If you’ve been hanging around the Paleo community long enough, you’ve no doubt had a run in with organ meat. And by run in, I mean you’ve likely perused it on the menu at your local farm-to-table restaurant… but you also likely haven’t tried it yet. Besides the major hipster points you’ll earn chowing down on some chicken pate, there are a surprising number of (more) important reasons why weekly consumption of organ meat, or Offal, is not only good for you but can actually empower your performance.
This is the big one folks. Organ meats are some of the most concentrated sources of almost every key nutrient needed for health and wellness. You can basically think of them as meat multi-vitamins. Organ meats are loaded with B vitamins including B1, B2, B6 and B9. Kidney is particularly high in B12, Selenium, Iron, Copper, Phosphorous and Zinc. Liver has the highest amount of preformed Vitamin A, which makes it more bio-available, of any food source and is also high in Vitamin D, copper, potassium, magnesium, phosphorous, manganese and iron. Heart has a really high level of CoQ10 and is the number one food source of copper. It also contains high levels of collagen and elastin. In fact, when comparing 100 grams of grass-fed beef liver to apples, carrots and even red muscle meat, it out scores in every nutrient category!
Adequate intake of these micronutrients especially the antioxidants like vitamin A have been linked to lower markers in oxidative stress, muscle damage and inflammation in athletes which translates to better recovery.
Organ meat is much cheaper than traditional muscle meat cuts, sometimes over 50% less depending on the cut. So if you’re balling on a budget, this is definitely a bonus for you. I’ve heard from many that one of the caveats of trying to eat only grass-fed and pastured meats is that it’s just too damn expensive and that is truly the case for some people, but even grass-fed, pastured organ meat is usually dirt cheap so stock up. I actually went to my local farmer who I get my grass-fed meats from and did a little comparison of some of the most common muscle meats vs. organ meats that he offers.
Ribeye- $16.50/lb vs. Beef Liver-$6/lb
Ground Beef- $9.50/lb vs. Beef Kidney-$4/lb
Pork Chops- $9/lb vs. Pork Liver-$4/lb
ROYGBIV but for protein
We talk a lot about variety when it comes to our fruits and veggies here at Power Athlete and the same can be said for our protein sources. And while we’re not suggesting you try to hunt down a “rainbow” of meats, mixing up the protein sources is a must. Most animal derived protein sources contain a similar array of amino acids (the basis of all proteins), but they contain vastly different co-nutrients. If you’re constantly filling your plate with boneless, skinless chicken breasts or even ribeye steaks all the time, you’re going to miss out from a micronutrient perspective. There’s also the possibility that you are overloading your system with too many of the same kinds of Omega’s. For example, dark meat chicken is super high in Omega 6’s while wild caught salmon is super high in Omega 3’s. You need a balance of both to keep inflammation at bay.
Taste- No seriously
So this one might take some convincing but organ meats can actually be really tasty if prepared correctly. You also have to remember that different animal organ meats will have different flavors. Chicken livers for example are much milder in flavor than beef liver. One of the best ways to start eating offal is to grind it up and mix it with your favorite ground meat like bison or beef. This can then be used to make Meatza, meatballs, meatloaf, burgers or chili. Not the most creative in the kitchen? You’re in luck because Power Athlete has tagged in the lovely Paula Lean to help us out with the perfect beginner Offal recipe to get your feet wet so grab your grinder and get to cooking.
Gravina L, Ruiz F, Diaz E, et al. Influence of nutrient intake on antioxidant capacity, muscle damage and white blood cell count in female soccer players. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2012;9:32. doi:10.1186/1550-2783-9-32.
Kresser, Chris. "Liver: Nature's Most Potent Superfood." Chris Kresser. Pautler Design, April 11th 2008.