Liver

14 Interesting Facts About Liver

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Introduction

Liver is one of the most nutritious foods that humans consume. As an organ meat, liver is packed with essential vitamins, minerals, proteins and fats that are difficult to obtain in adequate amounts from other food sources.

While liver has fallen out of favor with some modern diners, it has been prized as a nutritious delicacy throughout history. Liver comes from various animals including cattle, chickens, ducks, lambs, pigs and even fish. Each type of liver has its own unique taste, texture and nutritional profile.

Below are 14 fascinating facts about one of nature’s most nutrient-dense foods. Learn about the history of eating liver, its nutritional benefits, how to select and cook it properly, and some of the famous liver dishes from around the world.

14 Interesting Facts About Liver

  1. Liver is one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet. Ounce for ounce, liver is packed with more vitamins, minerals and protein than muscle meats. In particular, liver excels at providing vitamin A, vitamin B12, copper, iron and phosphorus.
  2. Ancient humans likely scavenged and ate liver first before muscle meats. Since liver contains more essential nutrients than other meats, experts believe early humans selectively scavenged livers from carcasses before any other part of the animal.
  3. The Babylonians were the first culture to document recipes for liver. Tablets from 1750 BCE describe how the Babylonians cooked lamb liver by slicing it, salting it, breading it and frying it in tallow.
  4. Ancient Romans considered the liver of a fattened goose to be the most luxurious dish imaginable. They used innovative techniques like force-feeding figs to the geese to fatten their livers. This practice led to the modern technique of producing foie gras.
  5. Calf liver and onions was a staple meal in the Middle Ages. The combination emerged as a favorite dish across every class of society in Europe during the medieval period.
  6. Liver contains more vitamin A per ounce than carrots. Whereas carrots contain about 15,000 IU of vitamin A per 100 grams, beef liver contains over 100,000 IU. Vitamin A supports eye health and immune function.
  7. It has more folate than spinach. Folate is a B vitamin that plays a key role in red blood cell production and preventing neural tube defects during pregnancy. Beef liver contains over 1000 mcg of folate per 100 grams.
  8. Liver is one of the best sources of vitamin B12. B12 is mainly found in animal foods and is crucial for nerve tissue health and red blood cell formation. Just 100 grams of beef liver provides over 1000% of the RDI for B12.
  9. It provides more than half of the RDI for vitamin B6, B2 and niacin in a single serving. In addition to the B vitamins above, liver is loaded with riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5) and vitamin B6.
  10. Beef liver has more selenium than any other food measured. Selenium helps regulate thyroid function, protects against oxidative damage and modulates immune health. 100 grams of beef liver packs over 150 mcg of selenium.
  11. Chicken livers outperform even fish when it comes to omega-3 content. The omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA have powerful anti-inflammatory properties. Chicken livers contain roughly 300-400 mg of omega-3s per 100-gram portion.
  12. It contains the most copper of any food tracked by the USDA. Our bodies require copper to produce red blood cells, build bones and utilize iron properly. Beef liver provides 12 mg of copper per 100-gram serving, or over 100% of the RDI.
  13. When cooked properly, liver has a rich umami flavor. Umami is considered one of the five basic tastes, described as savory and meaty. Liver’s strong flavor comes from amino acids like glutamate and nucleotides like inosine monophosphate.
  14. Some famous traditional liver dishes include leverpostej, foie gras, yakitori and haggis. Leverpostej is a pâté made of liver and lard from Denmark. Foie gras is fattened duck or goose liver. Yakitori is skewered chicken liver popular in Japan. Haggis is a Scottish dish of sheep liver and other organ meats.

Conclusion

While liver is one of the least popular meats nowadays, it has a long history of use around the world. It has been especially prized for its extremely high nutrient density. Ounce for ounce, liver consistently has more essential vitamins and minerals than other forms of meat.

If you can get over the strong flavor and unfamiliar texture, adding liver to your diet a few times a month is an excellent way to get vitamins A, B12, folate, copper, selenium and other nutrients that tend to be lacking in modern diets. Proper selection and cooking is key though. Look for livers that are firm without spots or blemishes. Cook liver by sautéing, grilling or braising until it reaches an internal temperature of 160°F (71°C).

So be brave – branch out beyond muscle meats and give nutrient-dense liver a try soon!


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