- What Are Desiccated Liver Supplements?
- Nutrients in Liver
- Top Four Beef Liver Supplements
- Is Beef Liver Good for You?
- Why Most People Don’t Eat (Enough) Liver
- How Many Nutrients are in Liver Supplements?
- How to Choose a Desiccated Liver Supplement
- Recommended Brands
- Detailed Nutrient Analysis of Beef Liver (Supplements)
- Frequently Asked Questions
Organ meat, and especially liver, is one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet. Yet most of us don’t consume nearly enough of this nutritious powerhouse on a daily basis because of its image, its taste, or its lack of availability.
In this article, I’ll share the health benefits of liver. I’ll also provide a list of the best dried liver supplements from grass-fed and pasture-raised cows, as well as a simple recipe for liver pâté that I use to turn raw liver into something I enjoy eating several times a week.
Nutrition isn’t the only factor that influences our health and wellbeing. Learn more about all five factors you need to pay attention to.
What Are Desiccated Liver Supplements?
In the context of liver supplements, the term “desiccated” simply means “dried out.” In other words, some manufacturers of beef liver supplements use a gentle freeze-drying method to turn raw liver into powdered gel capsules that are tasteless and easy to swallow.
Freeze-drying, as opposed to using high heat during the manufacturing process, ensures that most of the liver’s nutrients remain intact.
Nutrients in Liver
Pound for pound, liver is arguably one of the most nutrient-dense foods available to us. While this article focuses on beef liver and beef liver supplements, you can obtain similar benefits from the livers of other animals, including chicken and ducks. In fact, I sometimes make liver pâté using chicken livers I find at Whole Foods.
Because liver has such a diverse micronutrient profile, it effectively provides the building blocks to support many functions in the body, including your metabolism, immune system, skin, eyes, reproductive organs, mental health and even your own liver.
Additionally, its synergistic combination of vitamins and minerals can naturally boost your energy levels by supporting your mitochondria, which is the part of every cell responsible for energy production.
But that’s not all. Liver is also an abundant source of essential B vitamins that can improve your brain function by fighting fatigue and brain fog and supporting other neurological processes.
To learn more about the vitamin and mineral composition of liver and liver supplements, scroll down.
Top Four Beef Liver Supplements
Based on all the criteria I outlined above, my hands-on experience and my personal preferences, here are the top beef liver supplements you should consider.
|Brand||Serving Size||Other Ingredients||Cost / Serving|
|Ancestral Supplements*||3,000 mg||Gelatin||$1.20|
|Enviromedica* (Beef Liver)||3,000 mg||Gelatin||$1.00|
|Enviromedica* (Organ Complex)||3,000 mg (1,500 mg of liver)||Gelatin||$1.00|
|Equip*||3,000 mg||Organic rice concentrate, gelatin||$0.63|
Scroll down to learn more about each of the brands and see the available discount codes.
Is Beef Liver Good for You?
As you can see in the list below, liver is an excellent source of vitamins and minerals. It’s also worth noting that liver is a great source of essential amino acids. In fact, most of the calories in raw liver stem from protein.
Despite the obvious benefits of eating liver, most people don’t recognize organ meat as the nutritional powerhouse that it is. I’d even bet that if you asked 100 nutritionists to name their top 10 superfoods, liver would likely not be among them.
Instead, they’d probably mention primarily plant-based foods, such as kale, spinach, spirulina, chia seeds and some of the other usual suspects. While all of these plants have varying amounts of micronutrients, they also contain chemical compounds like antinutrients that bind minerals and prevent the body from absorbing them.
Animals run away or fight, but plants use chemicals (and sometimes thorns) to defend themselves. That’s nature’s way of discouraging animals (including humans) from eating them.
Liver doesn’t have any antinutrients or any other inflammatory compounds that you could be sensitive or allergic to. The only downside to liver is that it has carbs in the form of glycogen (the storage vehicle of glucose and water). But I’d argue that the micronutrients in liver far outweigh the cons of consuming a few extra carbs.
Why Most People Don’t Eat (Enough) Liver
Despite all the evidence that liver is a nutritional superfood, most people don’t eat liver on a regular basis — if they eat it at all.
The likely culprit for that is the smell and taste of this organ meat. Honestly, I’m not a huge fan of how unseasoned, pan-fried beef liver tastes. Our four-year-old even left the room the other day when my wife fried liver to use in meatballs.
So I get it! However, looking back at my eating habits over the past four decades, I can name several foods that I once wouldn’t touch but now eat like the proverbial candy.
