Unfortunately, those who follow an ancestral diet sometimes gloss over this important aspect. Over time, it can lead to nutritional imbalances such as glycine deficiency especially for the 40% of the population with the MTHFR genetic mutation. (1, 2).
Perhaps organs are avoided because our modern society considers them to be unpalatable. And skin contains, gasp, FAT!
Or, perhaps it’s just that finding good quality organs that are safe to consume is no easy task in many parts of the world. Even in the United States, finding organic grassfed liver can be quite a challenge in some places.
For example, in the weeks leading up to the 2012 London Olympics, the UK Anti-Doping Association warned athletes not to consume liver due to the potential risk of failing drug tests from the clenbuterol used in the conventional meat industry. Industrialized farms sometimes illegally add this drug to animal feed to increase the leanness and protein content of meat.
Yet another reason to buy from small grassfed farms, right?
If these challenges describe your obstacles in consuming organs on a regular basis, I would suggest that you consider pure desiccated liver. This whole food supplement is very important for maintaining health especially if you travel a lot. If you question that, consider how many restaurants you’ve ever visited that have organ meats on the menu. I can think of three in my community, but they are certainly few and far between!
Desiccated liver is also the ace in your back pocket with picky eaters who might squirm at the sight of organic beef liver or chicken paté on their dinner plates!
What is Desiccated Liver?
If you are wondering what desiccated liver actually is, let me fill you in.
Liver from pastured cattle naturally contains more nutrients, gram for gram, than any other food. Believe it or not, this meat is the world’s #1 superfood. No plant food comes close to matching its nutritional profile including popular algae supplements like spirulina.
When liver is desiccated, this means that it is dried thoroughly with all of the water removed. Then, supplement companies powderize the liver. Consumers may buy the powder as is or as liver capsules. Some companies may mix the dried liver with other nutrients and additives and press into tablets.
How much of the nutrition is retained in these liver pills depends greatly on the quality of the raw materials as well as the processing used. Much more on this below!
Desiccated Liver Nutrition
When the organs for making desiccated liver is sourced from healthy, grass-fed cows, it contains a wide spectrum of vitamins, minerals, proteins and fat.
It is particularly rich in the key nutrients that promote brain health. These include the essential fatty acids EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), and AA (arachidonic acid), as well as vitamin B12. (3) Other nutrients include:
- An excellent source of high-quality protein
- One of nature’s most concentrated sources of vitamin A (plant foods contain carotenes, not true Vitamin A)
- All the B vitamins in abundance
- A highly usable form of iron
- Trace elements such as copper, zinc and chromium; liver is our best source of copper
- CoQ10, a nutrient that is especially important for cardio-vascular function
- A good source of purines, nitrogen-containing compounds that serve as precursors for DNA and RNA. Note: those susceptible to gout might need to proceed cautiously here.
Ways to Use Liver Pills and Powder
For individuals who do not appreciate the taste and texture of liver, dried or desiccated liver can provide an effective way to obtain all of the legendary health and nutritional benefits that this superfood has to offer.
Desiccated liver is available in capsule form so that it can be taken with a glass of water as part of your regular morning routine. It is best taken with a meal because it is food!
Alternatively, desiccated liver powder can be added into your favorite chili recipe or kneaded into grassfed burgers before tossing them on the grill. Incorporating into soups, gravies, broths, stews and smoothies is another easy way to enjoy its benefits.
Warning: Not All Desiccated Liver is Healthy
In the past few years there has been a growing number of individuals and companies taking interest in traditional superfoods like liver. As the health benefits of a nutrient-dense diet become more widely acknowledged, more and more people are reconsidering the importance of organ meats in the diet.
Overall this movement is highly beneficial for individuals, farmers and the environment.
Unfortunately, certain producers of desiccated liver supplements refine, fortify or concentrate their products in a way that artificially inflates nutrient values, bulks up protein content or reduces fat.
Desiccated liver can therefore be denatured, defatted and processed, even when from grass-fed cows! In my opinion this isn’t “real” desiccated beef liver. Watch out and know your source!
What to Look for in a Beef Liver Supplement
If you are looking for a desiccated beef liver supplement to enhance your family’s traditional diet, look for these 9 characteristics.
- No Hormones
- No Pesticides (cows graze on unsprayed pasture)
- Un-defatted (nothing removed)
- Minimally processed and free of excessive heat, solvents, deodorizers, bleach, and refining
- No supplemental iron
- The use of only clean, whole food ingredients
Optimal Processing of Desiccated Liver
When needed, I supplement my dietary intake of liver with one of the desiccated beef liver varieties from Radiant Life. My children take it every single day.
My oldest takes it at college too. He just finished his first year away and didn’t get sick! Even when the flu was tearing through his dorm during winter term, he stayed well.
Radiant Life takes great care that the beef livers used to make their products are shipped directly from farms to the cleanest facilities possible where they undergo stringent and proactive food safety testing. Each batch of liver is also tested for heavy metals. The livers are then delicately processed without heat to preserve the integrity of the organs with no synthetic nutrients or other excipients ever added.
Radiant life is careful to test the liver powder again before bottling takes place in recyclable containers. While some companies opt to add ‘flow agents’ like magnesium stearate and/or other chemicals that keep bottling equipment running smoothly, Radiant Life uses specialty bottlers who use no chemicals during packaging. Because only clean, whole food ingredients are used, the supplements achieve maximum absorption and are truly hypoallergenic.
What Type of Desiccated Liver to Choose?
Radiant Life offers three different dried liver products to provide customers with as much choice as possible.
Radiant Life offers multiple types of dried liver for several reasons:
- Different price points expand the number of people able to afford this important supplement. The costs of raising cattle varies considerably in different areas of the globe.
- Supporting small farmers in a particular country or region. Some people prefer to choose the source most local to where they live.
- Maintaining a consistent supply to customers, as working with small farms can be unpredictable at times.
I’ve used all three varieties over the years, and they are excellent! The picture above shows a teaspoon of the original desiccated liver powder next to the corresponding amount of capsules from New Zealand (Silver). 6 capsules or one teaspoon of the powder roughly equates to an ounce of fresh liver.
I mix the powder into soups and other cooked dishes, and we use the capsules for traveling.
Since the nutritional content of the desiccated liver is going to vary slightly based on the location, I suggest you rotate and try all three. If budget is an important consideration, stick with the original which is the best value per serving.
I hope this summary of how and why to use desiccated liver in the diet is important and what to look for to source the best quality as larger and potentially less careful supplement companies jump on the liver bandwagon.
Sarah, The Healthy Home Economsit
Sarah Pope has been a Health and Nutrition Educator since 2002. Her work is dedicated to helping families effectively incorporate the principles of ancestral diets within the modern household. She is a sought after lecturer around the world for conferences, summits, and podcasts.
Her work has been covered by major media including USA Today, ABC, NBC, and many others.