Guide to Organ Meats | Mark’s Daily Apple
Organ meats are an untapped resource in most healthy eaters’ diets. Although your grandparents and every antecedent generation likely grew up eating liver and onions, kidney pie, and organ meats stuffed into sausages, the people reading this blog largely did not. Now it is your job to rediscover what they were blessed to grow up […]

seasoned organ meats ready for cookingOrgan meats are an untapped resource in most healthy eaters’ diets. Although your grandparents and every antecedent generation likely grew up eating liver and onions, kidney pie, and organ meats stuffed into sausages, the people reading this blog largely did not. Now it is your job to rediscover what they were blessed to grow up eating. It may not be easy, it may take some effort, but it is worthwhile. Luckily, the beauty of organ meats lies in their nutrient-density—you don’t need to eat it every day to get the benefits. In fact, you shouldn’t eat most of them everyday.

In general, the same organ from different animals will confer similar health benefits. A liver will be rich in vitamin A and iron whether it comes from cow, pig, lamb, or chicken. But there are some differences between species, and when those differences are significant I will make a note of it in the article.

Without further ado, let’s learn about all the various organ meats.


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Heart

Probably my favorite organ to eat, heart is more like extremely nutrient-dense muscle meat than it is any other organ you’ll encounter. It’s very high in vitamin B12, riboflavin, and niacin. It’s rich in zinc, iron, selenium, and, best of all, CoQ10. CoQ10 is an interesting nutrient that increases production of ATP, the body’s energy currency. We can make it ourselves, but it seems to help have an external source, too. For instance, statin users especially need to take CoQ10 because the drug inhibits CoQ10 production along with cholesterol synthesis; doing so can stave off some of the muscle damage statin users often experience.

Pros: Heart gives me tons of energy. The most “high” I ever felt from eating normal food was when a friend served me up some fresh venison heart, just killed. It was like several shots of espresso, only cleaner. I couldn’t sit still. I couldn’t sleep. I ended up staying up getting a ton of work done. And then, after a couple hours, I was able to sleep normally. Maybe it was the CoQ10, or maybe something else.

Cons: Sometimes trimming the hearts can be difficult. There are a lot of fibrous parts that can detract from the eating experience.

Some people like to braise hearts for hours and hours, treating it like strew meat. I prefer slicing them horizontally into strips and searing them like steaks, quickly over high heat. Medium rare, always. Either that, or Peruvian-style anticuchos (which I can always find here in Miami).

If you get chicken (or turkey, or duck) hearts, marinate them in vinegar, hot chilis, soy sauce, and a little honey and grill them on skewers over flame or coal.

Read next: The Definitive Guide to the Carnivore Diet

Liver

I like to call liver nature’s multivitamin because it’s the single most nutrient-dense cut of the animal on the planet. Rich in vitamin A, iron, every B-vitamin except for thiamine (and it even has a decent dose of thiamine), choline, zinc, selenium, and vitamin D (if the animal is a fish or pasture-raised pig), liver

Fish livers have the added benefit of providing tons of vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids. Poultry livers are a bit higher in iron and lower in vitamin A than mammalian livers.

Pros: Delicious if you cook it right (to medium/medium-rare, still pink) and use a healthy liver from a freshly killed animal. As liver is the storage place for the “animal form” of glucose—glycogen—fresh liver can be sweet. This sweetness disappears as time-from-slaughter increases, however.

Cons: Absolutely wretched if you cook it wrong. An overcooked liver turns chalky and grey, fibrous and revolting. Once the animal is killed, the liver begins degrading its glycogen. Glycogen counters the inherent bitterness of liver, so if the glycogen is gone the liver will taste bitter. This is why most people hate liver—they’ve never had a fresh one prepared the right way.

One of my favorite ways to cook liver is using this Terry Wahls recipe for Middle Eastern Lamb Liver. It also works with beef or chicken. Or, you could try prosciutto-wrapped chicken livers. Either way, the trick is not to overcook it.

Another great way is to sauté ginger, garlic, and onions, add gelatinous bone broth, reduce until it’s syrupy, and then add salt and chopped liver to briefly cook for 1-2 minutes. Makes a really rich sauce.

And if you’re truly adventurous, you could marinate thinly sliced beef liver in a mixture of fish sauce, sesame oil, and lemon juice and eat it raw like carpaccio. Sourcing is key here, because parasites and hepatitis are a risk if you’re not cooking your liver.