So I encourage you to keep trying different ways of preparing liver and to get used to the taste. Personally, I’ve found two ways to truly enjoy liver: homemade pâté and meatballs. The latter even our six-year-old eats without hesitation.
Update: While writing this article, I’ve also started eating pan-fried liver with tons of camel fat* and seasoned with liberal amounts of salt and pepper.
If you haven’t yet found a liver recipe that you feel like you can handle on a regular basis, high-quality beef liver supplements may be the way to go.
I use them on a regular basis instead of vitamin pills, despite the fact that I eat a spoonful of pâté almost daily.
How Many Nutrients are in Liver Supplements?
Now that you know how nutritious beef liver is, the million dollar question is this: How many of those nutrients are retained in freeze-dried beef liver capsules?
To answer that question, I reached out to my preferred brands and asked them about the nutrient content in their beef liver pills.
Here is what I learned:
As whole food supplements, the precise nutrient contents of encapsulated organ meats will vary slightly from lot to lot, depending on the individual cow from which it was sourced and the season in which it was harvested. Just as the grass-fed beef that you would purchase from a butcher will vary slightly depending on the specific cow, where it grazed, and the season in which it was processed, the same is true for our whole food supplements. However, as a rule of thumb, one serving of beef liver capsules containing 3,000 mg of desiccated beef liver has a comparable nutrient profile to 1 ounce of fresh liver.Source: Enviromedica
When freeze-drying the macronutrients are also concentrated. The Carbon, Hydrogen and Oxygen molecules in carbohydrates and fats for example bond closer together and some of the hydrogen and oxygen are dried out. The micronutrients stay mostly intact and that’s why we say 1 ounce of fresh liver is equivalent to 6 capsules of our organs supplements.Ancestral Supplements
That’s what I expected, but it’s great to get confirmation.
How to Choose a Desiccated Liver Supplement
Below I’ll list some of the supplements that I’ve tried and recommend. But there are certainly other products on the market you could choose from.
It’s important to keep in mind that supplements are largely unregulated in the United States. As a result, manufacturers have a lot of wiggle room regarding what information they put on the label and how accurately that information reflects the actual ingredients. That’s why I recommend sticking to brands you trust (see my recommendations below).
Here are the most important criteria that I look for when shopping for organ supplements.
Grass-Fed and Pasture-Raised
Much like when buying fresh meat, I make sure the organs that were used to make a supplement were sourced from grass-fed and pasture-raised animals.
That’s not only important from an ethical perspective (it ensures sustainable farming practices), but also from a quality perspective, as it leads to a supplement with a better nutrient profile.
For example, the liver (and muscle meat) of grass-fed beef has a more favorable fatty-acid composition than that of grain-fed beef.
Additionally, you can find significantly more vitamin A (both provitamin A and preformed A) in the liver and muscle tissue of pasture-raised cows compared to grain-fed cows (as shown in this study). Those are only two of many examples that prove the superiority of pasture-raised vs. grain-fed meats.
Interestingly, New Zealand produces some of the best pasture-raised beef in the world. Maybe that’s because most of New Zealand’s beef herd is, in fact, entirely grass-fed.
So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that many manufacturers of premium beef supplements like to source their ingredients from this island country, including two of the three brands I buy from on a regular basis.
Whatever product you choose, make sure it has sufficient amounts of liver (and thus, micronutrients). I recommend products with 3,000 milligrams of beef liver per serving or more.
I recommend avoiding products that contain unwanted ingredients like fillers, flow agents, artificial colors and sweeteners, sugars, soy, wheat, gluten, dairy and anything else you don’t recognize.
Many vitamins and minerals are heat-sensitive or quickly deteriorate when exposed to air. That’s why the processing method of a whole-food supplement is crucial.
Freeze-drying is an excellent method to preserve as many micronutrients as possible. That’s why I recommend products that were manufactured using this method.
I prefer products that have been tested to ensure ingredient quality and certain manufacturing standards. So look for ISO or GMP certifications, or ask for a test report if in doubt.
Below is an alphabetically sorted list of the four supplements we use in the Kummer household. While there might be other brands that offer a similar ingredient quality, these are the ones I have tested and thus recommend.
Ancestral Supplements Grass Fed Beef Liver
Ancestral Supplements nose-to-tail product line is always from grass-fed animals that were raised without the use of pesticides, hormones or antibiotics.
What I like about the company is that they produce in small batches but offer a variety of organ meats and beef “byproducts” you often won’t find anywhere else, including: heart, thyroid, pancreas, spleen, bone marrow, thymus, brain, kidney, trachea, prostate, adrenal, intestines, gallbladder, lung, colostrum, eyes and more.
