Why Liver Is a Nutrient-Dense Superfood

What Is Liver?

The liver is a vital organ in humans and animals. It is typically the largest internal organ and has many important functions, including:

  • Processing digested food from the gut
  • Storing glucose, iron, vitamins and other essential nutrients
  • Filtering and clearing drugs and toxins from the blood

Liver, along with other organ meats, used to be a very popular food. However, muscle meats now tend to be favored over organ meats.

Regardless of its declining popularity, liver is possibly one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet.

People often look to fruits and vegetables for vitamins and minerals, but liver far surpasses them all in terms of nutrient content.

A small amount of liver provides well over 100% of the RDI for many essential nutrients. It is also rich in high-quality protein and low in calories.

Liver is cheap and readily available from grocery stores and butchers. While most animal livers can be eaten, common sources are cow, chicken, duck, lamb and pig.

Liver Is a Great Source of Several Nutrients

The nutritional profile of liver is exceptional.

Here are the nutrients found in a 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of beef liver:

  • Vitamin B12: 3,460% of the RDI. Vitamin B12 helps the formation of red blood cells and DNA. It is also involved in healthy brain function.
  • Vitamin A: 860–1,100% of the RDI. Vitamin A is important for normal vision, immune function and reproduction. It also helps organs like the heart and kidneys function properly.
  • Riboflavin (B2): 210–260% of the RDI. Riboflavin is important for cellular development and function. It also helps turn food into energy.
  • Folate (B9): 65% of the RDI. Folate is an essential nutrient that plays a role in cell growth and the formation of DNA.
  • Iron: 80% of the RDI, or 35% for women of menstruating age. Iron is another essential nutrient that helps carry oxygen around the body. The iron in liver is heme iron, the kind most easily absorbed by the body.
  • Copper: 1,620% of the RDI. Copper acts like a key to activate a number of enzymes, which then help regulate energy production, iron metabolism and brain function.
  • Choline: Liver provides all of the Adequate Intake (AI) for women and nearly all of it for men (AI is used because there is insufficient evidence to set an RDI). Choline is important for brain development and liver function.

Liver Provides High-Quality Protein

Protein is vital to life and found in nearly every part of the body. It’s required to make and repair cells and turn food into energy.

Over one-quarter of beef liver is made up of protein. Moreover, it’s very high-quality protein, as it provides all of the essential amino acids.

Amino acids are the building blocks that make up proteins. Some amino acids can be made in the body, but those known as essential amino acids must come from food.

A high protein intake has been shown to help with weight loss, as it reduces hunger and appetite. Additionally, protein has been found to satisfy hunger better than fat or carbs.

Furthermore, a high protein intake can boost your metabolic rate, or the number of calories your body uses to function.

Having a higher metabolic rate means you use more calories, which can be useful for weight loss, particularly if combined with a reduced calorie intake.

Lastly, a high protein intake can help build muscle and protect against muscle loss while losing weight.

Liver Has Fewer Calories Than Many Other Meats

Per calorie, liver is one of the most nutrient-dense foods there is.

In fact, more commonly eaten muscle meats are nutritionally poor in comparison.

A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) sirloin steak or lamb chop contains over 200 calories.

The same amount of beef liver contains just 175 calories, all while providing way more of every single vitamin and most minerals than either a sirloin steak or lamb chop.

When reducing calorie intake, you can often miss out on vital nutrition. Therefore, it is important to choose nutrient-dense foods.

While plenty of foods contain high-quality protein or vitamins and minerals, no single food contains the same variety or amount of nutrients as liver.

What’s more, eating foods that are high in nutrients but low in calories has been shown to reduce hunger.

Liver is low in fat as well. Only around 25% of its calories come from fat, compared to 50–60% of calories in steak and lamb.

Common Concerns About Eating Liver

Many people have concerns about eating liver and wonder whether it’s unhealthly.

One of the most common questions is if its cholesterol content is a problem.

While liver is high in cholesterol, this isn’t an issue for most people.

People used to believe that cholesterol in food caused heart disease. However, more recent research has shown that this isn’t true for the majority of people.

Most heart disease-related cholesterol is actually produced in the body. And when you eat foods high in cholesterol, your body produces less to keep the balance.

However, around a quarter of the population appears to be more sensitive to cholesterol in food. For these people, eating cholesterol-rich foods can increase blood cholesterol.

Another common concern about eating liver is that it contains toxins.

However, the liver does not store toxins. Rather, its job is to process toxins and make them safe or turn them into something that can be safely removed from the body.

In conclusion, toxins in liver are not an issue, and it should certainly not be avoided for this reason.