Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Awful offal

Your kidneys convert about 5% of your cardiac output in to primitive urine. That's a lot urine per minute. They do it day in, day out until there is no cardiac output left, hopefully >100 years down the road. Then they stop. This is hard work. Primitive urine cannot be peed down the loo. It is absolutely loaded with stuff you need to stay alive. Water for a start. And sodium. You go on a zero salt diet and your kidneys will go in to overdrive to keep you alive despite your attentiveness to the AHA. You pour glucose in to this filtrate. You waste magnesium, potassium, bicarbonate, loads of stuff you can't do without. Then you claw it all back again. Back comes the glucose, back comes the sodium, back comes the water. Your kidneys pump 180 litres of water alone back in to your bloodstream every 24 hours. All of this is done against a concentration gradient. This takes energy. Lots of it.

While you are snoozing, your muscles are snoozing too. Same for a cow. Your kidneys are continuously working their cotton socks off, 24/7. So they must have the metabolic tools to generate serious amounts of ATP. Eating muscle tissue is a massive improvement on eating a Marsbar. Eating kidneys is the next level up. Liver (with the tubes) is the most phenomenally active organ for biochemical transformation you can imagine. You want a precursor molecule for something? Look in the liver. Or an egg yolk.

Aside: It's that age old question. Why is there so much cholesterol in an egg yolk? Because that's how much it takes to make a healthy chick. Anon (unless you know better).

Anyway, you want folate? Try some liver. B12? There too. Quite a lot of cholesterol too.

What about lung tissue? Lungs are special. Oxygen is amongst the most damaging and corrosive molecules that we all depend on to stay alive. The environment in the lung is harsh for alveolar epithelial cells. So alveolar cells know all about antioxidant defences. Staying alive in the lungs needs energy. You want useful metabolic molecules? You won't get them by eating tofu! I love haggis but can't eat the barley or oats it's made with. Now, gluten free haggis maybe. Add mashed neaps with tons of butter and just enough mashed potatoes, also with tons of butter, to stay within my carb limit. And a wee dram if I'm willing to damage my joints for the pleasure. Anyway...

I won't mention brain as it's essentially unavailable in the UK. But guess where you find a number of interesting lipids in addition to cholesterol?

I could go on. I'll shut up now. I like offal.



Anonymous said...

I tried liver last week for the first time since I was a child. (Chicken livers, to be exact.) I couldn't believe how rich they were! I liked them, but I don't see how anyone could eat more than two. You should understand that I love rich food - butter is, to me, the perfect food. But the livers defeated me.

Fortunately, they are nutrient dense. :)

Stephan Guyenet said...

I love organs too! I think choosing to eat muscle tissue exclusively has got to be one of our biggest mistakes in modern society. Hunter-gatherers ate the organs of course.

Doctor wants you to take a multivitamin? Try liver!

Migraineur, if you make pate with lots of egg, butter and vegetable in it, the liver taste is milder. If you use calf's liver, you can dilute it with all this and it will still be extremely nutritious. On another note, I just wrote a post about he French paradox on my blog if you're interested.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Stephan. I thought I might try making pâté or mousse with the liver.

Nice blog. You gotta love someone who starts a blog entry with "store-bought salad dressing is a crime against humanity."

Anonymous said...

I love goose liver b/c, well, to be honest, it doesn't have a liver-y taste. Any suggestions for a liver that doesn't taste liver-y?

A couple things to consider:

Supposedly, hunter-gatherers upon bringing down a large herbivore such a caribou or deer, again, I stress, supposedly, cut it open and ate the, again, supposedly prized, liver immediately, apparently raw.

I do not know if this is true.

The immediate consumption of the liver might suggest that this is how hunter-gatherers accessed important nutrient-dense sources.

On the other hand, children are notorious for hating liver. Perhaps, similar to the pregnant women food aversion theory, they are developing an perhaps there are accumulated toxins that maybe harmful to children's development.

I dunno if any of this is true, one could theorize that adult's tastes change as their nutritional and development/growth needs change.

My mother loves liver, but I couldn't stand the sight/smell of it as a child.

Anyone have any thoughts about the potential evolutionary aspects of liver consumption?

Anonymous said...

Nothing on this comment just re-commenting as I forgot to tick the follow-up comments box.

