If your mom made you eat liver as a child, you may not have enjoyed the experience. Was mom right? Is liver healthy?
Your mother may have told you to eat liver because it’s good for you, but chances are it didn’t go down easily. Calves liver is definitely an acquired taste and few children enjoy it’s strong, distinctive flavor. How about the health benefits? Is liver healthy?
It’s a Powerhouse of Vitamins
There’s no doubt that calf’s liver is an excellent source of important vitamins. It’s loaded with B vitamins, being a particularly good source of vitamin B12, a compound needed for red blood cell production and for maintaining a healthy immune system. The B vitamins also have cardiovascular benefits and are important for energy producing reactions in the body that keep the body functioning at peak capacity without fatigue.
What about other vitamins? Four ounces of calf’s liver has seven times the recommended daily requirement for vitamin A, a vitamin that’s critical for healthy vision and immune function. It also provides a good dose of vitamin C, an antioxidant vitamin important for maintaining healthy skin and connective tissue. It’s tough to find a food that’s a better source of these all important vitamins. Calf’s liver really does provide a powerful array of life sustaining vitamins, all in a single food.
In terms of minerals, calf’s liver is rich in selenium, zinc, and iron. Selenium is a trace mineral involved in the production of key enzymes, particularly ones related to thyroid function. Both selenium and zinc are important for fertility, especially zinc in males. Zinc is also necessary for good immune function. Getting adequate iron is important for pre-menopausal women, but too much iron can be a problem for men and women after menopause as iron stores can build up in the body, potentially increasing the risk of heart disease. Eating an abundance iron rich foods such as calf’s liver may not be healthy for everyone.
Calf’s liver is also one of the best sources of protein around with twenty-two grams of this body building nutrient in a single four ounce serving. At only 160 calories for a single serving, it provides a significant source of body building protein without packing on the calories. Unfortunately, this protein load comes with a significant amount of cholesterol, around 400 mg. in a serving. One single serving of liver easily exceeds the Heart Association’s recommended cholesterol intake for a day. Anyone with heart disease, high blood pressure, or an elevated cholesterol level should avoid eating calf’s liver on a regular basis. Although some people eat calf’s liver as an additional protein source, most Americans already get enough protein in their diet.
Is Liver Healthy?
As with most foods, it has its positives and negatives. If you’re a serious athlete and need extra protein or if you’re malnourished or anemic and need additional vitamins and iron, calf’s liver is a good choice. For the average person, it’s best to enjoy it in moderation because of its high cholesterol and iron content. For anyone with heart disease, hypertension, or elevated cholesterol, it should be eaten in limited quantities due to the high cholesterol and iron content.