Liver.  You either love it or hate it.  And I’m going to go out on a limb and say most of us hate it.  I know I do.  Believe me, I want to love it, I really do, but. It. Tastes. Like. Crap.  You say offal, I say awful.  To be fair, chicken liver is much milder than beef offal, and therefore way less offensive to my palate.  I have even made a pate with chicken liver that I actually enjoyed.  Unfortunately, I only have access to pastured beef liver, so I must contend with it’s incredibly strong flavor.  If I was able to get pastured chicken livers on a regular basis, I’m pretty sure I could manage to include it in our diets with some frequency.  However, since that is not the case, I had to find another way to get liver into our bellies without all the gagging, choking, and complaining that accompanies this sacred food.  I’ve tried it all, hiding it in strongly flavored dishes like hamburgers, chili, and tacos but nothing, and I mean nothing, can mask the super strong flavor of beef offal.  What was a desperate mama to do?  Make liver pills, of course.  Making desiccated liver pills would ensure we could reap all of liver’s many health benefits without actually having to eat it!

Why the obsession with liver?

You may be wondering why I am so determined to include liver into my family’s diet.  Liver is the ultimate superfood.  Nature’s multivitamin.  Revered for centuries, and one of the first organ meats animals go for, it is ounce for ounce the most nutritious thing on the planet.  As with most traditional foods and practices, eating organ meats has unfortunately fallen out of fashion in the Standard American Diet (SAD).  Highly nutrient dense organ meats have given way to the now popular muscle meats, things like the breast and thigh, pieces of meat that were rarely consumed, and definitely never made up the bulk of protein in our diet, as they do now.  There are recent studies that show eating an excess of muscle meat can lead to a myriad of health problems, including thyroid suppression.   Here is an excerpt from Ray Peat on the possible detriment of eating primarily muscle meats.  While more research is needed on the subject, the premise behind it makes a lot of sense.

“When we eat animal proteins in the traditional ways (for example, eating fish head soup, as well as the muscles, or “head-cheese” as well as pork chops, and chicken-foot soup as well as drumsticks), we assimilate a large amount of glycine and gelatin. This whole-animal balance of amino acids supports all sorts of biological process, including a balanced growth of children’s tissues and organs. When only the muscle meats are eaten, the amino acid balance entering our blood stream is the same as that produced by extreme stress, when cortisol excess causes our muscles to be broken down to provide energy and material for repair. The formation of serotonin is increased by the excess tryptophan in muscle, and serotonin stimulates the formation of more cortisol, while the tryptophan itself, along with the excess muscle-derived cysteine, suppresses the thyroid function.”

Other research suggests that the departure from nutrient dense, “whole animal” eating is one of the primary factors for the development of degenerative diseases in modern societies.  The shift from eating nutrient dense foods to that of processed foods devoid of critical nutrients have resulted in genetic damage from generations of nutritional deficiencies, meaning your parents and grandparents poor eating habits have had a major impact on your health before you even made your debut into the world.  Organ meats and bone broth contain large concentrations of amino acids simply not found in muscle meats.  The practice of eating the whole animal is something that was done for centuries, and with good reason.   Unfortunately, in today’s modern world, we are so far removed from nose to tail eating and consequently missing out on the most powerful foods on the planet, foods that strengthen fertility, provide energy, and support longevity.   When a bear eats a salmon, he goes for the roe, skin, and head first and often leaves the filet behind.  When lions make a kill, they instinctively eat the organ meats first, things like the heart, liver, and kidneys and the muscle meat is always saved for later.  What do these animals know that we don’t?  Their finely honed instincts tell them that the organs of an animal are the most densest source of nutrition, and will provide them with the all the nutrients they need to survive.  Our ancestors ate in the same way, consuming the fattiest parts of the animals and the organs before anything else.  In some cultures, the liver is so highly regarded that human hands are not allowed to touch it, it must be moved with a special stick.  Many areas around the world continue to include and revere organ meats but this food group has been long forgotten and outright shunned in most American households.

So, what’s so special about this offal meat?

Okay.   Now you’re aware that organ meats, especially the liver, are nutritional powerhouses.  But what makes them worthy of this illustrious title?  Let’s take a look at the treasure trove of benefits that come from eating liver.

  • Liver is nature’s most concentrated source of pre-formed vitamin A, aka retinol
  • It is a high quality source of protein
  • It contains all the B vitamins in abundance, particularly vitamin B12
  • Is one of our best sources of folic acid
  • It contains many minerals, including a highly bioavailable form of iron
  • It provides trace elements such as copper, zinc and chromium; liver is our best source of copper
  • Contains an unidentified anti-fatigue factor (more on this later)
  • Liver contains CoQ10, a nutrient that is especially important for cardio-vascular function and energy production.  CoQ10 is also a powerful antioxidant
  • It is a good source of purines, nitrogen-containing compounds that serve as precursors for DNA and RNA
  • Contains high levels of vitamin E, beneficial for circulation, tissue repair, and destroying free radicals
  • Provides Choline, a B vitamin essential for cell membranes, supporting brain and heart health, and preventing birth defects

One of the most amazing quality that liver possesses, is something referred to as the “anti-fatigue factor.”  It is not quite fully understood what gives liver this ability, but it is widely documented.  Here’s an excerpt from Weston A. Price on his findings of this phenomenom:

Liver’s as-yet-unidentified anti-fatigue factor makes it a favorite with athletes and bodybuilders. The factor was described by Benjamin K. Ershoff, PhD, in a July 1951 article published in the Proceedings for the Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine. Ershoff divided laboratory rats into three groups. The first ate a basic diet, fortified with 11 vitamins. The second ate the same diet, along with an additional supply of vitamin B complex. The third ate the original diet, but instead of vitamin B complex received 10 percent of rations as powdered liver. A 1975 article published in Prevention magazine described the experiment as follows: “After several weeks, the animals were placed one by one into a drum of cold water from which they could not climb out. They literally were forced to sink or swim. Rats in the first group swam for an average 13.3 minutes before giving up. The second group, which had the added fortifications of B vitamins, swam for an average of 13.4 minutes. Of the last group of rats, the ones receiving liver, three swam for 63, 83 and 87 minutes. The other nine rats in this group were still swimming vigorously at the end of two hours when the test was terminated. Something in the liver had prevented them from becoming exhausted. To this day scientists have not been able to pin a label on this anti-fatigue factor.”

Whew!  Sounds like a superfood if you ask me!  Much more so than acai, blueberries, or any of the other more popular foods being hailed as such.  No other food even comes close to liver in terms of sheer nutrition.  You simply cannot ignore the wonder that is liver.  Hopefully I’ve convinced you of the importance of including this power packed organ in your diet, but aside from it tasting like dog food, perhaps there is another factor that’s keeping you from consuming this magical food.

Toxins.  Isn’t the liver the dirty organ that stores toxins?  Why on Earth would you want to ingest this filthy toxic waste dump??

This is a popular argument, however it has no basis.  While it is true that one of the liver’s many functions is to neutralize toxins, like chemicals and poisons, it does not store them.  Toxins that are not eliminated by the body are stored in fatty tissues and the nervous system.  However, the liver is a storage organ for many essential nutrients, like Vitamins A, D, E, K, B12, folic acid, and minerals like iron and copper.  More like a processing plant than a filter, the liver receives it’s shipment and decides where it needs to be delivered.  Among many other functions, it converts protein to glucose, glucose to glycogen, and it’s most well known ability, is to receive toxins, neutralize them, and then ship them off to get expelled from the body.  Toxins do not accumulate in the liver, rather they stop there briefly to be processed and then are sent on their way, usually in urine through the kidneys.  The liver can accumulate toxins and heavy metals, but so can the rest of the animal, so if you’re avoiding liver on this basis, you should probably avoid the rest of the animal too.

Are you convinced yet that it is absolutely critical to include this sacred food in your diet?  Ready to incite some strange looks from people when you tell them you’re going to make some desiccated liver pills?  Excellent.  Let’s get started.

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A quick note:  You will notice that this recipe calls for raw liver.  Say what?!!?  Dehydrating raw liver at very low temperatures preserves all the enzymes and nutrients present in the uncooked organ.  It does not cook the meat, it merely just dries it out.  Concerned about consuming raw liver?  As long as your liver is from pastured animals, (and this is the only type you should be eating) and you freeze the liver for 14 days, the risk of illness from pathogens is extremely low.  You could of course cook it first, but in my opinion, you are losing valuable nutrients if you decide to go this route.  Obviously, you need to do what you’re comfortable with, just because I am all kinds of crazy doesn’t necessarily mean you need to be too.  Although it is a whole lot of fun.  I’m just saying.  I get off on people thinking I am fifty shades of nuts.  Keeps ‘em on their toes…

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Desiccated Liver Pills

1 lb (or more) pastured liver

dehydrator

food processor or high powered blender

empty gelatin capsules

Have the butcher thinly slice your liver. If that isn’t possible, and you have to slice it yourself, sticking the liver in the freezer for a half hour or so will make it much easier to cut. Then slice as thinly and uniformly as possible.  It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it helps to have uniform pieces so the dry time is the same for all of them.

Lay the slices of raw liver on your dehydrator sheets. Dehydrate at 105 degrees for 36-48 hours or until the liver is thoroughly dried. It should look like beef jerky at this point!

Place dried liver into food processor or blender and grind as fine as you can get it. Mine didn’t grind all that fine, and I didn’t lose any sleep over it.*

Fill empty capsules with dried liver by filling the larger end up completely, partly filling the cap and then connecting the two ends together.

Voila! Liver pills that will turn you into a superhuman all without having to contend with the nasty, offal flavor!

* Chanda’s note:  I used my food processor to grind the liver for this recipe.  For my second batch of liver pills, I used my dry Vita-mix blender and was able to achieve an extremely fine, powder like substance.  While the size of the ground liver has no impact on its quality, the finer grind was easier to encapsulate, and I was able to fit more liver into each capsule!

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