In other words, the company is literally taking “nose-to-tail” eating to the next level — and I love it.
Ancestral Supplements’ beef liver is carefully processed (freeze-dried), non-defatted, and made from only the best and purest ingredients using cattle from New Zealand.
You can learn more about why I like the brand in my detailed Ancestral Supplements review.
By using the link above and discount code MICHAELTEN, you’ll automatically get 10% off your purchase!
Enviromedica Pastured Beef Liver
Enviromedica is at the top of my list of favorite supplement brands because of their unparalleled focus on ingredient quality and clean manufacturing practices. Enviromedica’s facilities are GMP compliant and ISO22716 certified.
Sourced exclusively from grass-fed, pasture-raised, New Zealand bovine, Enviromedica’s beef liver is an abundant source of nutrients including protein, vitamin B6 and B12, folate, choline, copper, hyaluronic acid and a concentrated source of preformed vitamin A (retinol).
Additionally, all of their supplements are true-to-label. That means what’s on the label is exactly what’s inside, with no exceptions.
Aside from the trust I have in the brand and the positive experience I’ve had with some of Enviromedica’s other supplements, I like their beef liver tablets because they don’t contain anything but liver and gelatin (for the capsule).
In other words, the product is free of dairy, wheat, yeast, gluten, corn, sugar, soy, shellfish, tree nuts, stearates, fillers, flow agents or any other potentially irritating ingredients.
And at $1.00 per serving, the supplement is also reasonably priced.
Make sure to use code HEALTHTECH20 to get 20% off your purchase.
Enviromedica Pastured Organ Complex
Enviromedica Organ Complex is made from a mix of grass-fed liver, heart, kidney and pancreas, and delivers a rich source of vitamins, enzymes, minerals and other cofactors perfected by nature in their most bioavailable forms.
This supplement contains 1,500 milligrams of liver, 600 milligrams of kidney and heart, and 300 milligrams of pancreas. And I think it’s a great alternative to pure beef liver, especially if your goal is to improve your nose-to-tail eating habits.
Heart is a concentrated source of CoQ10 and B vitamins, and the kidney is rich in vitamin B12 and anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. It also has vitamin A, vitamin D and a variety of essential minerals to support blood flow, immunity, thyroid function, fertility and more.
Meanwhile, the pancreas is a natural source of digestive enzymes, is rich in numerous essential minerals and vitamins, and provides both amino acids (the building blocks of protein) and nutrients to help with tissue repair and blood sugar regulation.
So if you want to take your “nose-to-tail” eating goals to the next level, I recommend checking out this organ complex.
If you do want to give this supplement a try, you can use the discount code HEALTHTECH20 to get 20% off.
Equip Grass-Fed Beef Liver Capsules
Equip is the sister company of Perfect Keto and another one of the brands that I fully trust when it comes to ingredient quality and label transparency.
Equip markets its beef liver capsules as a natural whole food alternative to multivitamin supplements, and that’s what it is.
What I like about the product is that although it’s one of the least-expensive options in this roundup it does not sacrifice ingredient quality. Plus, the company sources its livers from domestic (US) grass-fed and grass-finished cows.
The only thing you could ding Equip for (if you’re a purist) is the use of organic rice concentrate — a natural anti-caking and flow agent that’s made from ground rice hulls.
If you want to give Equip a try, make sure you use code MK15 to get 15% off your order.
Detailed Nutrient Analysis of Beef Liver (Supplements)
Below is a list of most of the micronutrients you can find in liver (and liver supplements). All values are based on a one-ounce (28 gram) serving of raw liver.
Note that 28 grams of raw liver contains 19.8 grams of water. That’s why freeze-dried liver capsules have much less “volume” while offering similar amounts of micronutrients.
Vitamins in Liver
The tables below give you an overview of all the vitamins, minerals and co-factors found in liver. I’ll go into more detail about the nutrients that occur in higher amounts.
Keep in mind that the numbers below are based on a serving size of only one ounce. So you need very little of this nutritional powerhouse to fulfill your daily requirements of many micronutrients.
|Vitamin A (Retinol)||4,732 IU (1,385 IU)||95%|
|Vitamin B1 (Thiamin)||0.1 mg||4%|
|Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)||0.8 mg||45%|
|Vitamin B3 (Niacin)||3.7 mg||18%|
|Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid)||2.0 mg||20%|
|Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)||0.3 mg||15%|
|Vitamin B9 (Folate)||81.2 mcg||20%|
|Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin)||16.6 mcg||277%|
|Vitamin C||0.4 mg||1%|
|Vitamin D||4.5 IU||1%|
|Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol)||0.1 mg||1%|
|Vitamin K||0.9 mcg||1%|
Betaine: Betaine protects cells, proteins and enzymes from environmental stress (e.g., low water, high salinity or extreme temperature). It also plays an important role in liver metabolism and can reduce the risk of developing metabolic diseases.
