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December 21, 2021 5 min read

Organ meats - the name is enough to put off most people. But if you’ve arrived on this page, we’ll assume you’re not a vegan and are genuinely interested in the benefits of including organ meats in your diet.

Organ meats are the organs of animals that humans prepare and serve as food. You’ve likely heard them referred to as ‘offal’, and they tend to come from certain animals, including cows, pigs, lambs, goats, chickens and ducks.

A quick history of organ meats

Offal was once a prized food source. Around 12,000 years ago, hunter-gatherers would hunt animals and eat all of their meat, including the brains, intestines and testicles.

Over time, organ mats have fallen out of favour. According to the National Food Survey, in 1974, the average person was eating 50g of organ meat per week, but in 2014 the average person only ate 5g per week.

These days, we tend to raise animals for their muscle tissue, which is made into steaks, drumsticks or mince. It’s a shame, but organ meats are overlooked and generally considered waste.

Many people have never even tried organ meats and might find the thought of doing so quite alarming. But, you might be surprised to hear that offal is highly nutritious and well worth incorporating into your diet.

organ-meat-list-chicken-hearts-cooked

Organ meats list - What are the different types?

Most types of organ meats are pretty straightforward to work out because they go by their name, i.e. liver, tongue, heart, stomach, kidneys, tail and brain. Where it gets a little tricky is when it comes to sweetbreads and tripe.

Sweetbreads aren't sweet, have nothing to do with bread, and despite common misconceptions, they're not testicles either! In fact, sweetbreads come from 2 separate glands. The first is the thymus gland (found in the throat), and the second is the pancreas gland (from the heart or stomach), sourced from either calves or lambs.

Tripe is the lining of an animal's stomach, and it most often comes from cattle. It's known for being somewhat chewy in texture.

Benefits of organ meats for humans

From a nutritional point of view, offal is far superior to muscle meat. It's a great source of B-vitamins, including vitamin B12 and folate. It's rich in iron, magnesium, selenium and zinc. It contains lots of critical fat-soluble vitamins, including vitamins A, D, E and K, and it's also an excellent source of protein.

We should also highlight that organ meat contains all 9 essential amino acids our bodies need to thrive. Pretty impressive, right? Let's take a closer look at some of the benefits of eating organ meats.

Excellent source of iron

Organ meats contain heme iron, and it's highly bioavailable. This means it's easier for our human bodies to absorb. In comparison, heme iron from organ meats is far easier for our bodies to absorb than iron from plant-based foods.

It helps to keep you feeling full

Are you looking to lose weight? Organ meats may be the answer! Increasing the protein in your diet by eating offal can help to reduce your overall appetite, promote feelings of fullness, and it may also help to improve your metabolic rate.

It helps to build & retain muscle mass

Those of you into your fitness and bodybuilding will know just how important protein is to your diet. The protein from organ meats is highly beneficial for building and retaining muscle mass.

Studies have found that eating protein-rich meat like offal can be effective against age-related muscle loss.

An important source of Choline

Did you know our brains, muscles and livers need an essential nutrient called Choline to work effectively? It's a nutrient that a lot of people don't get enough of. The good news? You'll find a plentiful source in offal!

Getting a healthy intake of Choline will improve cognitive performance and reduce anxiety and other mood disorders.

Detoxes the body

It's time to end your expensive juice cleanse. There's a better way to detox your body! Liver and heart are loaded with Molybdenum and Coenzyme Q10 - a natural antioxidant that is ten times more potent than vitamin E.

Molybdenum is an essential coenzyme responsible for changing sulfites to sulfates, helping the body break down alcohol and other harmful toxins.

Increases energy levels

Coenzyme Q10, which we've just mentioned above, is also key to energy production. Essentially, it helps mitochondria to produce ATP more efficiently.

Improves skin

Who needs the latest skincare products when you can simply include organ meats in your diet? Beef offal is a rare and natural source of vitamin A1, also known as retinol.

This powerful antioxidant protects skin cells from oxidative stress and can help to slow down signs of ageing.

Organ meats are also an essential source of collagen, known for its anti-ageing benefits, which keep the skin looking plump and youthful.

Saves money & increases sustainability

As well as helping you to improve your overall health, eating organ meats may help you save money and live a more sustainable life.

Organ meats still aren't very popular, so you might find that you can source them at a low price. Eating these nutrient-rich animal organs also helps to reduce waste.

organ-meat-sustainability

According to a 2019 study, eating more meat by-products a week can help reduce livestock carbon emissions by up to 14%. If people are eating more offal, fewer animals need to be reared overall.

Does eating organ meats cause heart disease?

Not surprisingly, many people assume that eating cholesterol-rich foods, like offal, might result in heart disease. However, science has proven that consuming cholesterol-rich foods is not directly linked to increased blood cholesterol or heart disease risk. This is because our livers respond to our diets and regulate the production of cholesterol. So if you eat cholesterol-rich foods, it'll simply produce less cholesterol. Clever.

How to include organ meats in your diet

If you're new to organ meats, we recommend starting with one of the more mild organ meats, like tongue. Once you've got a taste for it, you can move onto the organs with stronger and more unique flavours.

One of the easiest ways to eat organ meats like liver and kidney is by grinding them up and using them in an everyday meal like spaghetti bolognese or a meat stew. Over time, you'll find you gradually develop a taste for offal flavours.

Take part in Organuary

Have you heard of Veganuary? Well, Organuary is a little like that, only much better for your health and the environment.

Organuary provides the opportunity for you to focus on including organ meats in your diet throughout January. The event, organised by the Public Health Collaboration, seeks to bring organ meats back to our dinner tables to minimise waste and maximise nutrition. You can read more about it on the Organuary website.

Have we encouraged you to try organ meats?

Let us know! We're interested to hear whether organ meats are something you'd consider adding to your diet. Would you be more inclined to take organ meat supplements? Give us your feedback, and who knows; it might inspire a whole new range at Mountainlife!

Thomas Sharp
Thomas Sharp


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