Maybe you had a different childhood than I did growing up, but sometimes my mom would bring out liver and onions at dinner time. Liver looked kind of like steak, but definitely didn’t taste like it. But mom always used to say “eat it, it’s good for you” so I did. Little did I know what mom told me back then was the truth.
Regardless of its declining popularity, liver is possibly one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet.
People often look to fruits and vegetables for vitamins and minerals, but liver far surpasses them all in terms of nutrient content.
A small amount of liver provides well over 100% of the RDI for many essential nutrients. It is also rich in high-quality protein and low in calories.
Here are the nutrients found in a 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of beef liver:
- Vitamin B12: 3,460% of the RDI. Vitamin B12 helps the formation of red blood cells and DNA. It is also involved in healthy brain function.
- Vitamin A: 860–1,100% of the RDI. Vitamin A is important for normal vision, immune function and reproduction. It also helps organs like the heart and kidneys function properly.
- Riboflavin (B2): 210–260% of the RDI. Riboflavin is important for cellular development and function. It also helps turn food into energy.
- Folate (B9): 65% of the RDI. Folate is an essential nutrient that plays a role in cell growth and the formation of DNA.
- Iron: 80% of the RDI, or 35% for women of menstruating age. Iron is another essential nutrient that helps carry oxygen around the body. The iron in liver is heme iron, the kind most easily absorbed by the body.
- Copper: 1,620% of the RDI. Copper acts like a key to activate a number of enzymes, which then help regulate energy production, iron metabolism and brain function.
- Choline: Liver provides all of the Adequate Intake (AI) for women and nearly all of it for men (AI is used because there is insufficient evidence to set an RDI). Choline is important for brain development and liver function
How Much Should You Eat?
The USDA identifies a serving of liver and onions as one slice of liver with one slice of onion. This amounts to about 100 g of food per serving. Such a serving contains 156 calories. Of those calories, 28 come from carbohydrates, 93 from protein and 35 from fat.
Here are the three main reasons why liver is good for you: