In the wild, carnivorous animals will eat their prey’s organs first. Some native African mothers chew liver to give as their babies’ first food. Eskimo hunters will immediately divide the liver of their fresh kill and share it raw. Generations of families in my own culture have served liver and onions for dinner, and children made to eat it. “It’s good for you,” my mother said.
As a child, I actually liked liver. As an adult, however, I have never before tonight prepared it for my own house. I haven’t thought of liver as food in a long time. I’ve thought of it more as an organ that removes toxins, one of the less palatable functions within a body. But then, why has it been throughout natural history such a prevalent part of so many diets?
Liver stores fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E & K. Also some water-soluble B vitamins like 1, 2 & 12. It contains essential fatty acids, trace minerals like iron, copper and zinc, as well as antioxidants that help one’s own liver to function. It is also a concentrated source of coenzyme Q10 and folic acid.
Liver also contains more cholesterol than most foods, a compound whose consumption has been discouraged in the media. However, the reason that liver contains cholesterol is that the organ will manufacture it if you do not consume enough. Cholesterol is a necessary part of cell membranes, bile salts, vitamin D, and hormones. Three ounces of beef liver contains about 330 milligrams cholesterol, but a body produces four or five times that amount in order to fulfill the daily needs of various functions.
How often should you eat liver
To quote William Campbell Douglas, MD, from his book Eat Your Cholesterol, “You never hear the food propagandists bragging about their product being fluoride free or aluminum free, two of our truly serious food-additive problems. But cholesterol, an essential nutrient not proven to be harmful in any quantity, is constantly pilloried as a menace to your health.” Cholesterol was labeled a menace when it was identified in the plaque that clogs arteries, but this clogging is more the fault of the type of lipoprotein that carries the cholesterol, rather than the cholesterol itself. And more than that, it is the fault of a body out of balance with its environment.
The thyroid gland signals the liver to process cholesterol into various forms as needed, and people with cholesterol problems often have thyroid problems. To avoid excess cholesterol in the blood, it is important to protect thyroid function by avoiding high fructose corn syrup, getting enough minerals and healthy oils, and doing inverted yoga postures. To encourage vitamin D production, which uses cholesterol, be sure to get enough sunlight.
Weston Price, DDS, in his fascinating book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, describes a tribe along the river Nile that worships the liver as sacred residence of the soul. The Neurs believe “a man’s character and physical growth depend upon how well he feeds that soul by eating the livers of animals.” Members of this tribe are exceptionally tall and healthy, with a complete absence of dental caries.
On the African plains, a lion’s diet was directly observed in order to improve the feed given to large cats at the London zoo. When it was proven that wild lions eat the liver of their prey first, organ meat supplementation soon allowed the London lions to reproduce in captivity.
As I write this, I am cooking liver and onions for my family.
The detoxifying purpose of liver should not frighten us away, because the liver does not store toxins, but processes them into useful things. Of course, for the purest food, always eat organic. Sally Fallon’s book Nourishing Traditions recommends soaking liver in lemon juice for several hours before cooking, which I did today. “This draws out the impurities and gives a nicer texture.”
Tonight I served liver and perfectly caramelized onions over rice and home-grown greens. It was awful. My family left the table in disgust… I guess that’s why they call it offal!
Eat Your Cholesterol by William Campbell Douglas
Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon
Nutrition & Physical Degeneration by Weston Price