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Better Nutrition (1989-90)

Power foods; liver

Power foods; liver

Power Foods Liver

For many of us, the thought of liver for dinner hearkens back to a time when our mothers fed it to us as children. “Eat your liver. It’s good for you,” she’d say as we listlessly toyed with it on our plates. Watching for her to turn her back for a minute, we would seize the opportunity to sneak it to the family dog, eagerly awaiting his role in the sleight of hand. He liked liver.

In some respects, mother was right on target. Liver is an excellent, very concentrated source of high-quality protein, vitamins and minerals. It can be used in the prevention and treatment of a variety of nutrient deficiency illnesses.

However, liver is also a concentrated source of cholesterol. Four ounces of beef liver contain about 400 milligrams (mg) of cholesterol, exceeding the recommended daily limit set by the American Heart Association by 33 percent.

With this in mind, a careful balance between the nutritional benefits and drawbacks of liver can be maintained. If you plan the amount and frequency eaten, liver can add significant quantities of important nutrients to the diet without dangerous consequences.

The most common and readily available types of liver are beef, calf and chicken. Pork, goose, lamb, rabbit and turkey liver may be occasionally available in some markets. While all types are concentrated sources of many nutrients, they contain varying amounts of cholesterol, fat and calories.

Ounce for ounce, beef liver offers the greatest amount of protein. Four ounces of raw beef liver provides more than 22 grams of protein. Calf liver contains slightly less, while an equal amount of raw chicken liver comes in at about 20 grams. Because the protein is of animal origin, liver contains all the amino acids essential to human health.

Liver provides the most concentrated amount of vitamin A of all food sources. It is considered an efficient aid in vitamin A deficiency. The current Recommended Dietary Allowance of vitamin A is 800-1,000 micrograms (mcg) for adults. A 3 1/2-ounce serving of beef liver provides 18,000 mcg of vitamin A. Babies and very young children often have diets already high in vitamin A and are at higher risk of vitamin A poisoning from frequent liver consumption.

Liver has long been a part of the treatment for pernicious anemia because it is a rich source of heme iron (the organic iron in animal foods). This type of iron is five times more easily absorbed than non-heme iron. Pork liver contains the highest amount of iron, at 34 mg per 4-ounce serving.

Liver is a good source of the mineral phosphorus. A diet which includes large quantities of liver also should include added calcium since high phosphorus intake can create a deficiency of calcium. One of the few natural sources of vitamin D, liver is also an excellent source of all the B vitamins (particularly B12), copper, vitamin C and trace minerals.

Liver is extremely perishable and should be eaten as soon as possible after purchase.

Store liver for no longer than a day or two, keeping it extremely cold. It may be kept at 0 [degrees] for no longer than three or four months.

For all the nutrients liver provides, and the amount of fat and cholesterol it contains, liver is a surprisingly low calorie food. Four ounces of raw chicken liver contains only 144 calories. Four ounces of beef contains only 182 calories.

Liver has almost no connective tissue, and should be cooked quickly to prevent it from drying out. Cook to the desired doneness, except in the case of pork liver. Like all pork products, pork liver must be cooked until no longer pink in order to destroy any possible trichinosis organisms.

Some methods of preparation will greatly increase the calorie content. Deep frying or sauteeing in animal fat will boost both the fat and calories. Liver pate is usually extremely rich, with large quantities of fats added. Broiling or sauteeing over high heat with little added fat in a non-stick pan are more advisable approaches. Many cooks marinate the liver, or use herbs to give it added flavor and to cover any strong tastes which some liver contains naturally.

With some educated discretion, liver can be cooked and enjoyed in many forms. From the simple searing in a hot pan with a dash of wine, to an elegantly sauced entree, it can be a part of on interesting and varied diet. So listen to your mother and eat your liver. It can be good for you.

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