Organ Meats: 10 Healthy and Nutritious Options

4
9004
Last Updated on

Chopped Pieces of Organ Meat.Otherwise known as offal, organ meats are even more nutritious than regular red and white meat.

Organ meats were once a common and popular food choice, but they have fallen out of favor in recent years.

This is a shame because these traditional meats are some of the healthiest and most nutrient-dense foods we can eat.

This article provides a list of 10 healthy kinds of organ meat alongside their nutrition profiles and key benefits.

Note: all nutrition data is from the USDA’s nutrient database, and the values are before cooking.

1) Beef Liver

Fried Beef Liver On a Plate With vegetables.

Beef liver is one of the most popular organ meat choices, and it is among the most nutrient-dense of all foods.

Compared to regular beef, this organ meat offers the same protein content and significantly more nutrients for fewer calories.

There are many ways to eat beef liver, but one of the most popular is to fry it alongside some onions.

Nutrition Facts

Beef liver provides the following nutrients per 100 grams (1);

NutrientAmount
Calories135 kcal
Carbohydrate3.9 g
Fat3.6 g
Saturated Fat1.2 g
Monounsaturated Fat0.5 g
Polyunsaturated Fat0.5 g
Protein20.4 g
Vitamin A338% DV
Vitamin C2% DV
Vitamin DVaries
Vitamin E2% DV
Vitamin K4% DV
Vitamin B113% DV
Vitamin B2162% DV
Vitamin B366% DV
Folate72% DV
Vitamin B572% DV
Vitamin B654% DV
Vitamin B12988% DV
Calcium1% DV
Copper488% DV
Iron27% DV
Magnesium5% DV
Manganese16% DV
Phosphorus39% DV
Potassium9% DV
Selenium57% DV
Sodium3% DV
Zinc27% DV

Benefits

  • Beef liver provides a substantial source of vitamin B12, copper, and vitamin A in its highly bioavailable retinol form (2).
  • Although the amount can vary depending on the lifestyle of the cattle, beef liver can offer a decent source of vitamin D too.
Key Point: Beef liver is incredibly rich in vitamin A and copper.

2) Beef Kidney

A Raw Beef Kidney On a White Background.

Kidney has not been so popular in recent decades, but it played a big part in traditional cuisine.

This nutritious type of organ meat features in several old recipes such as steak and kidney pie and devilled kidneys.

Beef kidney is quite strong-tasting compared to other kidney varieties, but some people find the flavor enjoyable.

However, it is worth noting that beef kidney can be quite tough if not cooked for long enough. It is also not as tender as lamb or pork kidney.

Nutrition Facts

Here is the nutrition profile of beef kidney per 100 grams (3).

NutrientAmount
Calories103 kcal
Carbohydrate0.3 g
Fat3.1 g
Saturated Fat0.9 g
Monounsaturated Fat0.6 g
Polyunsaturated Fat0.5 g
Protein17.4 g
Vitamin A28% DV
Vitamin C16% DV
Vitamin D8% DV
Vitamin E1% DV
Vitamin K0% DV
Vitamin B124% DV
Vitamin B2167% DV
Vitamin B340% DV
Folate25% DV
Vitamin B540% DV
Vitamin B651% DV
Vitamin B12458% DV
Calcium1% DV
Copper21% DV
Iron26% DV
Magnesium4% DV
Manganese7% DV
Phosphorus26% DV
Potassium7% DV
Selenium201% DV
Sodium8% DV
Zinc13% DV

Benefits

  • Beef kidney is extremely rich in B vitamins, micronutrients that are essential for converting food to energy (4).
  • This organ meat is also a significant source of selenium, a mineral with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties (5).
Key Point: Beef kidney provides a substantial source of B vitamins and selenium. It is also rich in protein.

3) Beef Spleen

Beef spleen is an interesting organ meat that offers more vitamin C than many fruits.

Since the spleen is one of the lesser known varieties of organ meat, the following diagram shows the location;

A Diagram Showing the Location of the Liver, Pancreas and Spleen.

As you can see, the spleen is located at the tail end of the pancreas.

In the body, the spleen is responsible for filtering blood, and it plays a role in immune response (6).

Nutrition Facts

Here is the nutrition profile of beef spleen per 100 grams (7).

