Before you dismiss my Protocol for this week entirely, consider this: If you saw an advertisement for a highly bioavailable multivitamin/multimineral supplement that had all the essential amino acids and omega-3 fats that only needed to be taken once a week (instead of every day) for just $2.00 a dose, wouldn’t you be at least a little curious?―that’s what you’re getting with organ meats!
I know what you’re probably thinking, “Gross! Why can’t I just find a supplement like that to take?” You can. Supplements definitely have their place and help a lot of people get closer to their health goals, but it’s important to note that it’s rare to find ones that match the nutrient bioavailability of whole foods, especially organ meats.
The nutrients in organ meats act synergistically, which means their vitamins and minerals come in ratios that our cells can recognize and use right away. It would be pretty awesome if we could recreate this in a lab, but Mother Nature has proven that nothing quite holds up to the composition and complexity of the foods she’s designed—the foods we’ve eaten throughout our evolutionary history.
As a recovering vegetarian, the thought of eating organ meats completely disgusted me. It wasn’t until I learned more about their health benefits and the role they’ve played in helping so many people recover from chronic disease that I gradually started incorporating them into my diet. Along the way, I’ve found some simple and tasty ways to enjoy them that I’m excited to share with you today.
Before we jump into my protocol this week, let’s first dig in further on why organ meats are the benchmark of bioavailable, nutrient-dense superfoods.
Why you can’t supplement your way to optimal health
When I think about the impact of taking a food-first approach, my dear friend Dr. Terry Wahls always comes to mind. Dr. Wahls joined me on my podcast last year to share her story and the diet and lifestyle changes that saved her from her secondary progressive MS.
When prescription drugs alone weren’t helping, she began reading up on the basic science behind MS and other neurodegenerative diseases. She started taking supplements to support her mitochondria, brain, and neuronal health like creatine, carnitine, coenzyme Q10, vitamin K, and vitamin B12. The supplements helped slow her decline, but what was pivotal in her recovery was restructuring her autoimmune Paleo diet to emphasize foods that contained the targeted nutrients she was supplementing with.
Now known as the “Wahls Protocol”, her food-first approach includes 9 cups of diverse high-quality plant fibers every day, berries, wild-caught fish, bone broth, and grass-fed beef. But one of the most critical aspects to her recovery was the addition of grass-fed liver and heart once a week as well as eating mussels and oysters regularly.
Organ meats are a nutritional powerhouse!
In this day in age, it’s nearly impossible to get all the nutrients you need from food. Even people who eat a well-balanced diet have nutrient deficiencies. Modern-day agriculture has left the soil depleted of essential nutrients making food today far less nutrient-dense than what it used to be just 100 years ago (a topic for another newsletter) (1)(2)(3)(4).
The good news is, organ meats provide a ton of bioavailable nutrition to guarantee we’re getting what we need. That’s why we only need to eat them once a week! It’s important to note, quality matters, so make sure you’re only buying organ meats from grass-fed beef, lamb, or pasture-raised chickens (I have my go-to brand recommended below).
Here are some examples of the more popular organ meats and the nutrients they contain:
- Liver: rich in B vitamins (essential for liver detoxification). It contains more than double your daily requirement of vitamin B12 and vitamin A in just 1 ounce. It also has significant amounts of folic acid, iron (3 times more than red meat!), zinc, selenium, and a balanced omega-6 to omega-3 ratio (5)(6).
- Heart: contains coenzyme Q10 (anti-fatigue, anti-aging, protects against heart disease), collagen, and the same nutrients as liver (7)(8).
- Kidneys: like liver and heart, kidneys are rich in vitamin B12, selenium, iron, copper, zinc, and have a balanced omega-6 to omega-3 ratio. Kidneys also contain L-ergothioneine, an amino acid that specifically supports liver and kidney function (9)(10)(11), and DAO, an enzyme that helps break down histamine.Histamine is a chemical created in the body that’s released during immune reactions. It’s also present in aged and fermented foods (cheese, wine, pickles, cured meats). Everybody can tolerate a certain level of histamine, but for those who suffer from histamine intolerance, the level is much less. Histamine intolerance is characterized by a person’s inability to break down and excrete histamine, which can lead to various health issues (12). Therefore, it is thought that the DAO in kidneys might help with histamine intolerance.
Note: It’s advised that pregnant women limit their intake of organ meats, especially liver, to just a few ounces once per week due to its high vitamin A levels.
I know organ meats aren’t the most tantalizing, but nowadays there are creative ways to disguise them so you don’t even know they’re there. In my protocol this week, I include recipes that will make you rethink your beliefs around organ meats and Splurge items of my favorite bioavailable supplements made from desiccated organs for those who want the benefits of organs without having to actually eat them.
Let’s get into it!
I. Start small. When you start adding new foods to your diet, I always recommend starting small and working your way up. Remember, quality matters so make sure you’re buying high-quality grass-fed meats from a reputable brand, like US Wellness Meats (I have no affiliation with them).
1. Liver detox smoothie. Before I lose you on this one, I have some friends who absolutely swear by this. On days they do have it, they say their energy is through the roof and lasts the whole day. When I ask about taste, they say they totally forget they even added liver to it at all.
Here’s the best (and easiest) way to do it:
- Defrost organic, grass-fed beef, chicken, or lamb liver and cut into cubes.
- Blend cubes in a blender or food processor until puréed.
- Pour 1 tsp of puréed mix into an ice cube tray and let freeze.
