Conventional dietary wisdom holds that the micronutrients (vitamins, minerals and trace elements) we need from foods are most highly concentrated in fruits and vegetables. While it’s true that fresh fruits and veggies are full of vitamins and minerals, their micronutrient content pales in comparison to what is found in meats and organ meats – especially liver.
The chart below lists the micronutrient content of apples, carrots, red meat and beef liver. Note that every nutrient in red meat except for vitamin C surpasses those in apples and carrots, and every nutrient—including vitamin C—in beef liver occurs in exceedingly higher levels in beef liver compared to apple and carrots. In general, organ meats are between 10 and 100 times higher in nutrients than corresponding muscle meats.
In fact, you might be surprised to learn that in some traditional cultures, only the organ meats were consumed. The lean muscle meats, which are what we mostly eat in the U.S. today, were discarded or perhaps given to the dogs.
A popular objection to eating liver is the belief that the liver is a storage organ for toxins in the body. While it is true that one of the liver’s role is to neutralize toxins (such as drugs, chemical agents and poisons), it does not store these toxins. Toxins the body cannot eliminate are likely to accumulate in the body’s fatty tissues and nervous systems. On the other hand, the liver is a is a storage organ for many important nutrients (vitamins A, D, E, K, B12 and folic acid, and minerals such as copper and iron). These nutrients provide the body with some of the tools it needs to get rid of toxins.
Remember that it is essential to eat meat and organ meats from animals that have been raised on fresh pasture without hormones, antibiotics or commercial feed. Pasture-raised animal products are much higher in nutrients than animal products that come from commercial feedlots. For example, meat from pasture-raised animals has 2-4 times more omega-3 fatty acids than meat from commercially-raised animals. And pasture-raised eggs have been shown to contain up to 19 times more omega-3 fatty acids than supermarket eggs! In addition to these nutritional advantages, pasture-raised animal products benefit farmers, local communities and the environment.
For more information on the incredible nutritional benefits of liver and some suggestions for how to prepare it, click here.
|APPLE (100 g)||CARROTS (100 g)||RED MEAT (100 g)||BEEF LIVER (100 g)|
|Calcium||3.0 mg||3.3 mg||11.0 mg||11.0 mg|
|Phosphorus||6.0 mg||31.0 mg||140.0 mg||476.0 mg|
|Magnesium||4.8 mg||6.2 mg||15.0 mg||18.0 mg|
|Potassium||139.0 mg||222.0 mg||370.0 mg||380.0 mg|
|Iron||.1 mg||.6 mg||3.3 mg||8.8 mg|
|Zinc||.05 mg||.3 mg||4.4 mg||4.0 mg|
|Copper||.04 mg||.08 mg||.18 mg||12.0 mg|
|Vitamin A||None||None||40 IU||53,400 IU|
|Vitamin D||None||None||Trace||19 IU|
|Vitamin E||.37 mg||.11 mg||1.7 mg||.63 mg|
|Vitamin C||7.0 mg||6.0 mg||None||27.0 mg|
|Thiamin||.03 mg||.05 mg||.05 mg||.26 mg|
|Riboflavin||.02 mg||.05 mg||.20 mg||4.19 mg|
|Niacin||.10 mg||.60 mg||4.0 mg||16.5 mg|
|Pantothenic Acid||.11 mg||.19 mg||.42 mg||8.8 mg|
|Vitamin B6||.03 mg||.10 mg||.07 mg||.73 mg|
|Folic Acid||8.0 mcg||24.0 mcg||4.0 mcg||145.0 mcg|
|Biotin||None||.42 mcg||2.08 mcg||96.0 mcg|
|Vitamin B12||None||None||1.84 mcg||111.3 mcg|
Tags: liver, micronutrients, potent, superfood
I always say “liver blows any fruit or vegetable out of the water in terms of nutrient-density” – how nice to have someone else of the same opinion. After numerous tries, my children now eat “kid pate” – made with sauteed apples, bacon, liver, all pureed along with a bit of Rapadura I hope to wean out over time, and cinnamon. They actually really like it on toast, topped with apple slices! Yay!
- Kelly, CNC
You said that red meat surpasses carrots and apples in all nutrients. Based on your data, folic acid is lower in red meat than in both carrots and apples. Vitamin B6 is lower in red meat than in apples. Thiamin in red meat is simply equal to apples. Other than that, your claims seem to be accurate.
However, it’s not really fair to compare things on a weight basis. They also should be compared on a calorie basis. Then, the fruits and vegetables may come out ahead. Let’s see. According to NutritionData, 100g of carrots has 35-41 Calories. 100g of apples 48-51 calories. 100g of beef (15-25% fat) is 215-293 Calories. 100g of beef liver has 135 Calories.
We must also consider how the foods are prepared and the bio-availability of nutrients. Just comparing nutrients by weight doesn’t always tell us the whole story. For example, dark chocolate may have more anti-oxidants per gram than blueberries or red wine, but on a calorie basis it might have less anti-oxidants. Likewise, a food may have more anti-oxidants, but also more pro-oxididants that cancel out the anti-oxidants.
For example, soybean oil might be higher in Vitamin E than Macadamia Oil, or Coconut Oil, but that doesn’t mean it’s better. We must consider all the factors – nutrients per gram, nutrients per calorie, bio-availability, positive and negative effects, etc. It may be that red meat has more bio-availability than ALL plant foods, in which case it would be better to eat a carnivorous diet. Or maybe fruits and vegetables come out ahead sometimes, because they have more nutrients per calorie.
