What are the Health Benefits of Chicken Liver?
While you may not be as familiar with organ meats such as chicken liver as you are with more well known cuts such as chicken breasts or thighs, organ meats are actually one of the healthiest foods you can consume. Many people, especially those who follow a paleo or whole-foods centered diet, are rediscovering the nose-to-tail food movement, which was generally just called “eating” by our ancestors, and is still standard practice for many other societies around the world today. Nose to tail eating involves consuming not only the “muscle meats” that are part of our standard American diet, but using the whole animal and not letting any part of it go to waste. Many cultures follow a nose to tail philosophy, and not only does it reduce waste but also allows you to enjoy some of the healthiest parts of the animal! If you’ve ever made bone broth from the bones of a whole chicken, you have experience with nose to tail. Another good example of following this concept is the consumption of organ meats. Incorporating a nose to tail philosophy into your diet not only honors the animals that sustain us and reduces waste, but packs a nutritional punch that is pretty unparalleled.
Why You Should Add Chicken Liver to Your Diet
The nutritional profile of chicken liver is pretty staggering. Chicken liver is lower in both calories and fat than chicken breast, for example, but its vitamin content is off the charts. Chicken liver contains about 81% of the daily recommended value of vitamin A per ounce, compared to less than 1% for chicken breast (note however, that this study likely tested the vitamin content of conventionally raised chicken breast - pasture raised chicken is much higher in vitamins and minerals due to the varied diet chickens receive on pasture.) The same goes for several B vitamins, and trace minerals such as selenium. As organ meats gain a larger following, they’re becoming known as a “superfood” and while this term gets thrown around a lot to sell supplements and processed nutritional powders, in the case of organ meats, they really fit the definition of a superfood.
In fact, chicken liver is so nutrient rich that it is best consumed as a supplement to a healthy diet - you don’t need to eat it every day to obtain its benefits unless you have certain health issues such as anemia that would benefit from the excess nutrients. Liver contains between 10 and 100 times the nutrients of “muscle meats” (i.e., the type of meat you’re used to eating), and is generally much less expensive. We’ve discussed in past blog posts our opinion that nutrients are best obtained from a whole food-centered diet rather than processed supplements, and chicken liver is a perfect example of how nutrients can easily be obtained from food.
Here are just a few of the health benefits of chicken liver:
It’s good for your heart and other organs - the selenium contained in chicken liver helps to prevent and manage various cardiovascular issues, including heart disease, stroke, and high cholesterol. Similarly, the vitamin and mineral content of chicken liver helps to strengthen your immune system, improves brain function, and boosts the health of your blood due to its high levels of iron and vitamin B.
Liver’s high folate content is good for fertility - folate is one of the most important nutrients you can consume when trying to conceive, as it can help prevent birth defects and enhance fertility. While it’s important to note that pregnant women shouldn’t consumer liver, as too much vitamin A can be harmful to a growing baby, liver can be a welcome addition to a pre-conception diet due to its high folate, vitamin B, and iron content.
High in protein, low in fat - paleo diet followers tend to love foods like chicken liver, because they are high in protein and low in fat - making them a perfect choice for weight management, fitness training diets, or just generally healthy eating!
How to Prepare Chicken Livers
We can almost hear what half of you are probably thinking - YUCK! Those familiar with eating organ meats will appreciate the fact that we’re showing chicken liver some love on this blog, but if you haven’t tried liver (or if you’ve tried it prepared the wrong way), chances are you’re questioning whether you can stomach (ha, see what we did there?) the taste.
We’re not going to lie, chicken liver has a strong taste, in part due to its nutrient density. But there are several ways to prepare it, both as the focus of its own meal, or hidden in other food, such as burgers or bolognese sauce. There are also a few helpful tips that can make liver more palatable.
- Soak liver in milk or lemon juice before cooking to help cut down on the metallic taste some people notice when consuming liver
- If you’re preparing chicken liver to be consumed straight (rather than mixed in spaghetti sauce, for example), take care not to overcook it. Liver should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees fahrenheit, but it is possible to overcook it, and if you think overcooked chicken breast is rubbery, just wait until you try overcooked liver (we’re kidding, we hope you never have to try overcooked liver.)
- Hide it! Dishes made with ground beef or other meat can often have a more overpowering flavor than chicken, so it can be helpful to dice up your chicken livers and mix them in with other foods to help mask the flavor. Meatloaf, spaghetti sauce, burgers, or tacos are all great meals to hide a bit of liver in. These dishes are generally made with various herbs and spices as well as beef, which can all help mask the flavor of chicken liver if you don’t enjoy it on its own.
That being said, don’t be afraid to give chicken livers a try! When prepared correctly, they really can be a delicious, and flavorful addition to your diet, and you’d be hard pressed to find a more nutritious and cost-effective food source. Consuming about 4 ounces of chicken liver per week is a great way to add a wholesome source of vitamins and minerals to your diet.