Organ meats are a staple in some traditional cuisines, but unfortunately not very common in Western countries. Nutrients in organ meats include many vitamins and minerals, making them true superfoods.
What are organ meats?
Organ meats, or offal, are exactly what they sound like: meat from animals’ organs. This includes the heart, liver, brain, thymus gland, intestines, etc. Organ meats contain many micronutrients and that’s why they are highly regarded in traditional cultures.
Nutrients in organ meats
The graphs below contain a comparison of some nutrients for different types of organ meats (data from 1).
What about cholesterol?
Cholesterol content in organ meats is higher than in muscle meats such as steak. Having said that, is important to remember that dietary cholesterol does not necessarily correlate with the amount of cholesterol circulating in our blood (2, 3). This is because our bodies regulate the production, absorption and excretion of cholesterol to meet cellular needs (3).
Foods and dishes with organ meats
Below are some examples of traditional foods and dishes from around the world that showcase organ meats.
- Pâté, France
- Liverwurst, Germany
- Hígado encebollado (beef liver with onions), Peru
- Steak and kidney pie, Great Britain
- Tacos de lengua (tongue tacos), Mexico
- Anticuchos (marinated beef heart), Peru. I have a version using chicken hearts here.
- Pancita (marinated intestines), Peru
- Cau cau (tripe and potato stew), Peru
- Criadillas (bull testicles), Spain
- Trippa alla Romana (Roman-style tripe), Italy
- Mondonguito a la Italiana (Peruvian-style Roman-style tripe), Peru
What if you don’t like organ meats?
Organ meats can be an acquired taste, so it’s best to introduce them slowly into your diet. You might find foods where organ meats are mixed with other ingredients (e.g. pâté) more palatable. You can also buy excellent quality beef mince mixed with organs from Feather and Bone that you can use for anything you would normally use beef mince for, and sausages made with ground beef/lamb, bacon and liver from The Ethical Farmers. Finally, you can make your own mix of ground meat and organ meats if you have a good food processor.
- Food Standards Australia New Zealand (2014). AUSNUT 2011–13 – Australian Food Composition Database. Canberra: FSANZ. Available at www.foodstandards.gov.au
- National Health and Medical Research Council. Australian Dietary Guidelines. Canberra: National Health and Medical Research Council; 2013.
- Afonso MS, Machado RM, Lavrador MS, Quintao ECR, Moore KJ, Lottenberg AM. Molecular Pathways Underlying Cholesterol Homeostasis. Nutrients. 2018;10(6):760.