This "Undesirable" Part Of Meat Is Actually The Healthiest, Says An MD
Carnivores, gather. According to board-certified family physician Cate Shanahan, M.D., most meat-eaters overlook the healthiest part of the animal: the organs.
We know, the thought of eating offal may sound, uh, awful. But as Shanahan explains on the mindbodygreen podcast, the health benefits of organ meats extend way beyond any ick-factor. If you do eat meat, here's why you should add more of the organ variety to your plate. (Hint: It has to do with longevity.)
Why you should eat more organ meats.
"We don't eat organ meats in [the modern diet], and we are way less nourished than we would be if we did," Shanahan says. Specifically, organ meats are an excellent source of iron and choline (an essential nutrient for brain health), both of which are common deficiencies in the average modern diet. It's also chock-full of vitamin D, vitamin B, and zinc—no wonder organ meat has earned the nickname, "nature's multivitamin."
Impressive nutrient profile aside, Shanahan notes that we should eat organ meats simply because, well, our ancestors did; in fact, many old, traditional cuisines around the globe include a fair share of organ meats into meals. "Look at any cookbook published before 1900, and you'll see recipes with every part of the animal—including nose to tail," she says.
Following this traditional food philosophy, she adds, can be extremely beneficial for longevity: "Your genes need traditional food," Shanahan states. "We should feed our genes what they expect, what they evolved on." In other words, we should eat the food that has sustained humans for hundreds of years. It only makes sense—it's gotten us this far, hasn't it? Research has also shown that supplementing with the amino acid glycine (which is abundant in organ meats, as well as bovine collagen) was able to increase healthy life span in mice.
That said, If you do eat meat, you might want to expand your palette beyond lean and clean cuts—you may be missing the healthiest part of the animal.
According to Shanahan, we should feed our genes the foods they're used to—one of which is nutrient-rich organ meats. Of course, eating grass-fed, pasture-raised meat is always important, no matter which part of the animal is on your plate.
In terms of the types of organ meats, liver is perhaps the most popular; however, some other options include heart, kidney, tripe (which comes from the stomach lining), and sweetbread (which comes from the pancreas). If you're not sure you can stomach the thought of eating animal entrails—we get it—you can always start slow and work your way up to organ meat prowess: Add some ground liver to a burger recipe for an undetectable nutrient boost. Call it gateway organ meats, if you will.
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Jamie Schneider is the Beauty & Wellness Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan, and her work has appeared in Coveteur, The Chill Times, and Wyld Skincare. In her role at mbg, she reports on everything from the top beauty industry trends, to the gut-skin connection and the microbiome, to the latest expert makeup hacks. She currently lives in New York City.