Choline: Choline plays an important role in numerous bodily functions, including metabolism and cellular growth. Choline is an essential nutrient; while the body can make some of it the majority must come from dietary sources.
Vitamin A and retinol (95% DV): Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that exists in different versions, including retinol (preformed vitamin A) and beta-carotene (provitamin A). The former is only found in animal sources (such as liver) and is much better absorbed than beta-carotene, which the body has to convert into retinol before it can be utilized.
Almost 30% of the vitamin A in bovine liver is retinol.
Vitamin B2 (45% DV): Riboflavin is one of the eight B vitamins and is responsible for cellular respiration (mitochondria), breaking down food components, absorbing nutrients and maintaining tissue.
Vitamin B3 (18% DV): Niacin is used by the body to turn food into energy. It also supports the body in maintaining the health of the nervous system, the digestive system and the skin.
Vitamin B5 (20% DV): Pantothenic acid is necessary for making blood cells, as well as for synthesizing coenzyme A — an important factor in fatty acid metabolism.
Vitamin B6 (15% DV): Pyridoxine is an important player involved in brain development and keeping the nervous and immune systems healthy.
Vitamin B9 (20% DV): Folate (also called folic acid) plays an important role in the creation of oxygen-carrying red blood cells. A deficiency in this essential vitamin can lead to anemia (low red blood cell count). Pregnant women often get folic acid supplements prescribed to ensure proper red blood cell counts as the body makes more blood to support the growth of the baby and to reduce the risk of birth defects.
Vitamin B12 (277% DV): Cobalamin plays an important role in red blood cell formation, cell metabolism, nerve function and the production of DNA, according to the Mayo Clinic. Vitamin B12 deficiency, if left untreated, can lead to anemia, fatigue, muscle weakness, intestinal problems, nerve damage and mood disturbances.
Vitamin B12 is most prevalent in animal foods, which is why vitamin B12 deficiency is most prevalent among those who follow a pure plant-based diet (i.e., vegans and vegetarians).
Minerals in Liver
Copper (137% DV): Copper is an essential trace mineral and plays an important role in making red blood cells, as well as in supporting both nerve cells and the immune system. It helps the body form collagen to support skin, joint, hair and nail tissue, and it plays a role in energy production.
Fluoride (16% DV): Fluoride is an important mineral in your bones and teeth. Specifically, fluoride helps with the formation of teeth and bones and in maintaining their structural integrity. But note that a study found that too much of it can increase your risk of bone fractures.
Iron (8% DV): Liver is one of the best sources of heme iron, a type of iron that is predominantly found in the bodies of humans and animals (more than 95% of the functional iron in the human body is heme). Heme iron is exceptionally well absorbed and thus much more bioavailable than the non-heme iron found in plants.
Phosphorus (11% DV): Phosphorus is the second most abundant mineral in the human body (calcium is number one) and is present in every cell, as well as in bones and teeth. It also plays an important role in carbohydrate and fat metabolism, and is needed to make proteins for cell growth, cell maintenance, and cell repair.
Zinc (7% DV): Zinc is one of the most important nutrients when it comes to supporting the body’s defenses and immune functions. It also plays a role in cell division, cell growth, wound healing and carbohydrate metabolism. You also need zinc to smell and taste. In other words, these senses wouldn’t work correctly without the involvement of zinc.
Macros and Other Functional Nutrients
Besides vitamins and minerals, a one-ounce serving of liver provides the following functional nutrients:
Coenzyme Q10 (1 milligram): Organ meats are one of the most abundant sources of CoQ10, a micronutrient that helps generate energy in your cells. While your body can make its own CoQ10, production usually slows down as you age. Coincidentally, some metabolic diseases, such as brain disorders, diabetes and cancer, have been linked to low levels of CoQ10.
Carbohydrates (1.1 grams): Red meat is normally not a source of carbs, but liver is different because it stores glucose (sugar) in the form of glycogen. When a cow is butchered, all the glycogen in its muscle tissue gets released. That’s why you won’t find any carbs in a piece of steak. However, the liver retains all of its glycogen.
