’s FoodData Central database, per 100 grams (g), beef liver contains:
A small amount of beef liver can provide more than the Daily Value for many essential nutrients and typically contains more vitamins than many fruits and vegetables.
Beef liver is an organ meat from cows. Some people may also refer to it as offal or variety meats.
These terms typically refer to the internal organs and entrails of animals that a butcher may discard after preparing them. Offal can also include the heart, kidneys, and tongue.
Some cultures may not eat offal, while others consume it regularly and may consider it a delicacy.
Similar to human liver, beef liver is an essential organ for the cow, and it performs multiple important functions. Some of these vital functions involve metabolism, detoxification, and the storage of vitamins and minerals, which is why liver is so nutrient dense.
Among organ meats, animal livers typically contain the highest protein content and best amino acid profile. They are also great sources of vitamin A and B vitamins.
In fact, due to its nutritional benefits, some people may refer to beef liver as a superfood.
Beef liver is nutrient dense and has numerous health benefits. In addition to their good vitamin profile, animal livers such as beef liver are also rich in minerals, including zinc, iron, phosphorus, selenium, and copper.
Meat products are also good sources of complete protein, as they contain all the essential amino acids. Liver has the highest protein content of all organ meats.
Therefore, eating a balanced diet that contains beef liver can provide many health benefits and help support the immune system, the nervous system, growth, development, and reproductive health.
The recommended amount of liver consumption is in the range of 100–250 g per week, depending on a person’s age and sex.
The risks associated with eating beef liver include consuming too much vitamin A, ingesting copper, and absorbing antibiotics present in the liver.
Beef liver is a good source of vitamin A. Although vitamin A is essential for good health, a person can consume too much of it and risk vitamin A toxicity, or hypervitaminosis A.
Beef liver is also rich in copper. Again, although it is important for health, consuming too much copper can result in copper toxicity.
One 2017 article notes that beef liver may sometimes contain detectable levels of antibiotics, which could be hazardous to human health. This could be due to animals receiving antibiotics close to the time of their slaughter.
Many people may avoid eating beef liver due to health concerns, including cholesterol, toxicity, and an overload of iron.
Due to the liver naturally producing cholesterol, beef liver contains roughly 274 mg of cholesterol per 100 g, making it a high cholesterol food. Due to this, many people may wish to avoid eating it.
Some people may wish to avoid eating liver due to the role it plays in a living organism: detoxification.
Although it is true that the liver has an important function in filtering toxins, it does not store them. Instead, the liver stores many important nutrients, which can actually help the body remove toxins.
However, people should try to eat beef liver in moderation, as consuming too much of it could result in vitamin A and copper toxicity.
Certain people may wish to consider avoiding or minimizing their consumption of beef liver, as it may interact with other health factors or issues they have.
Liver contains large amounts of vitamin A. Although this vitamin is important for fetal development, high doses of vitamin A can have adverse effects. This is primarily a concern for pregnant people in developed countries, who generally have higher vitamin A intakes.
An excess of vitamin A can have teratogenic effects, such as malformation in the nervous and cardiovascular systems of the fetus, as well as spontaneous abortion.
Therefore, it is advisable for pregnant people to limit or avoid foods high in vitamin A, such as beef liver.
This is because liver is high in purines, which break down into uric acid. Having high levels of uric acid can cause a gout episode.
People can prepare beef liver in a number of ways. For example, people can use it like other cuts of beef but include flavors that may help disguise the liver’s unique taste.
If a person does not wish to consume beef liver directly but would like to include it in their diet, they can consider taking beef liver supplements.
These are typically available in capsule form, and they may provide a convenient way for people to include beef liver in their diet.
Beef liver is a nutrient dense food that is also high in protein and low in calories. As a result, it may provide a number of potential health benefits, such as supporting the immune and nervous systems.
However, because it is so rich in certain vitamins, people may experience toxicity if they eat too much of it. It may not also be suitable for pregnant people or those with gout.
Therefore, if people do decide to eat beef liver, it is advisable that they eat it in moderation.
How to Prepare Liver
An easy way to mask the taste of liver is to cover it with milk in a bowl and let it soak for 30 minutes to an hour before cooking. The milk proteins will draw out the bitterness for a milder flavor.