What is your affiliation with the Weston Price Foundation? You refer to the work of Chris Masterjohn, and your first name is Chris. Coincidence, or are you the same person? It’s hard to tell from the blog.
I said “Vitamin B6 is lower in red meat than in apples. Thiamin in red meat is simply equal to apples.”
That should be carrots, not apples. I read the wrong column by mistake. But my main point was still right, that red meat had less of several nutrients on the basis of weight. On a calorie basis, it will look even worse, compared to carrots and apples. And those aren’t really the most nutritient-dense foods, either. Compared to romaine lettuce or something like that, the carrots and apples might look like nutritional light-weights.
Comparing foods by weight can be deceptive, if one food is vastly higher in calories than the other. Like comparing dark chocolate and blueberries. The chocolate may have 10 times as many calories (or more). Comparing things by calories can also be deceptive, if the amounts you would have to eat to get those calories would be unrealistic with a given food. Like comparing a hundred calories of romaine lettuce to 100 calories of butter.
I have no disagreement about the calorie myth. I think what you eat is more important than how many calories (which tends to take care of itself when a person doesn’t eat highly processed food). My point was simply that you can eat lots of vegetables without getting a lot of calories. Some people believe juicing raw vegetables is particularly healthy, but I’m not convinced that the plant toxins and anti-nutrients are safe. Liver is a good food, but most can’t stand to eat it in large amounts or frequently. It’s also possible that a highly carnivorous diet would reduce our need for nutrients.
You say “you would have to eat seven times more carrots than liver to obtain the same amount of vitamin B6. And you would have to eat nearly fifteen times more carrots than liver to get the same amount of iron.” I’m assuming you’re talking about a calorie basis here. Maybe you don’t need much B6 (or other B Vitamins) on a pure meat diet. And maybe it’s not that good to get large amounts of iron from meat. Iron promotes free radicals, lipid peroxidation, and other problems. A high-fat diet would be low in iron, because fat displaces iron. Lean beef has significantly more iron per calorie and gram than fatty beef, for example, because it has more protein.
To compare several foods and say that one is better does create a fallacy, because it suggests that we must choose between eating one or another when we could just as easily add fruits and vegetables, while also eating red meat and liver, perhaps getting cumulative benefits thereby. It should nonetheless be considered that maybe some people would do better on a purely carnivorous, high-fat, very-low-carb diet without any fiber. I’m by no means convinced fruits and vegetables are essential or healthy.
I’m glad you pointed out Chris Masterjohn’s PUFA Report. I’ve been talking with him about PUFAs on another list, and he has changed his position very considerably from what it was several months ago. A lot of information has been presented by Ray Peat that I find valuable, such as the health benefit of keeping PUFAs very low, the toxicity of various plants, etc. Chris makes a good point that the need for PUFAs is inflated by modern diets of processed refined sugars and toxic vegetable oils.
I’ve read Ray Peat’s articles on fats, oils, Vitamin E, and PUFAs. He is a bit extreme about it, basing the diet on foods that are very low in PUFAs, like coconut oil, dairy, red meat, potatoes, honey, fruit, and root vegetables. I think there is a lot of truth to what he is saying, though. Here are some of his key articles, I think, which support a lot of Chris Masterjohn’s points. It is good to read them all, as they build on each other.
I tried to post this in the EFA article, but the site kept rejecting it. Said you had disabled all comments temporarily to prevent spam. I think because of having several links, the software identifies it as spam. I didn’t think it had gone through at all, because the site wouldn’t accept it.
Peat is not against small amounts of omega-3, but he gets it in the form of shellfish and lean fish (cod, white fish, pollock, etc) eating occasionally. The point that he makes is that we should be making more Mead Acid, which is the 20:3 omega-9 PUFA our bodies make (from MUFAs, SFAs, carbs, protein, and so forth). Here’s a good article about Mead Acid.
There are other PUFAs we can make, llike Nervonic Acid, with vital functions in the brain. These fats have not been investigated enough, because all of the attention is on dietary PUFA (omega-3 and omega-6). Mead Acid is less inflammatory than omega-3. In fact, it makes omega-3 look inflammatory by comparison. Peat believes that most of the PUFAs in our bodies should be made by our body. That way, there’s a feedback loop preventing them from building up to toxic levels. Obviously, it’s impossible to avoid omega-6 and omega-3 fats completely, but they can be kept very low (1-4% of calories), without much effort, depending on your total fat intake.
I have just recently read an article where a fellow consumed 5 pounds of carrots daily to treat his cancer.. Would he have been better off adding some liver to his diet?
Max Gerson used to do that, but he stopped recommending the practice for some reason. I think raw liver would be better than 5 pounds of carrots. It would be difficult to consume that many carrots unless you juiced them and carrots are high in sucrose and carbs. What’s the reason for liver juice? It’s not hard to eat raw liver, just swallow without chewing. Stefansson said in one of his articles that the the Eskimos didn’t chew their meat much. A dog won’t chew their food, either. They just gulp it down.
Five pounds of carrots is insane. That’s like half a gallon of juice probably. I agree with you that it’s probably food elimination that provides most of the benefits there. When you stuff yourself with one food, you eat less of other foods. It’s basically like a fast or elimination diet. That’s how those fad diets work like the grape diet, grapefruit diet, cabbage soup diet, etc.
Raw carrots rid the body of estrogen. Drinking carrot juice increases PUFA’s and liver is anti-thyroid. Not that I would recommend eating five pounds a day.
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