- Add a cube to your smoothie in the morning, mine usually consists of an unsweetened acai frozen pack, leafy greens, half an avocado, unsweetened organic almond milk, and collagen powder.
2. Eat organs as an accessory. In just 1 ounce of grass-fed beef liver, about the size of the base of your thumb, there’s over 150% of your daily value for vitamin A, 700% for vitamin B12, 130% of copper, and almost 50% of riboflavin. You don’t need much to get the health benefits from its powerhouse of essential nutrients.
3. Add to a broth. Just like your grandparents made the turkey “gizzards” into gravy on Thanksgiving, adding liver to a gravy or soup is an excellent way to take advantage of its nutrients.
- Gently simmer 1 to 2 ounces of pasture-raised chicken or grass-fed beef liver over medium heat in olive oil, organic butter, or chicken stock for 3 to 5 minutes (it should be brown on the outside and red in the middle). Remove the liver from the pot, blend it with any liquid left at the bottom, and add it to your favorite bone broth recipe, like this one.
II. Get creative in the kitchen with these recipes! Believe it or not, eating organ meats has gained a lot of traction in recent years because its health benefits are undeniable. Thankfully, new recipes are constantly emerging to make these nourishing foods more palatable and appetizing for children and adults to eat. Here are some of my all-time favorite recipes that I use to incorporate organ meats into my diet:
1. Merguez-Spiced Chicken Liver and Mushroom Lettuce Cups. My friend and business partner Dr. Mark Hyman introduced me to this recipe and let me tell you it’s nothing short of a flavorful and delicious meal with loads of health-promoting nutrients you can feel good about eating.
2. Grass-fed ground beef burgers or meatballs. Your run-of-the-mill hamburger is typically made from low-quality, factory-farmed beef. My recipe below is made from nutrient-dense, high-quality grass-fed beef and organs. I like using a blend of grass-fed ground beef with kidney, heart, and liver—it tastes no different than regular ground beef. US Wellness Meats makes a blend of 75% lean ground beef, heart, kidneys, and liver for a great price with an excellent omega-6 to omega-3 ratio (13).
Here’s my super easy go-to burger (or meatball) recipe:
- Use 1 pound of US Wellness Meats ground beef and organ blend, or make your own using 1 pound of grass-fed ground beef mixed with grass-fed beef liver. I use 6 to 8 ounces of liver that I cut into very small pieces (about ½-inch) and mix together with ground beef.
- Mix 1 pasture-raised egg into the ground beef mix to bind it together.
- Next, add ½ a minced white onion, ½ tablespoon of fresh rosemary, ½ tablespoon of thyme, and any other spices you like (oregano, basil, and paprika work great).
- Mix all of the ingredients together and form them into burgers (this recipe can make 4 to 6 depending on how big you make them), or meatballs (makes about 15 to 20 that are about 1 inch in diameter).
- For meatballs, cook in the oven at 350°F for 20 to 25 minutes. For burgers, cook on the stovetop on medium-high heat in a heat-stable fat like grass-fed butter or ghee.
III. Not all lunch meats are created equal. Typically I would advise people to stay far away from lunch meat because they contain gluten, added sugars, preservatives, and fillers. But liverwurst, on the other hand, gets the seal of approval. Granted, we have to upgrade from the deli counter and go for the highest quality grass-fed beef source we can get.
1. Beef Liverwurst. Also referred to as liver sausage, contains grass-fed beef trim, liver, heart, and kidney. It’s super tasty and packed with bioavailable vitamins, minerals, essential amino acids, and healthy fats.
2. Beef Braunschweiger. A 60/40 mix of grass-fed beef trim and liver. This blend is milder than liverwurst and perfect for if you’re trying to incorporate organ meats into your or your family’s diet.
I. Desiccated Organ Supplements. Eating nose to tail is the ideal way to ensure we’re getting all of the vital nutrients we need to thrive—but I totally understand if you’re not at that level yet. That’s why anyone who’s struggling with health issues rooted in nutrient deficiencies (which many chronic diseases are) desiccated organ supplements are a great alternative because they offer the bioavailable forms of nutrition without cooking actual organs.
1. Paleovalley Grass Fed Organ Complex. Their Grass Fed Organ Complex contains liver, heart, and kidney (the most nutrient-dense foods in the world) from healthy, grass-fed, pasture-raised cows for a diverse array of nutrients like B12, folate, CoQ10, amino acids, and other essential vitamins and minerals.
2. Heart & Soil. Heart & Soil sources their grass-fed, grass-finished desiccated organ supplements from New Zealand cows that have access to the most pristine grazing conditions. They offer different organ complex multivitamin supplements depending on your health goals ranging from a basic multivitamin to bone health to hair, skin, and nails, and fertility for both men and women.
Millions of years before the discovery of vitamins, minerals, and other essential nutrients, our ancestors knew that organ meats contained the most bioavailable and sought-after forms of nutrition. After a kill, elite hunters and pregnant women had first dibs on the organ meats to guarantee the vitality of their tribe for generations to come (14)(15).
We have drifted far from our ancestral roots in a short period of time. We no longer eat nutrient-dense organ meats and we’ve replaced them with refined sugar and grains, low-quality protein, and the wrong kind of fats. Prescription drugs and supplements definitely have their place, yet despite getting more and more sophisticated, we’re getting farther and farther away from achieving optimal health.
Adding nutrient-dense organ meats to your diet is a great way to make sure you’re getting the bioavailable nutrients your body needs to thrive. Give these recipes a try, start small, work your way up, and notice if you feel any different.
Here’s to your health,