Eating the organs of animals is quite popular throughout the world, but many Americans find the idea to be unpleasant. Perhaps that is because of a lack of exposure to organ meats or a memory of a badly cooked meal. Either way, adding organ meats to your regular diet can give you a significant healthy boost.
While some of these following meats aren’t actually organs but muscle, they tend to be lumped into the same category.
One of the most common true organ meats is the liver, and if you were to only eat one type of organ, this should be it. The liver is not only loaded with nutrients, but is a source of certain ones you probably struggle to get through other foods.
You may have already heard that liver is an incredible source of vitamin A. Retinol, a form of vitamin A from animal products, is a major reason for eating liver. Approximately four ounces of beef liver gives you more than 1,600 percent of the daily recommended intake of this vitamin. In addition to vitamin A you also get major doses of B vitamins. Don’t forget about the iron, folate and other nutrients as well!
There is some concern that the liver can be a source of toxins, since one part of the many jobs this organ performs is filtering blood and detoxification of chemicals. This risk of this happening is quite low, but it’s a good idea to eat the highest quality liver possible — meaning livers from livestock that were not factory farmed. (Recommended: “Liver: The Underappreciated Superfood Of Yesteryear.”)
Recipes for cooking liver:
- Easy Beef Liver and Onion Recipe
- Beef Liver with Fig, Bacon and Caramelized Onions
- Chicken Livers with Onions and Mushrooms
- Pan Fried Chicken Livers with Garlic and Shallots
Just like the liver, the kidneys are a great source of vitamin A. Kidneys do have less vitamin A compared to liver (close to about half) but are still higher than most foods. Kidneys provide a nice boost of iron, as well — about five grams in a serving. Finally, these organs are a great source of vitamin B12 — at least 300 percent more than the daily recommended intake, depending on the type of kidney.
Recipes for cooking kidney:
Less often consumed is the heart. Of course, the heart is a muscle but it offers nutrients more similar to organ meats than muscle meats. Aside from that, heart is considered offal so it’s often lumped into the category of organs.
Beef heart is high in protein and a very rich meat. It is particularly high in vitamin B12 and iron (notice a pattern here?). A three-ounce portion of beef heart will provide roughly 200 percent of the daily recommend intake of B12. Ironically, B12 is an important vitamin for cardiovascular health. As for iron, you can expect to get about 50 percent of your recommended intake if you are a man or about 22 percent if you are woman.
Most people tend to find that heart has a very strong flavor, particularly beef heart. If you know you don’t like beef heart, then give the milder chicken hearts a try before writing off this meat altogether.
Recipes for cooking heart:
A final muscle that isn’t an organ but often lumped into the same category is the tongue. Beef tongue is quite the delicacy in other parts of the world, such as Japan where you can find beef tongue-flavored savory snacks.
Since the tongue is high in fat it isn’t as tricky to cook and is quite versatile in how it can be prepared. The downside is that tongue isn’t as packed with nutrients as the other organs/meats. In comparison to the other meats mentioned, beef tongue only has 12 percent of the recommended iron daily intake and 22 percent for B12. Despite this, tongue is still a nice addition to add variety to your diet. Plus, it is usually quite cheap!
Recipes for cooking tongue:
If you truly dislike the taste of offal or organ meats, then don’t feel like you have to force yourself to eat them. However, there are many recipes out there that may work for you.
Do you enjoy organ meats or offal meats? Please share your tips for cooking up these meats in the comment section below.