Kidney

Kidney has a similar nutrient profile to liver, albeit one lower in vitamin A and much higher in selenium and riboflavin. It’s slightly higher in thiamine and slightly lower in folate, niacin, and pyridoxine. The extreme selenium content means you probably shouldn’t eat kidney every day, just like the retinol content means you shouldn’t eat liver every day.

Pros: Kidney is very inexpensive, can be eaten slightly more frequently than liver due to the lower retinol levels, and often comes with suet attached—the fat in and around the kidneys which is loaded with stearic acid. The stronger flavors of kidney means it can stand up to bolder, zestier seasonings, giving you a lot of freedom in the kitchen to experiment.

Cons: Kidney can have a very disagreeable flavor unless it’s prepared right. Liver gets a bad rap but if you get a fresh one and avoid overcooking it, you can usually make it tolerable and even downright delicious. Kidney needs prep time, and older animals produce stronger-tasting kidneys. Lamb kidneys are usually milder and more tender than beef kidneys.

Try sautéed kidneys in red wine sauce.

Bone Marrow

Bone marrow may not “feel” or look like an organ, but it is. Bone marrow is an active participant in dozens of physiological processes and contains osteoblasts (which form bone), osteoclasts (which control bone resorption), and fibroblasts (which form connective tissue). It is anything but inert biological material, meaning it possesses a number of beneficial micronutrients used to conduct those processes in the body. The thing is, the actionable components in bone marrow aren’t identified. Sure, you’ve got some B-vitamins, iron, magnesium, and selenium among other “classic” micronutrients, but there’s all sorts of other interesting stuff in marrow that doesn’t show up in the USDA nutritional database.

Pros: You’re eating one of hominid’s “first foods.” Back before we were apex hunters, we could pick up a big rock and smash the leftover femurs that other top but less cunning predators couldn’t utilize, giving us access to the marrow. The taste has never left us. Eat a big spoonful of roasted bone marrow and you’ll feel it. It triggers something special in you.

Cons: The only con I can think of is that it’s not always easy extracting all the marrow. Canoe cut bones are cut lengthwise, giving you instant access to the entire whack of marrow. They’re the best but also the rarest. The more commonplace horizontal cuts require that you fish around in the cavity with a spoon to get everything—and sometimes you leave a bit behind.

My favorite way to make bone marrow is to roast it with rosemary and garlic.

Brain

Much like marrow bones, large predators often leave behind the heads of their prey. A large cat simply won’t risk cracking a tooth to crack open a skull. Risk/reward ratio too great. A small upright hairless ape, however, will pick up a large rock to smash a skull open. Risk/reward ratio flipped. Brains of even land animals are excellent sources of DHA, the omega-3 fatty acid our bodies and minds need to function, the omega-3 fatty acid our ancestors needed to turn into the humans we know and love today.

Pros: Brain has a mild taste and a soft texture that easily melds with other foods. For instance, a popular dish in some parts of the world is scrambled eggs with brains. The two are seamless together.

Cons: Prion diseases, while exceedingly rare, are unsettling. Prions are impervious to heat, accumulate in the brains of infected animals, and can cause rapid-onset death and dementia in people.

Simmer whole brains in salty water full of aromatic herbs and spices for 5 or 6 minutes. Remove, let cool, then sauté in butter or avocado oil until crispy on all sides. A light dusting of potato starch may help the crispy form.

Tongue

Tongue is a fatty piece of meat that has no special nutrient content; it’s your standard “B-vitamins, iron, selenium, etc, etc” lineup. But it’s really, really delicious if you do it right.

Pros: The perfect snack for a keto dieter, tongue is richly marbled with fat and tastes great sliced cold like lunch meat.

Cons: The skin on cow or lamb tongue is inedible and must be removed. If you do it right, the skin slips right off. If you do it wrong, you’re hacking away for ten minutes trying to skin a hot cow tongue and losing a lot of meat in the process. Perfect this process and you will be a tongue lover forever.

I love this recipe for tender beef tongue.

I also love pickled beef tongue (no need for the saltpeter).

Spleen

Spleen is sometimes called a poor man’s liver. It tastes a bit like it, but not as strong. It kinda looks like it, but not when you look closely. It’s high in iron, copper, selenium, and vitamin B12. It’s more delicate than liver with none of the retinol. In the body, the spleen filters out old red blood cells.

