Is Liver Good For You? Or Bad for You?

By Liam McAuliffe Updated on

The livers of healthy animals have been prized foods for millenia. Whether we’re talking about beef liver, chicken liver, lamb liver, or lesser-known options, liver is simply loaded with important and hard-to-get nutrients.  Yet liver contains such an abundance of certain nutrients that it is possible to eat too much of it! For instance, more than a few full servings a week can run the risk of vitamin A overdose. [1So…is liver good for you, or bad for you?

In this article, we’ll be taking an objective look. 

What is Liver? 

Liver, as you might expect, refers to the liver of a healthy animal, used as food. 

The most popular forms of liver are sourced from cows, chickens, and lambs. It’s possible to find beef, chicken, pork, lamb, and goose liver in butcher shops and grocery stores around the world — even right here in the US.  

Eating liver may not be as popular as it once was, but the benefits of eating liver are causing a much-deserved  resurgence and interest

Liver’s unique collection of ‘active ingredients makes it a great addition to any diet, and can be especially beneficial for ketogenic and carnivore dieters. [2

Eating Liver

Organ meats like liver have been viewed as sacred foods since antiquity. 

In Ancient Greece, it was given to runners, weight lifters, and other early Olympic athletes. [3

Among native Americans, it was preferentially given to nursing and pregnant women as a way to holistically ensure the next generation’s health. [4

When studying the diets of  Inuit people, arctic explorer Vilhjálmur Stefánsson observed, “While meat of any kind is in great demand, it is interesting to note that the liver of any animal is a favorite.”[5

Taking it a step further, Africa’s Nuer tribe regarded liver as so sacred that only a select few people were able to touch it. [6]

For modern people, liver is making a comeback, but it can also an acquired taste, which has given rise to the production of desiccated liver supplements. They’re a way of getting the benefits of quality grass-fed liver in the convenience of a pill.

Liver Nutrition Facts

Liver is rich in a variety of important nutrients, especially vitamin A, and B vitamins. The ancient peoples we mentioned above didn’t understand the molecular role of carotenoids and B12 in our biology — but they were tuned-in to their bodies enough to know that liver is indeed a special food when it comes to boosting our physical health.

Here’s a full look at liver nutrition for 3 popular varieties. 

Nutrition per 100gBeef LiverChicken LiverLamb Liver
Calories135 calories144 calories138 calories
Total fat3.6 grams4.8 grams5 grams
Saturated fat2 grams3 grams1.9 grams
Total Carbohydrate3.9 grams1 gram1.8 grams
Protein20.4 grams16.9 grams20.4 grams
Iron4.9 mg9 mg3.8 mg
Copper9.8 mg10 mg3 mg
Zinc4 mg4 mg3 mg
Vit. A4,968 IU11,077 IU4,892 IU 
Vit. D49 IU0 IU0 IU
Vit. E0.4 mg0.7 mg1 mg
Vit. C1.3 mg17.9 mg14 mg
Vit. K288 mcg90 mcg85 mcg
Niacin13.2 mg9.7 mg14 mg
Vit. B61 mg 1.8 mg0.7 mg
Vit. B12 59.3 mcg16.6 mcg36 mcg
Folate290 mcg577 mcg230 mcg
Selenium39.7 mcg54.6 mcg374 mcg

Gram-for-gram, liver is one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet. 

It really shines when compared to conventional muscle meats — which are themselves highly nutritious. 

Liver tends to be far higher than other cuts in vitamin A, K, B12, and copper. Just 100 grams of liver meets your RDV for a wide variety of nutrients. Liver is also very high in cholesterol in light of its low fat content–something it has in common with fellow superfood, oysters

Is Beef Liver Good for You? 

So..is beef liver good for you? Most definitely!  Below are some of its top highlights. 

Iron 

Beef liver is a great source of highly-bioavailable heme iron. Research shows that heme iron can prevent anemia and help hard-training athletes recover from their workouts more quickly. [7]  

Heme iron is also of utmost importance to pregnant moms. [15

Nucleic Acids 

While your body makes nucleic acids on its own, research shows that the generative ability falls over time as you age. 

In stressful conditions, the demand for these acids can exceed their rate of regeneration. Beef liver is an unusually rich dietary source of nucleic acids, making it a boon for anyone who wants to age gracefully. [8]

Metabolism-Boosters

Beef liver is rich in lipotropic (fat-liberating) B vitamins that may help you stay energized and lose weight. Fittingly, studies show that these B vitamins are also great for your own liver. [9]

Beef liver is also rich in the B vitamin folate. Folate is especially important for pregnant mothers — it helps the developing baby grow and differentiate at the right rate. [10]

Liver Enzymes

Yet another example of the like-supports-like concept of organ meats is the cytochrome P450  found in liver. Cytochrome P450 is an important family of liver enzymes that assist with hormone production, detoxification, and overall health of your own liver. [11]

Carotenoids 

Beef liver is rich in several forms of vitamin A. These forms, including  b-carotene and preformed A, are essential for maintaining healthy skin and vision. Liver’s vitamin A content is also why it shouldn’t be eaten everyday. [12][13]  

Is Chicken Liver Good for You? 

