In America, eating liver isn’t very popular. Many people get squeamish at the thought of eating organ meat! Yet, in most countries, liver is considered to be one of the healthiest foods.
It also gets a bad reputation. Most people think of liver as the organ that flushes out toxins. And while this is true, it doesn’t store them. Instead, it’s a rich source of essential vitamins and minerals. Here are five reasons why eating liver is so good for you.
5 Nutrients That Liver Contains
1. Vitamin A
Liver is a remarkable source of Vitamin A. In one 3-ounce portion, you’ll get 6,582 micrograms (mcg) retinol activity equivalents (RAE), about seven times more than the recommended daily value. Adult men need 900 mcg RAE and women need 700 mcg RAE. Pregnant and lactating mothers need more, from 750 to 1,300 mcg RAE depending on their ages.
While most Americans get enough vitamin A, eating liver can keep your levels in check. This nutrient is needed for healthy immunity, reproduction, and eye health. Even your heart, lungs, and kidneys need vitamin A to function.
People with cystic fibrosis have a higher risk of Vitamin A deficiency. This condition damages the lungs and digestive system, making it difficult to absorb the vitamin. In fact, 15 to 40 percent of patients are deficient. If you have cystic fibrosis, consider adding liver to your diet.1
2. Vitamin B2
Liver is a great source of Vitamin B2 or riboflavin. A 3-ounce portion has 2.9 milligrams (mg), which is almost double the daily recommendation of 1.3 for men and 1.1 for women. Pregnant and breastfeeding mothers need 1.4 and 1.6 mg, respectively.2
In the body, Vitamin B2 is needed for proper nerve function. It also promotes skin health and red blood cell production. Without enough Vitamin B2, you’ll feel fatigued and tired. Other symptoms include slowed growth, digestive issues, swollen throat, and cracks on the corners of the mouth.
3. Vitamin B9
Vitamin B9 or folic acid or folate is very important for proper brain function. You also need it for mental and emotional health. It’s easy to have low levels since the body doesn’t store it. However, with 215 mcg dietary folate equivalents (DFE) in a 3-ounce serving, liver is the best source of folate. Adult men and women need 300 mcg DFE each day.
It’s even more essential for pregnant and lactating women, who need 600 and 500 mcg DFE, respectively. Folate is necessary for healthy growth and development. Getting enough during pregnancy lowers the risk of neural tube defects and other birth problems.5
Alcoholics and people with inflammatory bowel disease and celiac disease should also consider eating liver. These groups have a very high risk of folate deficiency.6
4. Vitamin B12
Another reason to eat liver is its high content of vitamin B12 or cyanocobalamin. It’s also needed for the production of red blood cells, a healthy central nervous system, and protein metabolism. You can’t get it from plants, though. Animal proteins are the best source.7
Aside from clams, liver is a top source of Vitamin B12. A 3-ounce cooked portion has 70.7 mcg, almost 30 times more the recommended intake of 2.4 mcg! Pregnant women need 2.6 mcg, while breastfeeding women need 2.8 mcg.
The body does not store Vitamin B12. However, consuming liver can improve your levels and prevent megaloblastic anemia. Neurological disorders will also be less likely.8
Liver can help you meet your iron needs. This mineral is needed to make red blood cells which transport oxygen around your body. Without enough iron, problems like anemia may develop. Symptoms include weakness, confusion, and fatigue.9
One 3-ounce serving of cooked liver has 5 mg of iron. It will contribute to the daily recommendation of 8 mg for men and 18 mg for women. If you’re pregnant, you’ll need 27 mg each day.
If you’ve lost a lot of blood, iron is even more important. Ladies with heavy menstrual periods should consider eating liver, along with other iron-rich foods. People who often donate blood will also benefit.10
These nutrients are the major benefits of eating liver. But that’s not all! You’ll also get thiamin, biotin, vitamin E, zinc, and selenium.11
|↑1||Vitamin A. National Institutes of Health.|
|↑2, ↑4||Riboflavin. National Institutes of Health.|
|↑3||Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin). University of Medical Maryland Center.|
|↑5||Folates. National Institutes of Health.|
|↑6||Vitamin B9 (Folic Acid). University of Maryland Medical Center.|
|↑7||Vitamin B12. MedlinePlus.|
|↑8||Vitamin B12. National Institutes of Health.|
|↑9||Iron. University of Maryland Medical Center.|
|↑10||Iron. National Institutes of Health.|
|↑11||Nutrition Basics. Women’s Health.|