Liver: Is It Good for You?

Liver has a strong flavor and unique texture that can be polarizing. Some people love it while others hate it. The livers from many different animals are eaten around the world, so it’s possible to find beef, chicken, pork, lamb, and goose liver in butcher shops and grocery stores around the country. 

Liver has gone through phases of popularity as a kitchen staple, and it’s beginning to return to the common table. While liver has some significant health benefits, there are also some drawbacks that you should consider before adding liver to your diet. 

Nutrition Information

A three-ounce serving of beef liver (four ounces uncooked) contains:

Liver is an excellent source of:

Liver is one of the best animal-based sources of v itamin A. A single serving of beef liver provides more than 100% of your daily vitamin A requirement. Getting enough vitamin A has been linked to a lower risk of conditions like cataracts and breast cancer.

Potential Health Benefits of Liver

Liver is a rich source of vitamins and minerals. However, the same thing that makes liver so potent can also create complications for people with certain medical conditions.

Research has found a number of potential health benefits to eating liver:

Rich Source of Nutrients

Liver is one of the most nutritionally dense foods on the planet. It contains significant amounts of folate, iron, vitamin B, vitamin A, and copper. Eating a single serving of liver can help you meet your daily recommended amount of all of these vitamins and minerals, reducing your risk of nutrient deficiency.

Lower Risk of Anemia

Iron is one of the most common mineral deficiencies in the U.S. I ron deficiency can lead to certain types of anemia, resulting in fatigue, muscle weakness, and a lack of focus. Liver is an excellent source of both iron and vitamin B12, which work in combination to keep your blood cells in good working condition. In fact, one of the earliest treatments for pernicious anemia was regularly eating beef liver. Today, adding a few servings of iron to your weekly diet can help alleviate or prevent anemia.

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Improved Bone Health

Liver is full of vitamin K, which is critical to the health of your bones. Vitamin K helps your body process calcium and add it to your bones. As a result, it helps you maintain the strength of your skeletal system. Getting enough vitamin K in your diet has been linked to a reduced risk of chronic conditions such as osteoporosis. Vitamin K is also important to maintaining the health of your circulatory system.

Potential Risks of Liver

Because liver has such a potent concentration of nutrients, you should consult with your doctor before significantly increasing your liver consumption.

Consider the following before eating large amounts of liver:

High Cholesterol

Liver is a significant source of dietary cholesterol. While many people can eat high-cholesterol foods without a problem, some people trying to lower their cholesterol or taking cholesterol medications should keep their dietary cholesterol intake lower. Consuming too much cholesterol can increase your risk of heart disease.

Vitamin A Toxicity 

It is possible, and even dangerous, to consume too much vitamin A. Eating large amounts of liver can lead to symptoms of vitamin A toxicity. Your own liver cannot process the excess vitamin A quickly enough, so eating a significant amount of liver regularly might lead to hypervitaminosis A. Most physicians recommend that people without vitamin deficiencies eat just one serving of liver each week to avoid these effects.

Medication Interactions

Some medications are known to interact with vitamin A. Since liver is a significant source of vitamin A, anyone on medications such as Orlistat or certain psoriasis medications should consult with their physician before adding liver to their diet.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on September 25, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

Associated Medical Schools of New York: “Liver diet as a cure for pernicious anemia.”

BBC News: “Vitamin warning for liver lovers.”

Clinical Microbiology Reviews: “Effects of vitamin A supplementation on immune responses and correlation with clinical outcomes.”

ESHA Research, Inc., Salem, Oregon.

FoodData Central: “Beef liver, braised.”

National Institutes of Health: “Vitamin A.”

National Institutes of Health: “Vitamin K.”

Nutrients: “Vitamin A and Pregnancy: A Narrative Review.”

© 2020 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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