JohnN said...

I suspect children with more (sensitive) taste buds can detect the faint bitterness in liver and broccoli.
The consumption of organ meats should be the hallmark of HG's dietary habits and most paleo-promoters such as Cordain miss this big time.

Anonymous said...

I suspect children with more (sensitive) taste buds can detect the faint bitterness in liver and broccoli.


I think I didn't spell out my point well enough.

Think about it this way: why does something taste bitter and why does that generally mean we don't like it?

Because we are hard-wired evolutionarily to do so. Probably b/c, for example, plants use toxins to drive away any potential predators that may consume their fruit before the seeds are ready to be consumed and spread via the predator's feces.

Don't want to be graphic or disgusting, but I think the following is another good example.

Why does shit smell like, well, shit? Evolutionarily, so that we avoid it and things that smell like it as these are likely to be harmful to us e.g. parasites, bacteria and viruses (more on viruses later)

If we thought it smelled good, we would not shun it -- which most likely would be detrimental to our health ergo reproductive success.

Some species, presumably, LIKE the smell of shit. Dung beetle for example. It is part of their life-cycle.

How we taste and smell things are NOT arbitrary -- they have distinct functions. Some of which may be out of whack in the modern world (stone age mind in the modern world) --- these may explain why we like fast food so much. Perhaps, easy carbohydrates, salt and sweets were very rare in previous environments --- and therefore in those amounts advantageous to eat as they probably added to total calories when game was not plentiful. But in today's modern environment, we can stroll down to the nearby McD's anytime.

BTW diarrhea is thought, NOT as a response of the human body to rid the body of the offending bacteria or virus --- but rather the offending micro-organism effects this in order to spread itself to others. Make sense?

Sorry for going off topic -- but I think any discussion of diet benefits from an evolutionary stand point.

See my comment here for more discussion on evolutionary food choices:


Manda said...

what do you all think of raw liver? i occasionally take frozen raw liver 'pills' since i have not been brave enough to try them cooked. i know, i know, i should just try them, but i have never had them and did not grow up eating them. i am a little scared. :) anyway, i have also tried a raw liver tonic, which was okay, but i had to choke it down b/c the texture was terrible. i am just trying to figure out how to get more liver in without really having to taste it.


Anonymous said...

Amanda and Varangy, I ate raw liver frequently several years ago. It is easy to eat. You just swallow whole without chewing. I also ate meat in this way sometimes, makes it easier to eat tough meats. No need to chew animal foods like plants. I seem to recall Stefansson or someone saying that Eskimos didn't chew meat. They "bolted" it, like a dog. They never ate 100% raw, either, as some claim erroneously.

Also, Varangy, many hunter-gatherer tribes did eat feces and even meats allowed to rot for months or years. I rarely watch TV, but I over-heard a program talking about this just a few hours ago. I've also read about it in various books and articles.

I think it's wrong to fear bacteria and so germs. I think fast food has more potential to make you ill than a piece of road-kill. That is based on my experience. I never had vomit from raw meat, but I recall clearly one time after eating a sandwich at a sub shop where I vomited like 3-4 times in my back yard.

At the least, I would conclude that raw veggies and processed meats are more likely to be contaminated with bacteria than fresh meat.

Peter said...

Never done the raw liver stuff but I remember it was routine advice when my mum was pregnant with my younger brother.


PS I seem to remember from somewhere that marinading in milk overnight de-bitters liver, but I may be imagining this...

Migraineur, thanks for the pointer, wouldn't have wanted to miss that line!

Anonymous said...

Also, Varangy, many hunter-gatherer tribes did eat feces and even meats allowed to rot for months or years. I rarely watch TV, but I over-heard a program talking about this just a few hours ago. I've also read about it in various books and articles.

@bruce K

While there maybe isolated cases of people eating their feces, I cannot believe that is a wide-spread practice.

Regarding rotting foods, we, Westerners eat foods that have been intentionaly 'rotted' such as dry-aged steak --- but my dry-age steak has none of the markers of rotting such as putrid smell and green mold festering on it.

My guess is if that people are eating really rotted meat, they are very poor or is this is very limited in scope.

I would also guess that a certain amount of conditioning must go on, that is to say, if you are not exposed to this as a child, it is unlikely you will consume:

rotting foods such as 'casu marzu'

very, very spicy foods

insects or grubs

Anonymous said...

