Dear Liver…It’s not you, it’s me.

Reading Time: 8 minutes

Dear Liver,

I’ve tried to make it work between us, I really have. But time and time again I leave our interactions with a bad taste in my mouth.

I really wish it could be different between us. I can see that you offer so much but I just don’t think I am ready for that yet.

It’s not you, it’s me. You are being true to yourself, yet I have tried to change you endlessly. I’ve cooked you in spices, trying to make believe that you were someone else. I’ve soaked you in milk, in lemon juice and in water in the hope that I’d feel differently.

I don’t.

They say that everything tastes good with fried onions.

They lie.

Even that ménage á trois we tried with the Bolognese sauce didn’t sit right with me. It left me feeling like I had cheapened the relationship with both of you.

And so I have to say goodbye. Again.

Maybe in some future world, where I have learnt to savour your uniqueness, we could be together. But the truth is I don’t know if that world even exists.

I find myself looking at pictures of you, dreaming of what could be.

When I see you lying there, provocatively on the fridge shelf, I just want to wrap you up in bacon and pull you close to my lips. But the outcome is always the same.

So, with a heavy heart I have to say farewell.

We will always have Brussels.*

Glenn x

*This is a very clever paté joke. Kelley didn’t get it.


And so goes my relationship with liver. Like the infatuation with an ill-matched lover, I return again and again to try and make it work. But the fact remains.

I really don’t like liver.

My caring friends will ask me why I keep on with this cyclic dance of repeated experimentation with this humble piece of offal.

Well, you see, if any food deserved the title of superfood, it’s liver.

Natural vegetables and fruits offer us an amazing profile of micronutrients, the minerals, vitamins and trace elements. On top of this, fruits and vegetables contain phytonutrients such as polyphenols and flavanoids that we struggle to get from many meat products.

However, when it come to nutrient density, fruit and vegetables struggle to compete with meats and organ meats.

And liver is crowned king.

source: Liver King facebook page

Now I’m not talking about the hirsute comedy performance that is the Liver King. Don’t get me wrong, his 9 Primal Tenants of health are pretty solid. Sadly, they have become watered down by his ridiculous displays of shouty, faux alpha performance art, and his peddling of supplement products.

But his message about the potency of liver is pretty spot on.

In a recent study by Ty Beal and Flaminia Ortenzi (click here), it was shown what a powerhouse liver really was.

In an age where much of the population of the western world exists in a state of being overfed yet undernourished, food like liver offer us a potential solution.

Many people will claim that you can get ample macro and micronutrients from a solely plant based diet. This is absolutely true. However, a couple of things to note are: the bioavailablity of said nutrients, the volume of food you must consume to get those nutrients, and the caloric load in doing so.

Often times, the nutrients are more bioavailable in animal products (B12 for example), and the amount of plant based food needed to consume can leave one feeling pretty stuffed, plus it often comes with additional calories in the form of carbs or fats. This last point can mean we are having to consume far more calories than we perhaps want in order to meet our nutrient needs.

If meat does not fit your food philosophy you can of course live a perfectly healthy life, just a bit more thought and nuance needs to go into your feeding strategies, depending on your needs.

But for those okay with meat, let’s look again at liver.

FIGURE 1. Calories and grams needed to provide an average of one-third of recommended intakes of vitamin A, folate, vitamin B12, calcium, iron, and zinc for women of reproductive age. Each micronutrient’s contribution is capped at 100% of recommended intakes. Hypothetical average requirements for mass are based on an energy density of 1.3 kcal/g. AR, average requirement; Vit, vitamin. Source frontiersin.org

This chart, taken from the above study, illustrates the comparitive nutrient densities of different food very well. The lower the number, the greater the nutrient density.

We can see that you need very little liver to benefit from the nutrient content. This is great on many levels; cost, calories, and the fact that I think it tastes pretty minging, so I don’t need to eat much.

Compare liver to beef. It’s 25 times more nutrient dense. And compared to quinoa it’s over 70 times more nutrient dense.

At Wild Life, we recommend a nutrient dense way of eating. This is why wild food foraging plays such an important part of our philosophy.

Nutrition has become on a par with religion nowdays for causing friction, upset and conflict. Nutritionists and fitness gurus are the new high-priests, and the type of ‘diet’ you adhere to says as much about the sort of person you are as it does your health goals.

It’s a tricky and nuanced subject, not black and white.

So to make things easier for people, we discuss focusing our eating on getting the highest nutrient density available to us, regardless of the individual food philosophy.

This has been dubbed the ‘Nutrivore’ diet by some. Everyone loves a witty label.

It’s a flexible approach that can be tuned to the individual’s nuanced needs, and in theory it’s pretty simple.

We’ll be taking a deep dive into the Nutrivore approach next week, so stay tuned.