Protein (5.7 grams): Protein is one of the two essential macronutrients (fat is the other) humans need to get from food. The amino acids of liver protein help the body create and repair muscle tissue, make collagen and support the body’s immune function.
Frequently Asked Questions
Beef liver has ample amounts of cholesterol, certain minerals, and fat-soluble vitamins (such as vitamin A) that can become toxic if ingested in excess amounts.
While it’s true that, in theory, you can have too much of these nutrients, I don’t see that as being an issue in real life. I don’t know anybody who consumes large amounts of liver every single day.
Doing so would also not mimic the eating habits of our ancestors, because they didn’t have access to fresh liver every day. Plus, they would have shared every “kill” among a tribe of up to 40 members.
Based on the scientific evidence that I’ve found, it’s perfectly safe to consume between four and eight ounces of liver per week.
Also, dietary cholesterol is not unhealthy and has no impact on blood cholesterol levels. I’ve said that numerous times before on this blog (here and here), but I feel like it’s worth repeating.
100% pasture-raised and grass-fed cows that don’t receive any non-organic or GMO feed are, by definition, organic. I’ve found only one brand (Grassland) that carried the “organic” label, but that referred to the kelp in the product, not the liver.
Defatting a liver means removing its fat, and with that fat many of the fat-soluble vitamins. That’s why it’s important to choose beef liver supplements that contain non-defatted liver. All of the recommended products above fall into this category.
Considering that some supplement manufacturers make it a point to mention that the livers they used are un-defatted, it’s reasonable to assume that others use de-fatted livers. Why someone would want to remove fat from the liver before freeze-drying it is beyond me. Maybe to satisfy those consumers who are still riding the “low-fat” train!?
Gelatin is a protein (similar to collagen) that’s made from boiling skin, tendons, ligaments and/or bones. Most gelatin capsules are made from bovine gelatin.
At least one of the brands* I stumbled across while writing this article also offers beef liver powder, meant for mixing into shakes, cooking or baking. While making a smoothie or shake with desiccated beef liver powder is perfectly fine, I wouldn’t recommend heating it to avoid destroying the heat-sensitive micronutrients.
The best source of nutrients is fresh food. In the case of animal products, that means unprocessed liver sourced from grass-fed, pasture-raised and grass-finished cattle.
However, if you follow a healthy dietary lifestyle, rich in healthy fats and low in carbs (especially processed carbs), adding organ meats in the form of supplements is your second-best option.
I eat organ meats but probably not as much as I could. That’s why I supplement with beef liver and organ meat pills.
We buy a whole pasture-raised cow every year from a local farmer, and that’s how we get our liver. We also buy organic chicken livers at Whole Foods.
If you want to buy liver online, I recommend checking out US Wellness Meats*. They offer a wide variety of different organ meats from grass-fed cows. We often buy their liverwurst, which contains liver, heart and kidney.
Absolutely! Organs are usually excellent sources of the nutrients those organs need to thrive. So eating liver supports your liver, eating heart is good for heart health, etc.
Eating nose-to-tail is arguably the most paleolithic way of eating. So yes, liver is definitely paleo!
If you regularly consume sufficient amounts of organ meat, including liver, you’ll get all the nutrients your body requires. So there’s no need to worry about your veggie intake, in my opinion.
More important than getting the required amount of vital nutrients is getting the right and most-usable nutrients.
Organ meats contain heme iron and retinol (aka the real vitamin A). Plants contain the inferior non-heme iron and beta-carotene (a precursor to vitamin A). Both are examples of nutrients found in plants that the body can’t absorb and use as well as their animal-based counterparts.
I’m not recommending avoiding seasonal fruits and veggies (I eat them), but I remain unconvinced as to their importance in the context of human evolution.
Organ meats have been an essential part of human nutrition for millions of years. Unfortunately, the combination of our modern lifestyles and the industrialization of food has removed these nutritional powerhouses from the plates of most people.
The results of our modern eating habits are a dramatic increase in metabolic disease and obesity rates, as well as widespread deficiencies of essential vitamins and minerals. So it’s time to reverse that course and to start nourishing our bodies with the foods we are genetically primed to consume.
While I highly recommend trying to get pasture-raised organ meat (including liver) back on the dinner table, I also understand that this isn’t as easy for everyone as I might make it sound.
At the Kummer household, we started including liver in our diet a few years ago. But we still don’t consume the variety and amount of organ meat that we should.
That’s why I believe including the right supplements on top of a solid dietary framework — even if that doesn’t yet include the regular consumption of organ meat — is an excellent idea.
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