I didn't say they were eating their own feces. They ate animal feces to inoculate themselves with bacteria. Eskimos left meat until it stunk to high heaven. Many cultures also eat rotten eggs that are totally black, which is considered a delicacy. I'm thinking the Chinese in particular. Cheese is basically rotten milk. If it's moldy (like bleu cheese), then it's even more obviously rotten. We all have our own tastes, of course.

chlOe said...

Raw liver may be considered for pregnancy - that's from, I believe, a chinese belief. And if I'm correct - it's rabbit liver.
Speaking of which, just the other day I was at the farmer's market, and was buying some stuff from one farmer guy, and I told him my interest in strange parts of animals and he gave me some rabbit liver for free to try. I couldn't find anything about rabbit liver online...damn. I mean about health facts very much, other then the chinese links that popped up. I did find recipes which explain to only very quickly sear the outsides and it seems to be extremely delicious and much better then calf's liver even. I'm gonna try it - does anyone know of any health benefits specifically of rabbit liver, though? I couldn't find a website where they talk about this primarily.
I think liver in general has a lot of Vitamin A that could be poisonous if eaten to often, no? You probably don't have to eat it that often to keep a good storage. Also depends on what liver you are eating, hence, wondering if anyone knew about rabbit's.
Also - regarding the post - isn't there sodium in meat and other foods, already? Is that what you're referring to - not separate salt? I just began reading Weston Price's book and right in the beginning it says all tribes studied had in common the fact that they use salt. I've heard otherwise about ancient eskimos and inuits, however.
Perhaps they refer to salt as salty substances, such as ash perhaps. I've heard of animals licking ash after a forest fire.

gallier2 said...

Rabbit liver, the best food on earth. Lightly fried in butter or goose fat, only a little salt and pepper on it, a dream, the stuff of gods. I make it once a month for me and my children. We get it here (France/Germany/Luxemburg) quite easily. It's important to not overcook it, because it gets a bit dry then. I make it as a snack and don't use it for a meal, it is a treat and should remain that way. (As a child my father did it that way also).

chlOe said...

Haha, so far I've only heard good things. The man who gave them to me tells me he's always getting bought out by a women from Russia.
I still would like to know if it has nutritional benefits any different to other livers. I'm assuming if it tastes that good, it must have something good for you in it more so then other livers.

Peter said...

The rabbit liver sounds good, never seen it for sale anywhere in the UK and I'm not sure I'll ever be back to rabbiting again...


chlOe said...


Peter said...

It involved a shotgun and stalking round fields in the evening. Not nice for the rabbits. I used to fish off the beach as a youngster too. Gave those up long ago. There were a few years when the only animal protein we had was roadkill, much of which was rabbit/pheasant. Bit mmore domesticated nowadays...


chlOe said...

Oh, yeah, this was farmed rabbit. Usually "wild rabbit" is referred to as Hare - at least here in america. But I understand what you're saying.

Anonymous said...

Back in the early 80's I had fried, chopped lamb's brains with ginger in a Pakistani outdoor restaurant in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
I recall them being very tasty with the consistency of firm scrambled egg.
My local butcher is supplying me some next week....
I eat liver every week and have tried lamb's heart. Prefer liver.
Liver should be more expensive than fillet steak, but fortunately is very reasonably priced. As is all offal.
Let's just keep it to ourselves. eh?

Amir Timur said...

India is great for this stuff. We get a 500 gram brain for a Dollar! Liver is 70 cents for the same. However the cows arent grown for slaughter. So the meat taste isnt the greatest. But they are pastured! And the indian spices are great for bland meat.
The best part- Large marrow bones=a Dime!

Ally Houston said...

Hi Peter,

Long time listener, first time caller.

I have been eating gluten-free haggis that I get delivered then freeze from a butcher in Edinburgh, as I do not like the flavour of liver.

When you mentioned alcohol and joint pain, what did you base that on, and is there a way to mitigate it? I have a dodgy knee, would love to go jogging again, but the knee pain seems to come and go...



Peter said...

Hi Ally,

It's not alcohol for me, Tequila is my current favourite, it's whisky and particularly single malts. As the son of a Glasgow mum that comes hard to me...