Beef Liver Benefits, Nutrition, Side Effects and How to Use - Dr. Axe

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Beef Liver Benefits: A Nutritional Powerhouse That Supports the Whole Body


Beef liver - Dr. Axe

Beef liver, an “offal” organ meat, might not be the most glamorous cut, but it packs a serious nutritional punch. This nutrient-rich organ meat has been enjoyed for centuries in various cultures worldwide and is experiencing a resurgence in popularity due to its impressive health profile.

So, before you turn your nose up, let’s delve in to the world of beef liver and explore its potential benefits and drawbacks.

What Is Beef Liver?

Beef liver is exactly what it sounds like: the liver of a cow. It’s an organ meat, categorized alongside other offal options like kidneys, hearts and sweetbreads. While not everyone’s cup of tea due to its strong flavor and texture, beef liver boasts a remarkable concentration of vitamins, minerals and other essential nutrients.

Other popular types of liver include chicken liver and fish liver, and you can also find mutton, lamb, goat, duck, goose and pork liver, among others.

Nutrition Facts

A three-ounce serving of braised beef liver (about 85 grams) contains approximately:

  • Calories: 162
  • Total Carbohydrates: 4.4 g
  • Total Fat: 4.5 g
  • Saturated Fat: 2.5 g
  • Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.9 g
  • Monounsaturated Fat: 1 g
  • Trans Fat: 0.3 g
  • Protein: 24.7 g
  • Sodium: 67.2 mg (3% DV*)
  • Vitamin B12: 60 mcg (2,500% DV)
  • Copper: 12.2 mg (1,356% DV)
  • Vitamin A: 8,020 mcg (891% DV)
  • Riboflavin: 2.9 mg (223% DV)
  • Pantothenic Acid: 6 mg (120% DV)
  • Niacin: 14.9 mg (93% DV)
  • Selenium: 30.7 mcg (56% DV)
  • Folate: 215 mcg (54% DV)
  • Vitamin B6: 0.9 mg (53% DV)
  • Zinc: 4.5 mg (41% DV)
  • Phosphorus: 422 mg (34% DV)
  • Iron: 5.6 mg (31% DV)
  • Thiamine: 0.2 mg (17% DV)
  • Manganese: 0.3 mg (13% DV)
  • Potassium: 299 mg (6% DV)
  • Vitamin D: 1 mcg (5% DV)

*Daily Value: Percentages are based on a diet of 2,000 calories a day.

Health Benefits

This impressive nutrient profile translates to several potential health benefits:

1. Boosts Energy Levels

The high B vitamin and iron content in beef liver supports energy production and combats fatigue. For instance, this organ meat is loaded with B12, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, niacin, folate, B6 and thiamine.

Meanwhile, the iron is vital for oxygen transport and energy production. For instance, a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled, parallel-group study published in 2023 found that “iron supplementation is beneficial for non-anemic endurance athletes to improve stress, mood states, subjective fatigue, and sweating conditions.”

Beef liver is also a high in copper, anther energy booster. Copper helps with iron absorption, and it also plays a vital role in energy production.

2. Supports Immune Function

Vitamin A, B vitamins and zinc all play crucial roles in maintaining a healthy immune system, and beef liver nutrition is extremely high in all of these nutrients.

Zinc, for example, is considered a “gatekeeper of immune function,” according to research published in the journal Nutrients. It’s also been shown to be important for all immune cells to function properly.

3. Promotes Red Blood Cell Production

Iron and B vitamins are essential for healthy red blood cell production, which prevents anemia. Given liver is one of the foods highest in B vitamins and iron, it’s no surprise it’s key to red blood cell production.

B12 is especially needed for red blood cells, and it works with folate and iron, among other vitamins and minerals, to support the process.

4. May Improve Cognitive Function

Choline in beef liver is important for brain health and may support memory, learning and mood. One study conducted on mildly anemic children aged 3–9 in Egypt examined the effect of eating fried liver meatballs on anemia, vitamin A deficiency and cognitive function.In this randomized, controlled trial, one group of children received the fried liver meatballs in supplement form three times a week for 90 days, while a control group received no supplement.

The liver meatball increased iron and vitamin A intake in the diets of all the children who at them and offered predictors for improvement in cognitive function.

5. Good for Pregnant Women

The folate content in beef liver is crucial for fetal development and preventing birth defects. Just be sure to watch your intake, as too much vitamin A can cause issues.

6. High in Nutrients

Here is some more on what some of the nutrients in beef liver can do for your health:

Eating beef liver is also thought to help with detoxification and supporting liver health, and it provides CoQ10, which is associated with cardiovascular health, improved blood pressure and vascular health, improvements in sperm and egg quality, enhanced endurance, and reduced inflammation.

Risks and Side Effects

Despite its benefits, it’s important to be aware of some potential downsides:

  • High in vitamin A: Excessive vitamin A intake can be toxic, so moderate consumption is key.
  • High in cholesterol: Individuals with high cholesterol should consume beef liver in moderation.
  • Risk of foodborne illness: Improper handling or undercooking can increase the risk of foodborne illness.
  • Potential for drug interactions: Beef liver can interact with certain medications, so consult your doctor before consuming it.

Who Should Avoid It?

While generally safe for most individuals, some groups should considering avoiding beef liver:

  • Pregnant or breastfeeding women with excessive vitamin A: Consult your doctor before consuming.
  • Individuals with high cholesterol or heart disease: Limit consumption or speak to your doctor.
  • People with gout or uric acid issues: High purine content may worsen these conditions.
  • Those allergic to beef or organ meats.

How to Use (Recipes)

If you’re willing to brave the flavor, there are many ways to incorporate beef liver into your diet:

  • Classic Liver and Onions: A traditional dish seasoned with herbs and spices to mask the liver’s strong flavor.
  • Beef Liver Pâté: A creamy spread perfect for crackers or toast. Replace the chicken liver with beef liver in this chicken liver pate recipe.
  • Sautéed Beef Liver with Peppers and Onions: A quick and flavorful stir-fry option.
  • Beef Liver Stew: A hearty and nourishing stew packed with flavor and nutrients.

Beef Liver Supplements

If you prefer beef liver capsules, choose brands that:

  • Source their beef liver from grass-fed, pasture-raised cows.
  • Use freeze-dried liver for optimal nutrient preservation.
  • Are transparent about their ingredients and manufacturing processes.

Final Thoughts

  • While it may not sound like the most appetizing cut of meat, beef liver is a true superfood loaded with nutrition.
  • For instance, it’s a high-protein food that provides a wealth of vitamins, minerals and essential nutrients, including B vitamins, copper, vitamin A, selenium, zinc, phosphorus, iron, manganese, potassium and vitamin D.
  • Beef liver benefits include helping boost energy levels, immune function, red blood cell production and cognition.
  • It also can be good for pregnant women if they do not have high vitamin A levels and consume it only in moderation.
  • Eating beef liver is also used for detoxification and to support liver function, especially in Traditional Chinese Medicine.
  • You can make beef liver pate, add it to other dishes or even take it in supplement form.
  • There are precautions to take with consuming beef liver if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, have high cholesterol or heart disease, deal with gout or uric acid issues, or if you are allergic to beef or organ meats. It also can interact with certain medications, so check with your doctor before consuming liver.

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