Are Organ Meats Good or Bad for Health?

Organ meats were a staple food well cherished and prized by many due to is tremendous health benefits.

Nowadays, organ meats have fallen out of favor in the current society.

So many people have never taken organ meet in their lifetime and might find the thought of doing so disgusting and disconcerting.

Organ meats are very nutritious but most people choose to waste it in preference to skeletal muscle.

This article concentrates on the health effects of organ meat.

What Are Organ Meats?

Organs meats are the organs gotten from animals which are prepared and consumed by humans as food.

Some of the most commonly consumed organs are gotten from domestic animals like cows, goats, chickens, pigs, lambs etc.

In the present world, animals are mostly raised for their muscle tissues. Organ meat is taking a back seat, with most meat typically consumed as drumsticks, steaks or ground into mince.

In ancient time, organs like brains, liver were often regarded as a prized asset (1).

Organ meats are loaded with nutrients like vitamin B12, folate, iron and protein and could be a great addition to your diet.

Types of Organ Meat

The most commonly consumes types of organ meat are;

  • Liver: The liver is the most nutrient dense organ meat commonly consumed by many all over the world. It is also referred to as the nutritional powerhouse due to its rich nutrient store.
  • Heart: The heart is an organ responsible for pumping of blood around the body. Although the heart might not look edible to most people, it’s actually very delicious and tasty.
  • Kidneys: Just like humans, other mammals also have two kidneys. These organs are nutrient dense and concentrated with proteins.
  • Tongue: The tongue might be made of muscle but it contains a high percentage of calories from fat. Due to this, it is very tender and tasty.
  • Brain: The brain might look so delicate but it is the richest source of omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA.
  • Sweetbreads & Spleen (Gland): They are made from thymus gland and pancreas and are neither sweet nor any type of bread. They are a rich source of minerals like selenium and zinc.
  • Tripe & Intestines: Tripe is a common term use to describe the intestine of goats, sheep and beef. They are a great source of micronutrients.

How Nutritious Are Organ Meats

It is worthy of note that the nutritional value of organ meats varies considerably depending on the animal source and organ type.

Most organ meats contain more nutrients than muscle meats.

Particularly, they are a rich source of B vitamins, folate and fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E and K. Not only that, they are also rich in minerals like selenium, zinc, iron, and magnesium.

Also, there are also excellent sources of protein as they contain all the essential amino acids needed by the body for proper functioning.

Serving a 100g of cooked beef liver provides;

  • Proteins: 27 g
  • Calories: 175
  • Vitamin B12: 1,386 percent of the RDI (reference dietary intake).
  • Vitamin A: 522 percent of the RDI
  • Riboflavin: 201 percent of the RDI
  • Vitamin B6: 51 percent of the RDI
  • Niacin: 87 percent of the RDI
  • Zinc: 35 percent of the RDI
  • Selenium: 47 percent of the RDI
  • Iron: 35 percent of the RDI

Source: (2)

Health Benefits of Eating Organ Meats

Adding organ meats to your diet has several health benefits, and below are some of them.

Excellent source of choline: Choline is an essential nutrient for brain, muscle, and liver, and organ meats are an excellent source of this nutrient (34).

Rich Source of iron: Iron is an essential nutrient for blood formation. Meats, in general, provide the body with heme iron, and it is better absorbed by the body than non-heme iron from a plant source (56).

Help retain muscle mass: Being a rich source of protein, organ meat helps in muscle building and in retaining muscle mass (789).

Reduce appetite: Also being a high-protein food, organ meat can help reduce appetite and increase feelings of fullness. They may also prove effective in boosting metabolism.

Organ Meats and Increased Cholesterol Levels

Naturally, regardless of being an animal source, organ meats are cholesterol-rich foods.

A 100g serving of beef brain contains about 1,033 percent of the RDI for cholesterol; the liver and kidney have 127 percent and 239 percent respectively (21314).

Most people associated cholesterol with heart disease and occluded arteries.

However, the bulk of the body’s cholesterol is produced by the liver, which regulates cholesterol production based on your level of cholesterol intake (15).

So the liver produces less cholesterol when you consume a cholesterol-rich food. Therefore, it is right to say that cholesterol from food plays a minor role in your total blood cholesterol levels (1617). It can also be said that dietary intake of cholesterol has a minor effect, if any, on your risk of cardiovascular disease (1819).

A 2015 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition carefully reviewed the effect of dietary cholesterol and heart disease or stroke in healthy adults (20).

Side Effects of Eating Organ Meats

Although they are not many side effects of eating organ meats, some classes of people may be more predisposed to having health issues due to high intakes and need to limit their consumption.

People With Gout

Gout is a common type of arthritis characterized by swollen and tender joints. It is caused primarily by high levels of uric acid in the blood.

Normally, purines in the diet are broken down to uric acid in the body. Organ meats are extremely high in purines, so it is advisable to moderate your intake if you have gout (21).

Pregnant Women

Organ meat especially the liver is very rich in vitamin A. This vitamin plays a vital role in fetal growth and development during pregnancy.

However, an uptake level of 10,000 IU of vitamin A per day is recommended by the National Institutes of Health, as excessive intake have been implicated in birth abnormalities and defects (2223).

Abnormalities of the eyes, ears, nose and birth defects such as heart, spinal cord and neural tube defect are commonly seen (24).

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine reveals that pregnant women who consume more than 10,000 IU of vitamin A per day stand 80 percent chances of having a child with a birth defect compared to mothers who consume 5,000 IU or less per day (25).

On that note, it is very important to lower your intake of organ meat during pregnancy, especially if you are taking vitamin A supplements.

Final Thoughts

Organ meats are a rich source of many essential vitamins and minerals that are hard to come by. You can start by substituting some muscle meat with organ meat to reap its full health benefits.

That’s if you’re serious about your health.

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