NutrientAmount
Calories105 kcal
Carbohydrate0 g
Fat3.0 g
Saturated Fat1.0 g
Monounsaturated Fat0.8 g
Polyunsaturated Fat0.2 g
Protein18.3 g
Vitamin A0% DV
Vitamin C76% DV
Vitamin D  –
Vitamin E  –
Vitamin K  –
Vitamin B13% DV
Vitamin B222% DV
Vitamin B342% DV
Folate1% DV
Vitamin B511% DV
Vitamin B64% DV
Vitamin B1295% DV
Calcium1% DV
Copper8% DV
Iron248% DV
Magnesium5% DV
Manganese4% DV
Phosphorus30% DV
Potassium12% DV
Selenium89% DV
Sodium4% DV
Zinc14% DV

Benefits

  • Beef spleen is a rare animal food source of vitamin C, with a 100-gram serving providing nearly 100% of the recommended daily amount.
  • Spleen contains a significant amount of selenium, iron, and vitamin B12, all of which play essential roles within the body.
  • Considering the low amount of calories and the reasonable serving of protein spleen provides, it is also very protein-dense.
Key Point: Beef spleen provides a wide range of nutrients for very few calories.

4) Chicken Liver

Fried Chicken Livers on a White Plate With Knife and Fork.

Chicken livers are one of the best-tasting organ meats.

For those who find the flavor and texture of beef liver too strong, chicken liver is very mild in comparison.

Compared to beef liver, chicken livers are slightly lower in calories and nutrients.

See this complete guide to chicken liver for more information and some tasty recipe ideas.

Nutrition Facts

Per 100-gram serving, chicken livers provide (8);

NutrientAmount
Calories116 kcal
Carbohydrate0 g
Fat4.8 g
Saturated Fat1.6 g
Monounsaturated Fat1.2 g
Polyunsaturated Fat1.3 g
Protein16.9 g
Vitamin A222% DV
Vitamin C30% DV
Vitamin DVaries
Vitamin E4% DV
Vitamin K0% DV
Vitamin B120% DV
Vitamin B2105% DV
Vitamin B349% DV
Folate147% DV
Vitamin B562% DV
Vitamin B643% DV
Vitamin B12276% DV
Calcium1% DV
Copper25% DV
Iron50% DV
Magnesium5% DV
Manganese13% DV
Phosphorus30% DV
Potassium7% DV
Selenium78% DV
Sodium3% DV
Zinc18% DV

Benefits

  • Chicken liver contains significant amounts of B vitamins, selenium, and vitamin A.
  • In addition to the wide range of nutrients, chicken liver also provides a decent serving of dietary protein.
  • Many people find the texture and flavor of organ meats to be offputting. However, chicken livers are softer and milder in flavor, and they are a good introduction to organ meat.
Key Point: Chicken livers offer a milder flavor than beef or lamb liver, and they have an impressive nutrition profile.

5) Heart (Lamb)

A Raw Lamb Heart On a Wooden Counter.

Heart is a nutritious muscular organ meat that provides a rich range of vitamins and minerals.

There are many different varieties available such as beef, chicken, and pork.

However, lamb heart is the most nutrient-dense among the available options, and it contains slightly higher nutritional value across the board.

Nutrition Facts

Lamb heart provides the following nutrients per 100 grams (9);

NutrientAmount
Calories122 kcal
Carbohydrate0.2 g
Fat5.7 g
Saturated Fat2.3 g
Monounsaturated Fat1.6 g
Polyunsaturated Fat0.5 g
Protein16.5 g
Vitamin A0% DV
Vitamin C8% DV
Vitamin D –
Vitamin E –
Vitamin K –
Vitamin B125% DV
Vitamin B258% DV
Vitamin B331% DV
Folate0% DV
Vitamin B526% DV
Vitamin B620% DV
Vitamin B12171% DV
Calcium1% DV
Copper20% DV
Iron26% DV
Magnesium4% DV
Manganese2% DV
Phosphorus18% DV
Potassium9% DV
Selenium46% DV
Sodium4% DV
Zinc12% DV

Benefits

  • Heart offers a concentrated source of taurine, an important amino acid that may play a protective role in cardiovascular health (10).
  • Although heart does not contain massive amounts of any one nutrient, it provides a good source of numerous vitamins and minerals.
  • Lamb heart is rich in coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), a fat-soluble compound with purported antioxidant and anti-aging functions (11).
Key Point: Heart offers a healthy range of nutrients and some further beneficial compounds.

6) Lamb Kidney

Two Lamb Kidneys On a White Background.

Lamb kidney is similar to beef kidney, but it is softer and more tender.

That said, the flavor is a little different, and the best-tasting option will depend on personal preference.