So…is chicken liver good for you? So long as it comes from a healthy chicken, definitely. Below are some of its top highlights. 

Protein

Chicken liver is also a great source of protein. For those of you who’ve adopted a high fat, low-carb diet, chicken  liver may be just what’s needed to improve satiety and cut cravings. 

Chicken liver’s combination of high protein and low calories (it’s 73% protein by calorie) may also be great if you’re trying to improve your body composition–i.e. Increase muscle and decrease body fat. 

B Vitamins 

Most impressive of all is chicken liver’s B vitamin content. Like most types of liver, it’s simply loaded with B vitamins, notably B12.  No wonder so many people feel energized after eating it. [16

Healthy Fats

Chicken liver falls into a gray zone when it comes to classification — it’s neither red meat nor white meat. Rather it’s categorized as offal. This status means chicken liver may be lower in PUFA and other unhealthy fats than other parts of a chicken, even if it’s not grass-fed. [17][18

Is Lamb Liver Good for You?

Considering how good for you beef and chicken liver are, let’s explore if lamb liver is good for you? 

Iron

Like virtually every other type of liver, lamb liver is rich in easily-absorbed heme iron. Just 100 grams of lamb liver contains 8 milligrams of iron. That’s 100% of your RDA. 

Nucleic Acids 

Lamb liver, like beef liver, is rich in nucleic acids that help transmit genetic traits. [20

If you want to ensure your genetics work with you, not against you, as you age, then don’t neglect this dietary source of nucleic acids. [21]

Metabolism-Boosters

Lamb liver is rich in metabolism-boosting B vitamins, including B1, B3, B6, and B12. 100 grams of lamb liver contains an incredible amount of B12: A whopping 1400% of your RDV, to be exact. 

This makes liver a true superfood for athletes and other people with higher-than-normal bioenergetic demands. [22

In addition to B vitamins, lamb liver is exceptionally rich in selenium, which boosts metabolism via a different route (the thyroid). 

Is Eating Liver Good for Your Liver? 

Is eating liver good for your liver?

To put it super simply, yes!

Eating the liver of healthy animals (with the exception of polar bears and a few others) is a truly holistic way to supercharge your health. 

Eating liver can also safeguard the health of your — get this — liver. Part of this effect can be explained by animal liver’s CP450 content. But part of it still remains a bit of a mystery. It’s likely that animal livers contain yet-to-be-discovered ‘anti-fatigue’ factors as well. [23]  

As we’ve said before, like-supports-like. You can eat liver to support your own liver, eat kidneys to support your own kidneys, and eat heart and brain to benefit your own heart and brain health. 

Is Liver Ever Bad for You? 

Though brimming with nutrients, this can also lead to problems that warrant the question, “Is liver ever bad for you?”

The short answer, yes — but only if you really overdo it. Eating a full serving of fresh liver more frequently than twice a week can lead to vitamin A hypervitaminosis. [24]

The liver of certain animals can also be bad for you. Thankfully, you’re unlikely to be able to source or eat these animals anywhere, as the most toxic types of liver are from polar bears, walruses, and seals. [25]

How to Source Quality Liver

There are also practical issues to consider when it comes to sourcing liver. 

You may not like liver’s taste, or you might be rightfully concerned about contamination issues (these are more of an issue with chicken liver). [26]

If you don’t have access to grass-fed, organic beef or lamb liver, then it may be time to consider supplementation. 

Dr. Kiltz’s Beef Liver Supplements are designed as a convenient way to get the nutritional power of liver without  having to get used to cooking and eating fresh liver. 

Sourced from grass-fed New Zealand beef, they are freeze dried to maintain the nutrient profile of fresh liver. 

You can learn more about beef liver supplements, and compare top brands here

Is Liver good for Bad for You: The Takeaway

Liver is among the most nourishing foods on the planet, especially if it’s sourced from a grass-fed, well-treated animal.  

In fact, it’s so hyper-abundant in vitamin A, that it’s possible to eat too much liver, resulting in vitamin a poisoning. 

However, a daily liver supplement, or a serving of fresh liver a couple of times a week is ideal. 

 

©2020 Doctor ROBERT KILTZ. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED