Is organ meat really good for you?
In short – YES. Sometimes.
I give the “sometimes” caveat because, as with all animal products, you want to be looking for grass-fed, pasture-raised, wild-caught, game meat, etc.
All of those “hippie” phrases on the food labels these days truly do make a difference; they literally change the micro & macronutrient profiles of the animal meat.
But think about it: people didn’t know what a “premium” cut of meat was until very recently in our species’ existence.
Before that, we had to eat nose-to-tail. And those animals certainly weren’t raised in stockyards or factory farms.
Why should you eat more organ meat?
There’s a slew of nutrients in grass-fed / pasture raised organ meats that you’re not going to get in such high concentrations anywhere else.
Even when comparing organs to other parts of the animal, the organs outrank skeletal muscle when it comes to nutrient density.
So what are the all-star nutrients that make organ meat so stellar?
Let’s dive into it.
The Top Nutrients in Organ Meat & What They Do
This is an enzyme that works as an antioxidant in the body.
The phrase “antioxidants” has turned into a bit of a buzzword, but they’re vital to our longevity & wellbeing.
Antioxidants work to get rid of oxidative stress in the body.
When our cells are working to provide our bodies with energy, they go through a process called respiration. Similar to how we breathe, cellular respiration brings in certain compounds and pushes out others.
Some of the byproducts of cellular respiration are called free radicals, and these can cause damage to the body if they’re not dealt with once they’re in the blood stream.
On top of cellular respiration, free radicals can also come from environmental stressors.
Air pollution, poor food choices, emotional stress – these all release compounds in the body that result in free radicals in the blood stream.
By having a higher antioxidant count in the body, we’re better able to maintain cell health & a youthful appearance due to better cell function.
Yes, you read that right: oxidative stress is what causes cell aging, and cell aging is directly related to how “young” you look. More free radical control = better chances of fighting the signs of aging.
So, back to CoQ10.
CoQ10 is one of the body’s necessary antioxidants for heart health. And you’ll find a BUNCH of it in organ meat – specifically beef heart.
This one’s easy to remember: CoQ10 benefits the heart, so eat heart to get it through your diet. Pretty cool!
When you see this word, think one thing: brain function.
Choline is an amino acid that helps the body to build synapses between brain cells. This means it literally connects the brain cells’ communication centers to talk to one another more effectively.
Choline is also a piece of the neurotransmitter, acetylcholine.
Acetylcholine is responsible for the transmission of information between brain cells – so if you’ve got enough of it, you’re probably functioning in a super-focused state.
You’ll know if your body is creating more acetylcholine by how productive you become.
And when you combine the benefits of choline by itself with the benefits of acetylcholine as a neurotransmitter, you’ll feel unstoppable.
Ingesting choline means you’re both:
Creating better infrastructure for communication between brain cells (in the synapses) AND
Releasing a hormone that makes you more focused on the task at hand
Yeah… this sounds like something everyone should be getting more of.
Organ meats have some of the highest concentrations of natural choline out there, in the high ranks with egg yolks.
When you eat organ meat, you’re literally feeding your brain function. Pretty cool!
This is known as the sunshine vitamin, but you can actually get vitamin D from organ meat as well!
This is likely due to the fact that the liver activates vitamin D (3) when your skin is exposed to the sun. So, it makes sense why liver would have vitamin D left over in this “production facility” from the animal you harvest the organ from.
Having enough vitamin D intake is crucial to serotonin production (the “happy hormone”), but it is also actually wildly beneficial for sleep.
Doc Parsley talks about this at length on his website - but for some reason, most sleep remedies fail to address this.
And with up to 37% of Americans deficient in vitamin D (1), this could be a major reason why we all seem to sleep poorly, too.
Higher amino acid concentration
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein.
Basically, if you have more of them – especially the branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) – you’re more likely to replenish your body’s used proteins.
People with more BCAAs in their diets tend to recover faster from workouts, feel less muscle soreness, prevent muscle wasting, and even help improve liver health (2).
While any meat you eat is going to have amino acids & protein in it, organ meat in particular has a higher amino acid concentration than regular skeletal muscle.
Remember: the difference here is that amino acids are pieces of protein. So the benefit of eating these versus full protein molecules is their ability to rebuild muscles & other body parts without first having to be broken down.
When it comes to the type of amino acids – those BCAAs I mentioned earlier are in a shape that’s easiest for the body to assimilate. That’s why you’ll see these as a popular supplement in stores.
The benefits of vitamin B12 are highlighted in this article, but a brief synopsis:
Vitamin B12 is vital to our cells’ function. It provides energy to our cells as a crucial piece of the methylation cycle for ATP production. Too little B12 in the body results in XXX anemia.
There are several different types of vitamin B12, but the most notable are:
Cyanocobalamin – This is the synthetic version that you’ll see in most supplements. Only about ½ of the American population can actually metabolize & use this form. This is due to the common MTHFR genetic mutation that makes methylation harder for those who have it. It also produces a slight amount of cyanide when it’s broken down, thanks to that cyano- piece of the molecule. Fun fact: the MTHFR genetic mutation is so prevalent because it’s what helped people survive the Bubonic plague in its heyday.
Methylcobalamin – This is the naturally-occurring, bioavailable version of vitamin B12. Those with the MTHFR genetic mutation can process & synthesize it, therefore actually benefitting from what B12 is supposed to do in the body.
Any guesses which version of vitamin B12 is plentiful in organ meats?
Not only is there methylcobalamin in abundance in organ meat, there’s even more in organ meats than compared to other cuts of red meat.
Those organs just keep beating out other meats for that nutrient density!
These polyunsaturated fats have been a buzz word for a few years. But what exactly are omega-3s?
Well, I kind of just explained it: they’re highly anti-inflammatory polyunsaturated fats.
Having a ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 that’s as close to 1:1 as possible has been shown to improve many health markers, including heart & brain function.
Omega-3s can be found in grass-fed, wild-caught, or game meats in higher percentages than in conventionally-farmed animals. This is likely due to the increased stress & ill diet of factory-farmed meat.
But when it comes to organ meat, you’ve probably guessed it: there are even more omega-3’s in there than there are in the skeletal muscle of any animal.
Add that to the list of anti-inflammatory benefits from organ meat!
This has been a fan favorite of mine for a while, and I talked about it on my review of Vital Proteins’ Spirulina.
Vitamin A has proven anti-acne benefits, and acne has been a HUGE issue for me since I hit puberty.
Besides the skin benefits, vitamin A is also the key player in carrots that makes them good for your eyes.
It also behaves as an antioxidant in the body and plays a crucial role in immune health & brain function.
Beyond all of that, it’s also needed for optimal heart, kidney, and lung function and can be found in… you guessed it! Those same organs from grass-fed animals.
This makes sense, since animal organs need them to function as well. So, there would naturally be vitamin A stored in their organs for use.
And if they’re not using it anymore… you can!
How to eat more organ meat
There’s actually a whole section of recipes on this website to help you make organ meat tastier. You can check those out here.
There’s really no “method” to eating more organ meat other than prioritizing it by throwing it into your meal rotation. Try some new stuff.
I’d also recommend you make sure it comes from a grass-fed or pasture-raised source. That’s the only way to make sure the fatty pieces aren’t filled with artificial hormones & cortisol.
And if you can, get them from a local butcher at a farmer’s market.
But I also know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea… or plate of meat?
And not everyone has access to those local, grass-fed options.
The cool thing is that one of my favorite companies, Paleovalley, has a Grass-Fed Organ Meat Complex supplement that can help you get the benefits of eating organ meat without all the hassle!
This is one of the few supplement companies I trust, and I’ve already witnessed the benefits of taking this supplement myself for a few months.
If you don’t like to eat organ meat, or don’t have access to it, check out this stuff. The folks running Paleovalley are the biggest “ingredient snobs” I’ve ever met… and that’s a great thing!
Have you tried organ meat before? What was the thing that surprised you the most about it after reading this article?
I’d love to hear from you – let me know in the comments!
(1) Naheem, Z. (2010). Vitamin D deficiency - an ignored epidemic. International Journal of Health Science. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3068797/
(2) Van De Walle, G. (2018), 5 proven benefits of BCAAs (branched-chain amino acids). Healthline. Retrieved from: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/benefits-of-bcaa
(3) Ponchon, G., Kennan, A. L., DeLUca, H. F. (1969). “Activation” of vitamin D by the liver. The Journal of Clinical Investigation. doi: 10.1172/JCI106168