The classic way to serve liver is to pan-fry it with onions. Adding beef or chicken stock and letting it simmer add flavor to the dish, which will mask some of that meats flavor if needed.Â And some bacon slices on top punch up the flavor profile even more.
Another way to add liver to your menu is to grind or puree it in a good processor. From here, you can make a spread to serve with crackers or bread or add it to ground beef for burgers or meatballs.
You can find liver supplements in capsule form in stores that carry vitamins and nutritional products. Theyre usually made from beef liver, but chicken liver supplements are available as well. If you want the benefits of eating liver without the need to prepare the meat or the taste, the benefits of liver supplements may be the solution for you.
All varieties of liver are loaded with protein, minerals, and vitamins combined with relatively low amounts of calories. But this type of meat does have high levels of cholesterol and fat. Some of these nutrients can cause health problems at very high levels, especially if youre pregnant or have certain health conditions. Check with your doctor before adding it to your diet and eat it in moderation.
What is the healthiest liver to eat?
Different types of liver vary in the amounts of specific nutrients each one offers. But beef liver benefits your diet with the highest levels of most vitamins and minerals overall.
Who Should Avoid Eating Liver?
While liver is an excellent source of many nutrients, eating it can lead to health problems for certain people. Talk to your doctor before you add liver to your diet if you:
- Are pregnant. Taking in very high levels of vitamin A during pregnancy has been linked to birth defects.
- Have gout. Liver is high in purines, substances that can raise your levels of uric acid and cause gout.
- Have Wilson disease. With this condition, your body cant get rid of excess copper, so it can build up to toxic levels quickly.
- Have type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol. Eating liver or other organ meats may raise your risk of fatty liver disease.
Dangers of Eating Liver
The same vitamins and minerals that make liver so nutritionally potent can create complications for people with certain medical conditions. Thats why you should checkÂ with your doctor before you start eating a lot more of it.
Here are some possible drawbacks of eating large amounts of liver:
High cholesterol.Â Liver is high in dietary cholesterol. While many people can eat high-cholesterol foods without a problem, people trying to lower their cholesterol or who take cholesterol medications should watch their intake. Getting too much cholesterol can increase your risk of heart disease.
Vitamin A toxicity.Â Its possible, and dangerous, to getÂ too much vitamin A. Eating large amounts of liver can lead to symptoms of vitamin A toxicity, which happens when your own liver cant process the excess vitamin A quickly enough. Most doctors recommend that people without vitamin deficiencies eat just one serving of liver per week.
Symptoms of vitamin A toxicity include nausea and vomiting, headache, irritability, and sleepiness.Â Taking in high levels of vitamin A over time can also weaken your bones and make it more likely that youll have a fracture.
Copper toxicity. Beef liver contains more copper than any other food. A 3-ounce serving has 12,400 micrograms or more than 1,300% of your recommended daily intake. Your body normally gets rid of excess copper you take in efficiently,Â so its rare to have dangerous levels of this mineral in your body. But it can happen if:
- You take in high amounts of it through food over time.
- The pipes that supply your water leech copper into your drinking water.
- You have a condition known as Wilson disease, in which your liver stores copper instead of releasing it.
Symptoms of copper toxicity include nausea, belly pain, vomiting, and diarrhea. Severe cases can cause liver damage and death.
Because liver is so high in both vitamin A and copper, most doctors recommend that people without vitamin deficiencies eat just one serving per week.
Antibiotics and antibiotic resistance. Different antibiotics are given to livestock animals to both treat and prevent bacterial infections.Â Although there are regulations that govern their use, some of these antibiotics can be taken in by humans when they eat the meat or eggs from these animals.Â Because the liver is the organ that filters and removes substances from the blood, the buildup of these drugs is likely to be higher in this type of meat.
Antibiotics present in food may cause:
- Allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis
- Heart problems
- Sensitivity to light
- Developmental issues in unborn babies
Medication interactions.Â Some medications are known to interact with vitamin A. Because liver is rich in vitamin A, anyone on medications such as orlistat or certain psoriasis medications should talk to their doctor before adding liver to their diet.
Amount Per 3 oz (85 g)
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