Either way, lamb kidney is a nutrition organ meat packed with essential nutrients.

Nutrition Facts

Lamb kidneys offer the following nutrition profile (12);

NutrientAmount
Calories97 kcal
Carbohydrate0.8 g
Fat3.0 g
Saturated Fat1.0 g
Monounsaturated Fat0.6 g
Polyunsaturated Fat0.5 g
Protein15.7 g
Vitamin A6% DV
Vitamin C18% DV
Vitamin D –
Vitamin E –
Vitamin K –
Vitamin B141% DV
Vitamin B2132% DV
Vitamin B338% DV
Folate7% DV
Vitamin B542% DV
Vitamin B611% DV
Vitamin B12872% DV
Calcium1% DV
Copper22% DV
Iron35% DV
Magnesium4% DV
Manganese6% DV
Phosphorus25% DV
Potassium8% DV
Selenium181% DV
Sodium6% DV
Zinc15% DV

Benefits

  • Lamb kidney offers a substantial amount of vitamin B12, and it is a good provider of nutrients in the B vitamin group.
  • Offers all the benefits of beef liver, but with a slightly higher amount of most vitamins and minerals.
Key Point: Lamb kidneys are the most nutritious variety of kidney, and they have a softer texture than their beef or pork counterparts.

7) Lamb Liver

Lamb Liver With Vegetables On a White Plate.

Similar to lamb kidneys, lamb liver tops other commonly available liver meat in nutritional value.

However, the difference is only small, so the best choice is whichever option suits your taste preferences.

Nutrition Facts

The nutrient profile of lamb liver per 100 grams is as follows (13);

NutrientAmount
Calories139 kcal
Carbohydrate1.8 g
Fat5.0 g
Saturated Fat1.9 g
Monounsaturated Fat1.1 g
Polyunsaturated Fat0.7 g
Protein20.4 g
Vitamin A492% DV
Vitamin C7% DV
Vitamin DVaries
Vitamin E –
Vitamin K –
Vitamin B123% DV
Vitamin B2214% DV
Vitamin B381% DV
Folate58% DV
Vitamin B561% DV
Vitamin B645% DV
Vitamin B121501% DV
Calcium1% DV
Copper349% DV
Iron41% DV
Magnesium5% DV
Manganese9% DV
Phosphorus36% DV
Potassium9% DV
Selenium118% DV
Sodium3% DV
Zinc31% DV

Benefits

  • Lamb liver is an incredibly nutritious organ meat; it provides 1501% of the DV for vitamin B12, 492% DV for vitamin A, and 349% DV for copper.
  • Similar to beef liver, lamb contains a rich source of retinol, the “pre-formed” and bio-available form of vitamin A (14).
Key Point: Lamb liver is arguably the most nutrient-dense commonly available food.

8) Liverwurst

German 'Liverwurst' Liver Sausage On a Wooden Chopping Board.

Unlike the other foods on this list, liverwurst is not an actual organ meat.

However, it is an organ meat product that contains a blend of several different ingredients.

Although the ingredient profile and recipe will vary from brand to brand, liverwurst usually contains a mix of pork liver, meat, fat, and various spices.

Liverwurst is a German product, and it is otherwise known as liver sausage.

Nutrition Facts

A typical liverwurst sausage offers the following nutritional values per 100 grams (15);

NutrientAmount
Calories326 kcal
Carbohydrate2.2 g
Fat28.5 g
Saturated Fat10.6 g
Monounsaturated Fat13.3 g
Polyunsaturated Fat2.6 g
Protein14.1 g
Vitamin A553% DV
Vitamin C0% DV
Vitamin D –
Vitamin E –
Vitamin K –
Vitamin B118% DV
Vitamin B261% DV
Vitamin B321% DV
Folate8% DV
Vitamin B530% DV
Vitamin B69% DV
Vitamin B12224% DV
Calcium3% DV
Copper12% DV
Iron36% DV
Magnesium3% DV
Manganese8% DV
Phosphorus23% DV
Potassium5% DV
Selenium83% DV
Sodium36% DV
Zinc15% DV

Benefits

  • Liverwurst is very adaptable, and you can use sliced liverwurst in a variety of ways. Also, some versions of liverwurst are spreadable, which further increases the sausage’s adaptability.
  • Since liverwurst is a mixture of meat, fat, and a variety of spices, it does not have the strong taste and texture of pure organ meats. As a result, it can be a good choice for those who don’t typically like organ meat.
  • As it contains liver, liverwurst is an excellent source of vitamin A.
Key Point: Liverwurst is a tasty and versatile organ meat product.