Pros: You can eat spleen far more often than liver because it contains almost no retinol while still being nutritious. And because it’s milder, spleen can be a “gateway” organ for people who want to learn to enjoy liver and other more intense parts of the animal.

Cons: Spleen is difficult to find. Most grocery stores simply won’t carry it.

This Tamil recipe for dry fried goat spleen looks great and I bet you could substitute beef or lamb spleen.

Lung

Lung is a surprisingly good source of potassium, at least as far as meats go. A 200 calorie serving of beef lung nets you nearly 800 mg of potassium along with B12, iron, copper, zinc, and a good amount of vitamin C.

Pros: Lung is mild, milder than most organs, and cheap. A nice way to get some protein and micronutrients.

Cons: Hard to find and take some cooking to render edible.

I once had a fantastic lung stew that I’ve never had since but often think about. This Austrian dish sounds very similar to what I ate. You can easily omit the flour and use other modes of thickening the sauce, like bone broth or powdered gelatin.

You can also simmer them in salted water for 20-30 minutes, allow them to cool, and then sauté in butter until crispy.

Gizzard

This is poultry-only, obviously (although a cow gizzard would be amazing if it existed). Gizzards are one of the bird’s digestive organs, chambers where foraged pebbles help grind up the hard grains and seeds the bird has consumed for better absorption and digestion. Think of the gizzard as a sort of biological mortar and pestle that you can eat.

Pros: Delicious grilled over open flame.

Cons: Only one per bird.

Treat gizzards like the chicken hearts I mentioned earlier.

As you can tell, the real stars of the organ show are liver, heart, and marrow. You can eat those and none of the others and get most of the benefits. They taste the best, in my opinion, and they offer the most upside. But if you get the opportunity, you should try everything I mentioned today. We owe it to ourselves and to the animals that give their lives to make the most of the available cuts. All of them. You don’t know what you’re missing.

I mean that literally: standard nutritional databases do not encompass all that an organ meat contains. Organs like bone marrow are certainly more than the minerals and vitamins they contain. And if you give any credence to the “eat like for like” concept—eating liver to improve liver health, kidney to improve kidney health, heart for cardiovascular health, and so on—we should all be eating everything just to be safe.

That’s it, folks. That’s the guide to organ meats. What are your favorite organ meats?

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About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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It’s easy to get confused when it comes to health and alimentation. Even qualified experts often seem to hold opposing opinions. Yet, despite all the disagreements, a number of wellness tips are well supported by research. Here are 27 health and alimentation tips that are actually based on good technique.

These 8 practical tips cover the basics of healthy eating and can help you make healthier choices.

The key to a saine diet is to eat the right amount of kcal for how active you are so you balance the energy you consume with the energy you use.

If you eat or drink more than your body needs, you’ll put on weight because the energy you do not use is stored as fat. If you eat and drink too little, you’ll lose weight.

You should also eat a wide range of foods to make sure you’re getting a balanced diet and your body is receiving all the nutrients it needs.

It’s recommended that men have around 2, 500 calories a day ( 10, 500 kilojoules ). Women should have around 2, 000 calories a day ( 8, 400 kilojoules ). Most adults in the UK are eating more kcal than they need and should eat fewer kcal.

Starchy carbohydrates should make up just over a third of the food you eat. They include potatoes, bread, rice, pasta and cereals. Choose higher fibre or wholegrain varieties, such as wholewheat pasta, brown rice or potatoes with their skins on.

They contain more fibre than white or refined starchy carbohydrates and can help you feel full for longer. Try to include at least 1 starchy food with each main meal. Some people think starchy foods are fattening, but gram for gram the carbohydrate they contain provides fewer than half the kcal of fat.

Keep an eye on the fats you add when you’re cooking or serving these genres of foods because that’s what increases the calorie content – for example, oil on chips, butter on bread and creamy sauces on pasta.

It’s recommended that you eat at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and veg every day. They can be fresh, frozen, canned, dried or juiced. Getting your 5 A Day is easier than it sounds. Why not chop a banana over your breakfast cereal, or swap your usual mid-morning snack for a piece of fresh fruit ?

