The more we looked for good whole food sources of our most needed vitamins and minerals, the more we found that liver is packed with nutrients. If liver has so many vitamins and minerals in it, it must be good, right? We’re going to look at liver nutrition facts, and see if this organ meat meets our healthy standards.
Let’s start with some of the great things about liver. Liver has all of the vitamin A, B2 (riboflavin), and B12. Vitamin A and B12 are two vitamins most people are lacking in their diet. B12 is very hard to get in large enough doses in your diet from sources other than liver. Besides B2 and B12, it is a good source of all other B vitamins. Liver is also a good source of protein and most minerals.
While most vitamins are fine to take in large quantities (assuming you are getting balanced levels of vitamins), minerals typically have strict upper limits. A 100g serving of beef liver has 9.8mg of copper. The daily value for copper is 2mg. Health Canada has set the recommended dietary allowance at 1mg and an upper limit of 10mg a day. That means a 100g serving of liver can fall within our daily allowance, but it is right at the upper limit. Eating more than 100g, or eating anything else that contains copper, can put us at dangerously high risk of copper toxicity.
We need copper. Copper deficiency has a lot of negative side effects. Here are the signs and symptoms of copper deficiency:
- Join pain
- Brittle bones
- Frequently becoming sick
- Hair loss
- Weight loss
- Low body temperature/ feeling cold
- Skin inflammation/ sores
- Stunt in growth
- Sore muscles
Too much copper can lead to toxicity, which has been shown to lead to brain impairment. Elevated levels of copper have also been tied to many types of cancer. These are major concerns that may not present themselves as quickly as copper deficiency, but should definitely be taken into account.
Benefits of Liver Nutrition
With all of these important nutrients in beef liver, it is no surprise that this organ meat is going to have plenty of health benefits.
Let’s look at some of the benefits from getting B12 in your diet:
- It improves red blood cell formation, which is important for energy and heart health.
- It’s an important part of the cellular function, which keeps your body functioning.
- It supports the brain and nervous system.
- B12 deficiency has been linked to anxiety and depression.
Liver is also a good source of folate, which is important because it works with B12. Folate helps prevent many birth defects and promotes proper birth weight, healthy neural tube formation, and face and heart development.
Folate helps with DNA replication, it can prevent the cellular damage that leads to cancer. Folate also lowers your risk of heart disease. B9 can lower homocysteine, a compound linked to heart attacks and strokes.
The high levels of vitamin A have many other health benefits.
A lack of vitamin A can also lead to night blindness, and other eye diseases. If you like seeing then make sure you have some of this important vitamin in your diet.
Like vitamin C, vitamin A is also an important factor for your immune system. Vitamin A deficiency can lead to increased risk of infection, and an overall weaker immune system. This vitamin has also been shown to reduce your risk of diarrhea and malaria.
This nutrient works as an antioxidant, which means it helps to reduce the free radicals in the body. Free radicals can be dangerous because they are unstable and are looking to steal electrons from somewhere in the body. Free radicals can attack your body and lead to many harmful diseases like cancer. Retinol has been shown to lower your risk of cancer, particularly skin cancer. By neutralizing, and stabilizing free radicals with an antioxidant, you are protecting your body from damage.
One of the greatest benefits of vitamin A is that it promotes collagen production. Collagen is the main protein responsible for connecting tissue. This results in skin staying healthier, and looking younger. That’s right, vitamin A works as an anti-aging vitamin to help protect your skin from wrinkles. Not only does it help fight wrinkles, but studies show this nutrient can help improve your complexion and reduce acne.
A 100g serving of liver has more than half your daily value of selenium. Selenium is a mineral that works as an antioxidant, reducing oxidative stress. The reduction of DNA damage and oxidative stress caused by selenium reduces your risk of cancer, and has been especially successful at reducing the risk of prostate cancer.
This is not an exhaustive list of all of the benefits of eating liver, but it does go a long way to answering if this organ meat meets our healthy criteria. The answer is yes! Beef liver, eaten in moderation is not only healthy but makes our top 10 healthy foods.