So for those who eat meat and can stomach it, liver is definitely worth including in one’s diet.

So what’s so good about liver?

It’s chocked full of important nutrients that we need.

One of the concerns is the fact that the liver is designed to eliminate toxins from the body. People naturally assume that the liver will act as some kind of toxic storage dump. The good news is that this is not the case.

What it does store up are ample amounts of vitamins A, B12 and folic acid, D, E, K, and minerals such as iron and copper, all of which actually help the body remove some of it’s own toxins. Win-win.

The high levels of vitamin A are great (in general) for aiding such things as reproduction, immune functions, the visual system, and growth.

Liver has far more than muscle meats and is more bioavailable than that found in vegetable sources.

Vitamin A is also a powerful antioxidant that helps protect the body from pollutants and toxins.

The great levels of B12 are great for supporting the nervous system and general brain health.

The vitamin K is crucial for bone health as it helps the body process calcium.

And the very high levels of iron and B vitamins make a great food for those suffering with anaemia and iron deficiency.

As always, it’s not all cupcakes and rainbows

There are some negatives with all things, and liver is no different.

Cholesterol

While most people have no issues ingesting dietary cholesterol with regards to blood cholesterol (see this study), some people may require avoiding it. Liver is a significant source of dietary cholestrol (important in general health), so factor this in.

Vitamin A Toxicity

Top tip. Never eat a Polar Bear liver.

polar bear walking on shore
Photo by Dick Hoskins on Pexels.com

Polar bear livers contain dangerously high levels of vitamin A that will lead to hypervitamimosis A, a condition that can lead to death via mouth ulcers, hair loss and coma.

Your local butcher is unlikely to be selling Polar Bear liver thankfully, and you are unlikely to face the same issues with beef, lamb, pork or chicken liver.

As we have said time and time again though, the difference between medicine and poison is in the dosage.

You can have too much of a good thing. Stick to about 85g-170g per week. A little goes a long way.

Some medicines can interact with vitamin A, so check with your doctor if you are concerned.

Liver is usually not recommended for those that are pregnant as high dose vitamin A has been linked to some birth defects.

Gout

Liver is high in purines, a form of uric acid, so should be avoided by sufferers of gout. It’s unlikely to cause gout, but can exasperate existing conditions.

Parasites

This is common in many foods, but the process of cooking is usually adequate to remove any risk. I mention this simply based on the prevelance of people like the Liver King promoting it eaten raw. It may be nutritionally more beneficial, but not if you are sick from infection or infestation!

How to consume your liver

First off, as mentioned above treat like a medicine rather than binge on it.

Secondly, try to obtain the best form you can get, i.e. from well managed, grass-fed stock, ideally organic with minimal medical interventions. Thankfully, because it’s no longer the most sought after cut in many modern western cultures, it’s pretty cheap.

Eat it as fresh as possible too.

If you like the taste, as many do (I am jealous of you all), then the world is your oyster. Your choices are limited only by your imagination.

If you don’t like the taste then there are still some options.

Option 1 – Rocky it. (Not recommended!)

Raw (see above) or cooked, throw it into a blender with 4 dozen eggs, a bunch of kale, a dash of vanilla and neck the damn lot. Roar at the sky and go smash your day.

Option 2 – The Art of Camouflage (My technique)

Sneak a small amount into other meals and you’ll barely notice it.

Burgers, chilli, stews = yes.

Cornflakes, ice-cream = no.

Homemade Liver Pills

The frozen method

This one involves freezing raw liver. The idea is that after 14 days of freezing any bacteria or parasites will be destroyed. While this seems true for many of the bacteria and parasites, it’s not a universal truth, so do your own research and make up your own mind.

Basically, you part freeze the liver to make a little more solid, then cut it up into handy swallowable, pill sized segments. spread these out on a piece of baking parchment and freeze fully.

Once frozen, transfer to another container and keep frozen until needed. You can then take a number of them like pills with water.

The dried method.

This involves drying the liver in a dehydrator (or conventional oven), grinding the the dried liver into powder and filling up capsule casings.

Check out the excellent Katie Wells of Wellness Mama on how to do this.

Option 3 – The lazy bastard method

hunterandgatherfood.com

With all the renewed interest on nutrient density, nose to tail eating, and ancestral health there are now a growing number of companies offering dried organ meat products.

This is obviously going to be the most expensive method to get your liver fix, but is simple, quick and generally tasteless.

The brand I really like are Hunter and Gatherer.

So, the question is will I return to my experimentation with liver?

The answer is yes. The pros definitely outweigh the cons from a health point of view.

Will I ever love it?

Now that, I don’t know. I will continue my search, however esoteric, to find that one recipe, the perfect dish that will make me like liver.

How about it then? Are you lily-livered? Or a liver king?

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