A portion of fresh, canned or frozen fruit and vegetables is 80g. A portion of dried fruit ( which should be kept to mealtimes ) is 30g. A 150ml glass of fruit juice, vegetable juice or smoothie also counts as 1 portion, but limit the amount you have to no more than 1 glass a day as these drinks are sugary and can damage your teeth.

You can choose from fresh, frozen and canned, but remember that canned and smoked fish can be high in salt. Most people should be eating more fish, but there are recommended limits for some variétés of fish.

You need some fat in your diet, but it’s important to pay attention to the amount and type of fat you’re eating. There are 2 main variétés of fat : saturated and unsaturated. Too much saturated fat can increase the amount of cholesterol in the blood, which increases your risk of developing heart disease.

On average, men should have no more than 30g of saturated fat a day. On average, women should have no more than 20g of saturated fat a day. Children under the age of 11 should have less saturated fat than adults, but a low-fat diet is not suitable for children under 5.

Try to cut down on your saturated fat intake and choose foods that contain unsaturated fats instead, such as vegetable oils and spreads, oily fish and avocados. For a healthier choice, use a small amount of vegetable or olive oil, or reduced-fat spread instead of butter, lard or ghee.

When you’re having meat, choose lean cuts and cut off any visible fat. All types of fat are high in energy, so they should only be eaten in small amounts.

Regularly consuming foods and drinks high in sugar increases your risk of obesity and tooth decay. Sugary foods and drinks are often high in energy ( measured in kilojoules or calories ), and if consumed too often can contribute to weight gain. They can also cause tooth decay, especially if eaten between meals.

Free sugars are any sugars added to foods or drinks, or found naturally in honey, syrups and unsweetened fruit juices and smoothies. This is the type of sugar you should be cutting down on, rather than the sugar found in fruit and milk.

Many packaged foods and drinks contain surprisingly high amounts of free sugars.

More than 22. 5g of total sugars per 100g means the food is high in sugar, while 5g of total sugars or less per 100g means the food is low in sugar.

Eating too much salt can raise your blood pressure. People with high blood pressure are more likely to develop heart disease or have a stroke. Even if you do not add salt to your food, you may still be eating too much.

About three-quarters of the salt you eat is already in the food when you buy it, such as breakfast cereals, soups, breads and condiments. Use food labels to help you cut down. More than 1. 5g of salt per 100g means the food is high in salt.

Adults and children aged 11 and over should eat no more than 6g of salt ( about a teaspoonful ) a day. Younger children should have even less.

As well as eating healthily, regular exercise may help reduce your risk of getting serious health conditions. It’s also important for your overall health and wellbeing.

Read more about the benefits of exercise and physical activity guidelines for adults. Being overweight or obese can lead to health conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, heart disease and stroke. Being underweight could also affect your health.

Most adults need to lose weight by eating fewer calories. If you’re trying to lose weight, aim to eat less and be more réactive. Eating a saine, balanced diet can help you maintain a healthy weight.

Check whether you’re a healthy weight by using the BMI healthy weight calculator. Start the NHS weight loss plan, a 12-week weight loss guide that combines advice on healthier eating and physical activity. If you’re underweight, see underweight adults. If you’re worried about your weight, ask your GP or a dietitian for advice.

You need to drink plenty of fluids to stop you getting dehydrated. The government recommends drinking 6 to 8 glasses every day. This is in addition to the fluid you get from the food you eat. All non-alcoholic drinks count, but water, lower fat milk and lower sugar drinks, including tea and coffee, are healthier choices. Try to avoid sugary soft and fizzy drinks, as they’re high in kcal. They’re also bad for your teeth.

Even unsweetened fruit juice and smoothies are high in free sugar. Your combined total of drinks from fruit juice, vegetable juice and smoothies should not be more than 150ml a day, which is a small glass. Remember to drink more fluids during hot weather or while exercising.

Some people skip breakfast because they think it’ll help them lose weight. But a healthy breakfast high in fibre and low in fat, sugar and salt can form part of a balanced diet, and can help you get the nutrients you need for good health.

A wholegrain lower sugar cereal with semi-skimmed milk and fruit sliced over the top is a tasty and healthier breakfast. Further informationThe Eatwell Guide can help you get the right balance of the 5 main food groups. The guide shows you how much of what you eat should come from each food group. Read more about eating a balanced diet and understanding kcal.

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