The benefits of eating liver have been questioned recently although the market for cod liver supplements has grown. There is a lot of controversy, therefore we wanted to clarify the truth from myths and advertising slogans.
The liver is one of the most essential organs without which animals can’t exist. The functions are countless but these are some main ones:
- Metabolism of protein, carbohydrates and fats
- processing of drugs and hormones
- Excretion of bilirubin
- Storage of vitamins and minerals
- Activator of vitamin D
As we can see liver is practically the “holy grail” for nutrition in animals. Therefore it is not without a reason to believe that eating it might be very beneficial for health. The nutritional information of liver on the right is for fried beef’s liver.
There are different livers you can consume, starting from goose to fish they all though share more or less similar benefits and disadvantages.
Firstly livers are amazingly rich in vitamin A – in 100g there are up to 8 times the amount you need for one day. Vitamin A can be dangerously toxic especially for pregnant women but in the right amounts it enhances skin health, has antioxidant activity, contributes to good vision and plays role in gene transcription which is important for the unborn.
Liver as mentioned stores minerals, for example – Iron (177%), Zinc, Copper and Manganese. These are heavy metals though and if eaten too much regularly can lead to heath issues. Also B group vitamins are present: B2(250%), B3(100%), B9(53%) and B12 providing 10 time the recommended intake in 100g portion(1083%). B12 intake is associated with prevention of colon cancer and increased brain activity (see our article about the benefits of eating eggs for more on B12). B2 enhances the production of blood and energy.
However B3 used to be advised for treatment of high cholesterol levels, nowadays is believed to cause birth and vision defects when consumed too much. It has also been found that B3 worsens diabetes mellitus as it elevates the Blood Glucose Level. Used also in pharmacology it cause side effects like eczema, dry skin, skin flushing etc. All these effects are associated with high intake of B3. Therefore if you consume 100g of liver, try to avoid other foods which are rich in this substance like different meats, carrots, avocados, broccoli, nuts, whole grain, mushrooms, yeast etc. That is a lot of sacrifice!
Folic acid or B9 also has been described before in article about bananas and has been proven to be beneficial for cell division which is important for pregnancy. However the disadvantages of liver in pregnant women are more dangerous and leave B9 to be consumed from different products not liver.
More natural bodybuilding is becoming a trend thus the search for appropriate foods. Liver is probably the number one choice for those who build muscles as 100g of liver provides 26.5g of pure protein. Unlike steak, liver is low in fat thus contribute to weight loss which is combined with exercise. Also the minerals and vitamins will contribute to a healthy metabolism which is vital for diet changes.
Cod liver and its oil has become a popular supplement these days as it is rich in vitamin A which we already discussed and vitamin D. Vit. D is used for prevention of arthritis and other joint illnesses. A discussion has been set because of the toxic effects of vitamin A. Apparently if there is greater intake of vit.A also the vitamin D will be much more needed to prevent illnesses. This creates a vicious circle and question the need to take cods livers oil as a supplement on daily basis. Also Omega-3 fatty acids which are present in other products (like natural fish) are beneficial. However, if used as a supplement on daily basis it, limits the amount of even good fat you can eat during the rest of the day.
At the end of the day we have to remember that liver is also the „cleaner” of the organism and leaves through a lot of toxins throughout its life. So, how confident you are to eat something what has been a drain to a sink?
We can conclude here that liver has some exceptional nutritional values and can be consumed without doing any harm. Regular eating of liver though should be avoided as it helps very easily to reach toxic levels of some substances. On other hand cod liver oil might be good for some people but for someone who eats a balanced diet it can cause more harm than good.
Benefits of eating liver
- Lowers cholesterol
- Enhances muscle growth
- Contributes to weight loss
- Rich in vitamins and minerals
- Helps the metabolism
- Prevents Colon Cancer
- Helps to treat some deficiencies
- Low fat source of animal protein
- Enhance blood production
And for the first time a disadvantage -
Consumed too much might lead to toxic levels of vitamin A in the body leading to many side-effects.
For more information please read our benefits of eating meat article.