Can you eat liver raw?

In this brief guide, we will answer the question, “Can you eat liver raw?”. We will also elaborate on the health benefits of eating raw liver, the taste of raw liver and some common concerns of eating liver. 

Can you eat liver raw? 

Yes, you can eat liver raw. It is rich in nutrients, so it provides many health benefits. Just make sure that you purchase organic grass-fed liver.

Beef liver provides us with significant amounts of protein, vitamins, and fat that keep our body healthy, however, liver products are considered a high-risk food as these are highly nutritious and serve as an ideal medium for bacterial growth (1).

Grass-fed animals are farmed in a healthier environment; they are not given steroids and are allowed to wander free, which implies they will have little exposure to a large number of bacteria and parasites.

The first time you try raw liver it may be somewhat hard to digest, but your body will adapt shortly. Just remember to begin with small quantities.

It is best to eat the liver as early as you can once you buy it, and it will be much easier to digest. The fresher the liver is, the higher will be its nutritive value.

Again make sure you buy it from a reputable source and avoid consuming any that is spoiled or looks bad. The raw liver goes bad fast, and will often be kept in a frozen state.

The taste of raw liver

The raw liver is lean as compared to cooked liver. It has a naturally earthy taste. The flavor may be a little bitter, which can be balanced by adding a pinch of salt to balance out the flavor and make it more palatable. Some describe it as sour, metallic, bloody oxidized or fatty (2).

A study showed that the compounds that determine the characteristic aroma described as “liver–like” are associated with lipid oxidation, such as pentanal, hexanal, hexanol, 1–octen–3–ol, and nonanal (2).

If you are adding raw liver to a dish, cook it first so that you can add it in with other ingredients before eating, then cook only for a short time at low temperatures to prevent the loss of nutrients.

The advantages of liver

The liver is a rich source of iron, phosphorus, copper, potassium, vitamin C, B, folate, niacin and riboflavin, thus it provides several health benefits which are discussed below.

Excellent nutritional profile 

A 3 oz serving of cooked liver includes the below-mentioned nutrients, according to the USDA:

  • Calories: 153 Kcal
  • Fat: 4 g
  • Fiber: Less than 1 g
  • Carbohydrates: 4 g
  • Proteins: 23 g
  • Sugar: Less than 1 g

In 1 oz serving of cooked bovine liver, there are: 1.7 mg Calcium, 1.84 mg Iron, 5.95 mg Magnesium, 140 mg Phosphorus, 98.9 mg Potassium, 114 mg Sodium, 1.49 mg Zinc, 4.03 mg Copper, 10.1 µg Selenium, 0.539 mg Vitamin C, 0.054 mg Thiamin, 0.964 mg Riboflavin, 4.93 mg Niacin, 0.28 mg Vitamin B-6, 120 mg Choline, 19.8 µg Vitamin B-12, 2650 µg Vitamin A, 0.34 µg Vitamin D (D2 + D3),  0.936 µg Vitamin K, and 111 mg Cholesterol. 

Good source of important nutrients

The liver is rich in nutrients. It consists of a significant concentration of iron, folate, copper and vitamin B. Eating one single meal of liver can provide the daily recommended amount of all these nutrients, lowering the risk of their depletion. 

Good source of vitamin A

The liver is amongst the best animal-based sources of vitamin A. A single serving of liver provides sufficient vitamin A to meet the daily demand for vitamin A. Vitamin A intake helps to decrease the risk of certain health conditions like breast cancer and cataracts.

Lowers the risk of anemia

Lack of iron can result in anemia which is indicated by muscle weakness, lack of focus and general tiredness. Consumption of the liver provides a great supply of both vitamin B12 and iron, which perform simultaneously to make healthy blood cells. 

Most of the iron in the liver is in the heme iron form. Single meal studies have shown that heme iron is more efficiently absorbed from the diet (20–30 %) than non-heme iron (5–15 %). The heme iron in liver and red meat also enhances non-heme iron absorption from foods such as cereals, vegetables and pulses consumed at the same time (3).

Improved bone health

The liver is loaded with vitamin K, which is important for maintaining stronger bones. Vitamin K enables the processing of calcium so that it can be used by bones, thus helping in strengthening the skeletal system. 

Besides, consuming a diet with plenty of vitamin K has been associated with a lowered risk of chronic health disorders, for example, osteoporosis. Vitamin K also improves the health of the circulatory system. 

In addition, the vitamin D3 metabolite 25-hydroxycholecalciferol (25(OH)D3) is found in significant quantities in meat and liver and is considered to have a high biological activity, resulting in better and faster absorption from the diet compared with its parent compound, cholecalciferol, vitamin D3. Vitamin D is necessary for the Calcium absorption and, therefore, for the bone formation. Maternal vitamin D status may be critical to bone development in the offspring (3).

Common concerns of eating liver

The liver is a great source of fats, saturated fats and cholesterol. These nutrients, when consumed in moderate amounts and in a balanced diet, support various processes and help the uptake of fat-soluble vitamins A and D. 

However, as the liver is loaded with vitamin A, in the form of retinol, it should not be consumed in excess and too frequently. This is because, in the long run, vitamin A gets accumulated in the body which is not only harmful to health but is difficult to digest by your own liver. 

Pregnant females are recommended to limit liver consumption, as too much vitamin A consumption is detrimental to fetuses. 

Most doctors suggest just one serving of liver per week to individuals without any vitamin deficits to prevent toxicity.

Nonetheless, it is beneficial to choose liver from animals that have been given higher welfare standards and, if your budget allows, free-range or organically raised.

In addition, contamination due to poor hygienic practices by food handlers and instruments such as cutting boards, machines, and all other related materials used for preparation of liver to sell to consumers. Salmonella typhimurium, Salmonella enteritidis, and Escherichia coli O157:H7 are potentially pathogenic to humans and animals, and are capable of producing serious infections and food-borne zoonosis. Salmonellosis in humans is associated with the consumption of contaminated food products such as beef (1).

Moreover, antibiotic residues in food are currently a problem across the world, particularly due to public health problems that include hypersensitivity reaction, antibiotic resistance, toxicity, teratogenicity, and carcinogenicity. Animal feed contaminated with aflatoxins may lead to residues of aflatoxin and its metabolites in meat and meat products, and could subsequently create health problems in humans. Bovine liver can contain both types of contaminants. Therefore, it is important to select reliable meat suppliers (1).

Conclusion 

In this brief guide, we have provided an answer to the question, “Can you eat liver raw?”. We have also elaborated on the health benefits of eating raw liver, the taste of raw liver and some common concerns of eating liver. 

References 

  1. Kirrella, Ghada AK, Azza MM Deeb, and Reda Mohamed Ibrahim Abdallah. Safety of frozen liver for human consumption. j food drug anal, 2017, 25, 520-524.
  2. Hodgen, Jennie Marie James. Factors influencing off-flavor in beef. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 2006.
  3. Wyness, Laura. The role of red meat in the diet: nutrition and health benefits. Proceed Nutr Soc, 2016, 75, 227-232.