Today I want to rescue these much maligned 1950’s dishes, Liver and Onions and Liver Paté! I know people make fun of eating liver, but it is a superfood to people with ill health or deficiencies.
This nutrient dense food was promoted by Dr. Weston Price in the 1930’s, when he found out that healthy cultures the world over included the whole animal on their menu, which is called “nose to tail eating.” This means eating the liver, tongue, heart, gizzard, bone marrow and broth from bones. Animal-based vitamins are ready to be used in the body, without conversion, so liver is an easy to absorb form of vitamin A and many B vitamins.
Liver “is high in preformed vitamin A- 8 ounces…have 100,000 IU…The vitamin B12 level is also the highest of any food. The content of other B vitamins – such as riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pyridoxine (B6), biotin, and folic acid- is also high. Many of the minerals are good, too, such as iron, zinc, copper, chromium, selenium, potassium, phosphorous, and sodium. Liver is often suggested as a medicinal food for anemia or fatigue because os it high iron and blood-building nutrients.”
– Dr. Haas, Staying Healthy with Nutrition, p. 348
[I should note here that Dr. Haas recommends not eating red meat, and avoiding liver due to his concerns about its toxic load. I don’t agree with this, after reading Dr. McBride’s info below.]
On the other side, vegetable vitamins, while great, do need to be converted before they can be used. That conversion process is based upon (sound the horns here)…other vitamins. So if you are deficient in certain nutrients, you may not be converting vegetable vitamins well, which means the “food to energy” whole point of eating may have broken down.
A few years back I was quite weak from digestive issues, but after eating a lot of liver the day before, I was able to go to a fair at even higher elevation, walk around all day with energy, and at the end of the day, RUN up stairs & across a field (again at high elevation). My husband couldn’t believe it. I knew where to credit my new-found energy.
Here’s a chart from a 1990’s version of Better Homes and Gardens, showing the vitamin A in their Liver and Onions dish (link). It’s off the chart! And remember – it’s a powerhouse of B vitamins, iron, and protein, too. The B vitamin series help our liver work better (see thiamine, riboflavin, niacin below). And ready for some more mind blowing info?This chart is for just one quarter of the dish: 1/4 pound!
These high vitamin levels are safe because they are in food, and your body has the option to use what it needs, and leave the rest. Your own liver and body choose what it needs from the menu.
“An absolute resuscitation for an anaemic person is eating liver. Liver is a true powerhouse of nutrition…Making sure that your GAPS patient eats some liver on a regular basis will do immeasurably more for his or her nutritional status than the best and the most expensive supplements in the world.” – Gut and Psychology Syndrome, p. 131 by Dr. McBride
Dr. McBride helps people with autism and digestive disorders through a diet called GAPS for short, or Gut and Psychology Syndrome for the long version. It starves out bad bacteria in the digestive system while continually adding good bacteria. She is spot on with this quote.
Isn’t Liver Toxic?
You may have heard that the liver stores toxins. Not true! The liver does filter toxins out. Toxins are stored in the fats of animals, or moved out of the body. This is why people who start a ketogenic diet (like the Paleo diet but high, high fat), they start to release their fat to burn as brain fuel, and their toxins, and feel terrible for a week or two. It’s like being hungover…really.
Improve the Flavor
The secret to not having your liver dish taste like skunk is to soak the liver beforehand in an acidic food like 2-4 TB cider vinegar, lemon juice, lime juice, or whey (liquid part of yogurt) with a little water to dilute it. Soak for 2 hours to overnight. Then you drain off the liquid and cook normally. You might want to dry it if you want it to brown instead of steam.
Chicken liver is lighter in flavor than beef or lamb. Chicken, duck or pork is usually used for paté. Beef is usually used in Liver and Onions. But you can choose to do things your own way.
I am sure you can find your own recipe for Liver with Onions, or use this Liver and Onions Recipe from Better Homes and Gardens website. The earthy beef flavor is offset by delicious lemon juice and sour vinegar in worchester sauce. Worchester sauce is a funny combination of garlic, anchovies, sugar, salt, and sour.
Most Liver and Onions recipes use worchester sauce, which does contain some sugar. This makes it illegal for people on the SCD and GAPS diets. So I have invented my own version using honey, which is legal. It’s listed just below. (You’re welcome!)
GAPS & SCD Diets Worchester Sauce Conversion
1/8 – 1/4 tsp anchovy paste (tube) (x16- 2 tsp)
1.25 tsp cider vinegar (x16- 6.5 TB)
1/3 tsp honey (x16- 5 tsp)
garlic – 1 small clove minced (x16- 15 small cloves)
Mix all together and use right away, or store in fridge (in glass preferably).
The liver is usually made with chicken or duck livers that are simmered with onion, and then butter or other fat, and seasonings like curry powder, cognac, brandy, cream, cognac and warm spices like nutmeg. When it’s cooled, the fat solidifies the dish into creamy goodness. If the fat content is bothering you, just remember that you Dr. Weston Price talked about saturated fats being the source of fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E). Fats also help bring water soluble vitamins (B series, K) into the body. (That’s why its good to eat salad with dressing!) And you know from above that the vitamin level for vitamins A, B and iron is really high.
You can choose to use healthier fats like pastured/grass-fed butter, pork or duck fat. (They are higher in desirable Omega 3’s. Grass-fed pork lard contains vitamin D.) I did try coconut oil, but it didn’t taste as good – no flavor!
Paté doesn’t freeze and thaw well (becomes grainy- yuck!). The usual container is a pound at a time. You could try to make 1/2 pound at a time maybe, and freeze the raw livers? Or just enjoy the full recipe with friends.
If you make it, cut the butter into tiny bits the size of a pea or two, and add a little at a time into the blender. You could pre-chill the butter int he freezer, too.
MTHFR – What is It?
There is a small, common genetic variant that can hinder people from detoxifying. Basically, we have recently found out that the forms of folic acid and B12 in most vitamins aren’t the right form to be useful to most humans. You can choose to buy ones with methylated folate and methylated B12. But luckily, the B vitamins in all foods (animal and plant) is the right form of B vitamins to be used.
Side Note – Healthy gut flora help convert our plant forms of B vitamins into something that we can use (like grains, greens). I mention this in case you are eating a lot of grains and dark greens, but still showing signs of B vitamin deficiency.
So, what do you think? Are you going to try out Liver and Onions or Paté? Are you ready to have a energy again? You might feel like a super hero if you do! If you liked this post, consider sharing it with your friends using the friendly links below.
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