9) Pork Kidney

A Raw Pork Kidney On a Green Chopping Board.

Pork kidney is one of the most common kinds of organ meat, and it is a nutritious, healthy choice.

On the downside, pork kidneys can have a tough texture depending on the preparation and cooking method.

For some tips on preparing them, there is a guide here.

Nutrition Facts

Per 100 grams, here is the nutrient profile for pork kidneys (15);

NutrientAmount
Calories100 kcal
Carbohydrate0 g
Fat3.3 g
Saturated Fat1.0 g
Monounsaturated Fat1.1 g
Polyunsaturated Fat0.3 g
Protein16.5 g
Vitamin A4% DV
Vitamin C22% DV
Vitamin D –
Vitamin E –
Vitamin K –
Vitamin B123% DV
Vitamin B2100% DV
Vitamin B341% DV
Folate10% DV
Vitamin B531% DV
Vitamin B622% DV
Vitamin B12142% DV
Calcium1% DV
Copper31% DV
Iron27% DV
Magnesium4% DV
Manganese6% DV
Phosphorus20% DV
Potassium7% DV
Selenium271% DV
Sodium5% DV
Zinc18% DV

Benefits

  • Pork kidneys provide a decent range of nutrients and a good source of protein for minimal calories.
  • Supply more than 100% of the daily value for selenium, vitamin B2, and vitamin B12.
Key Point: Pork kidneys are cheap and affordable organ meats that have an excellent nutrition profile.

10) Sweetbreads

If you haven’t heard of sweetbreads before, then you are probably wondering why sugary bread is on a list of organ meats.

Despite the confusing name, sweetbread has nothing to do with bread, and it is the culinary name for the thymus and pancreas organs.

Compared to other organ meats, sweetbreads are much higher in fat and lower in dietary protein.

A sauteed sweetbread look like this;

 

A Sauteed Sweetbread (Type of Organ Meat) On a Plate.
(Source)

Nutrition Facts

Sweetbreads offer the following nutrients per 100 grams (16);

NutrientAmount
Calories236 kcal
Carbohydrate0 g
Fat20.4 g
Saturated Fat7.0 g
Monounsaturated Fat7.0 g
Polyunsaturated Fat3.8 g
Protein12.2 g
Vitamin A0% DV
Vitamin C57% DV
Vitamin D –
Vitamin E –
Vitamin K –
Vitamin B17% DV
Vitamin B220% DV
Vitamin B317% DV
Folate0% DV
Vitamin B530% DV
Vitamin B68% DV
Vitamin B1235% DV
Calcium1% DV
Copper2% DV
Iron12% DV
Magnesium3% DV
Manganese6% DV
Phosphorus39% DV
Potassium10% DV
Selenium26% DV
Sodium4% DV
Zinc14% DV

Benefits

  • Sweetbreads offer a rare animal food source of vitamin C.
  • Likely due to the fat content, sweetbreads do not have the strong flavor and texture that other organ meats possess. Sweetbreads have a soft and tender texture alongside a mild flavor.

See this full guide to sweetbreads for more information.

Key Point: Sweetbreads are an unusual type of organ meat, but they are rich in nutrients and taste good.

Concerns About Organ Meat

Generally speaking, organ meats are very healthy and offer a wide range of benefits.

However, there is perhaps one legitimate concern to be aware of.

Notably, liver contains so much vitamin A that we can easily consume too much of it.

While there is no need to worry about a semi-regular intake, consuming large portions of liver every day could potentially lead to hypervitaminosis A (vitamin A toxicity) (17).

Final Thoughts

Organ meats are packed with nutritional value and incorporating them into our diet is an excellent way to add an impressive range of essential nutrients.

For those who don’t like typical organ meats such as kidney and liver, it may be worth looking into liverwurst or sweetbreads.

All the options on this list are nutritious choices and make great additions to a healthy diet.

Lastly; if you would like to find more information on regular meats like beef and lamb, see this guide to meat.

4
Leave a Reply

avatar
2 Comment threads
2 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
3 Comment authors
SonyMichael JosephJohanita Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Sony
Guest
Sony

Here in Asia, we used to eat a lot of organ meats (mostly from pork & some chicken).

Organ meats have fallen out of favor in recent years because we were told that they are calories bomb that we should avoid at all cost.

Not true?

Johanita
Guest
Johanita

Do the organ meats of livestock kept in feedlots have dangerous levels of toxins?