Posts Tagged ‘nutrition’

In defense of organ meats

July 3, 2011

As recently as a generation ago, organ and gland meats such as sheep’s brains, lambs fry (liver) or kidneys were somewhat of a standard fixture on home dining menus across Australia. But more recently, it has taken the influence of hipster chefs such as Ben Millgate and Elvis Abrahanowicz, of Bodega and Porteño fame, to introduce organ and gland meats to a younger crowd of food lovers. Porteño in particular features dishes called “sweetbreads” which make use of different glands, such as thymus, in creating some genuinely unique culinary experiences. I should note here that I am a bit iffy in regards to eating veal, considering how it is produced, so I may not be lining up to try it when I get to Porteño sometime.

As  a gal raised (hur hur) on more ‘palatable’ cuts of meat – think lamb chops and rump steak – I had to get over my squeamishness at the prospect of consuming the liver of another creature. “Why would you do something so ridiculous?” you ask. Well, in my efforts to improve my health, I really needed to look at radical change to my diet. No B.S. “superfoods” such as goji berries were going to cut it. The standard western diet, in comparison to  that of the traditional Japanese diet in particular, is known to be somewhat monocultured in terms of the variety of foods eaten. Sure, we may oooh and aaah at the latest sourdough bread creation, however bread is still bread is still bread right? I don’t think we’re eating enough of a variety of foods (not to mention many are eating things that is just plain wrong for human consumption and are not even food) to maintain good health.

I think many people would be surprised at how deficient they are in absolutely essential nutrients such as magnesium, zinc and B12. Along with resolving gut health to allow for optimal nutrient absorption, a varied diet that includes a range of animal products is the key to getting these nutrient levels up and keeping them up. B12 in particular, is an essential nutrient implicated in depression and dementia, and the best version of B12 for human health can only be obtained from animal products such as liver, beef and, in smaller amounts, eggs. It’s not enough to pop a B12 pill – all nutrients are best obtained from food sources since the food contains important co-factors such as enzymes that allow the nutrient firstly to be absorbed, and secondly, to be effective once it has been absorbed. Good health after all, does not occur in a vacuum. Liver, or lamb’s fry is simply a nutritional powerhouse according to Mark Sisson of popular Primal blog Mark’s Daily Apple.

More about B12

Unfortunately, we live in a world where modern medicine places barely enough emphasis on nutrition as the cornerstone to good health. As such, most doctors will not acknowledge an obvious nutrient deficiency even when it stares them in the face. Instead,  there is too much reliance on the numbers from very basic blood tests which tend to show disease states rather than help to uncover the cause of that disease to connect the dots. With lab tests, the lab ranges are based on people that are sick, rather than healthy, so those lab ranges therefore are not representative of optimal levels of different nutrients.

B12 is a really interesting example of how misguided lab ranges, and the reliance on them, can be. In Australia and the UK, the “normal” range for B12 starts at 200 whereas in Japan – which has some of the lowest rates of Alzheimers in the developed world-  it begins at 500. This means that if you have a B12 level of 240, which can be found to correlate to dangerous symptoms indicating irreversible nerve damage, you will not be investigated for pernicious anemia (a common cause of B12 deficiency) and started on treatment if you live in a country where the range starts at 200. If you lived in Japan, however, you would likely be placed on an aggressive B12 treatment plan of regular injections. Where things get complicated for B12 testing, and the best example of how useless some blood tests can be for a doctor to order, is that if you have taken any B12 whatsoever in the past year, either as a shot, or in a multivitamin, the test will skew the result and show massively inflated levels of B12. What this means for people who need to be especially on the ball with their B12 status – vegetarians, vegans, those with family history of B12 deficiency, poor diet or digestive issues – need to use some more advanced testing options to assess their status and take action from there. Chris Kresser, of The Healthy Skeptic blog, has a great article covering all of this B12 information.

Where to from here?

Since I’m on a high-fat-consumption bender at the moment  (more on that later), I’m really tempted to try sheep’s brains as long as Mum cooks them to an old favourite recipe of Grandma’s that she guarantees me is delicious. Brains in mammals are known to have a high fat content which sounds pretty good to me! I will probably pass on the tripe (stomach lining) though, that might be taking things too far!

One thing I will always steer well clear of is foie gras, which is made in the most disgusting manner possible involving the force feeding of ducks to make their livers fattier, and therefore more tasty to the supposedly ‘refined’ tastebuds of senseless food elitists the world over. It’s good to know that some suppliers are now making humanely-produced foie gras, but of course some purist gastronomes don’t believe it is as tasty as the traditional foie gras. We can only live in hope.

Lamb’s Fry recipe

Here is a really tasty recipe for cooking lamb’s fry (liver) – calf liver can be substituted if lamb is not available.


1/2 kilo lamb’s fry, sliced in 2 1/2cm slices
1-2 brown onions, sliced in to wedges
1/2 red capscisum (red pepper) chopped into 1cm wide slices x 3cm high slices
1-2 tbsp oil
beef stock or stock from bone marrow (this is really tasty but needs to be prepped in advance)
2-3 tsp arrowroot powder (a Paleo-friendly thickener)
pinch of salt


Soak liver for a short time (5-10 mins) in warm salted water and pat dry. Heat 1tbsp oil in a pan, add onions and cook until the onions are golden. Then add capsicum to saute.  Remove from the pan and set aside.

Add the remainder of oil to the pan and add the sliced liver. Brown on both sides, return the onions and capsicum to the pan. Add the pinch of salt.

Add enough stock to cover and simmer until the liver is tender.

To finish, thicken with arrowroot powder and garnish with herbs.

Lamb's fry (liver) with onions, capsicum and gravy

Lamb's fry (liver) with onions, capsicum and gravy