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Liver – A True Superfood!

Liver, a True Superfood | AmandaNaturally.comWhen we think of superfoods, things like kale, acai, chia and other plants come to mind. However if we actually put a definition to the word superfood, it becomes quite obvious that these are not true superfoods. Here are my requirements for a superfood:

  1. It needs to be jam-packed with nutrients (i.e. incredibly nutrient dense). So every single bite delivers a high concentration of nutrients.
  2. Nutrients need to be life-giving. They should include (but not be limited to) things like vitamins A & D, folate, zinc, omega-3’s (the usable forms, not the plant-based forms) and a full spectrum of B’s.
  3. They should impact most if not all systems in the body – endocrine, nervous, digestive, immune and detoxification.

While the acai berry contains vitamin C and antioxidants, it definitely doesn’t contain a full spectrum of life-giving nutrients. My favourite true superfoods are vegetables (of course), egg yolks, grassfed butter, seafood (especially bivalves like mussels, oysters and clams), fermented foods (like sauerkraut) and….


But wait? I’ve always heard that liver is a filter organ and it stores all our toxins so we should avoid it!


How the Liver Actually Works

The liver has a variety of responsibilities (including storing vitamins and minerals – more on that later), but the most notable one is detoxification. What does that mean? Well true detox (not the juice-cleansing, fasting, only eating salads BS) is the process of transforming and clearing toxic substances from the blood. 

What are toxic substances?

A toxin is simply a substance that can cause damage or injury to cells, or cause disease. That’s a pretty broad definition, which unfortunately means the term toxin gets thrown around a lot, often inappropriately. Some examples of true toxins are:

  • byproducts from cellular metabolism (like carbon dioxide from cell respiration, ammonia from protein metabolism)
  • byproducts of gut microbes which we absorb (another reason why you want to have a super healthy gut and make sure you’re not constipated!)
  • oxidative stress (free radicals)
  • substances that cause antibody production like food and environmental exposure (especially if those antibodies accidentally attack areas of the body, which is common with gluten)
  • environmental toxins like car exhaust, cigarette smoke
  • alcohol
  • pesticides
  • chemicals in personal care products and cleaning products
  • pharmaceuticals (note: drugs are defined by having a toxic upper level, otherwise they are considered a supplement)
  • plastics
  • heavy metals (mercury, lead, aluminum etc.)

What the Liver Does

The Paleo Mom has a great article on exactly what the liver does – in quite a bit of detail – so if you’re interested go check it out here. But in an effort to streamline this already involved article, here’s a brief description:

Phase 1 – the liver starts to transform the dangerous chemical into less dangerous ones (although sometimes this phase ends up creating more toxic substances – for example alcohol gets converted into formaldehyde, a known carcinogen).

Phase 2 – the partially transformed chemical gets attached to other molecules which make them water soluble. They are now able to be excreted by the kidneys in the urine, or by the gall-bladder/stool through bile (another reason why you don’t want to be constipated – slow transit time will allow toxins that have already been excreted).

from: http://primaldocs.com/members-blog/detox-101-how-to-enhance-your-bodys-detoxification/#!prettyPhoto
from: http://primaldocs.com/members-blog/detox-101-how-to-enhance-your-bodys-detoxification/#!prettyPhoto


If phase 1 is working great, but phase 2 is sluggish (usually due to lack of nutrients required for the specific processes) then there can be a build up of phase 1 byproducts. This build up gets shuttled out of the liver and into fatty tissue where it is inert and won’t damage the body (in theory – but if the fatty tissue it hangs out in is the brain, it can cause big problems).

Moral of the story:

The liver is not a sponge. It does not store toxins. It stores vitamins and minerals to aid in detoxification.

Pay special attention to that last line. The liver stores vitamins and minerals. Why? We forget that food is more than just fuel. It is the building blocks for all new tissue, and the machinery for all of our systems to function. Detoxification processes are run by enzymes that are created from vitamins, minerals and proteins. So in order for it to do its job, the liver must be chock full of nutrients. 


Liver is a Potent Superfood!

Nutrients stored in the liver (because they’re required for phase 1 and 2 detoxification) include:

  • Vitamins B2, B3, B5, B6, B12
  • Folate
  • Glutathione
  • Flavonoids
  • Methionine
  • Cysteine
  • Magnesium
  • Vitamin C (more than an apple!)
  • Glycine
  • Taurine
  • Glutamine
  • Choline

Other nutrients it stores:

  • Vitamin A (the real form, not b-carotene found in orange plants)
  • Vitamin D (important especially in fall/winter months up north)
  • Vitamin K (specifically K2, an absolutely critical nutrient for bone formation that is only found in organ meats and grass-fed raw dairy – everyone is so worried about calcium, when they should be worried about K2!)
  • Iron
  • Copper
From: http://chriskresser.com/natures-most-potent-superfood/
From: http://chriskresser.com/natures-most-potent-superfood/

Additional Benefits:

  • full of enzymes to break down any residual toxins that may hang around (minimal)
  • very low in fat, so very unlikely to store toxins 
  • the amino acid balance is different than muscle meat, in a good way. Case in point – glycine. This important amino acid is very low in muscle meat and high in offal. So if you’re not consuming the entire animal (or worse, you’re not consuming any animal protein), you are definitely going to be deficient in glycine. Glycine is critical for gut health, connective tissue health and immune system regulation.

In many traditional cultures only the organ meats were consumed. In others they were reserved for royalty or recently married couples (as fertility aids).


Okay so it’s not full of toxins, but what about the cholesterol?

Cholesterol in our diet has very little impact on our systemic cholesterol levels. Elevated cholesterol in our body is a symptom of inflammation, stress and degeneration. It in itself is not the disease. Over half of people who are hospitalized with a cardiac event (heart attack) do not have high cholesterol. In fact, as you age, low cholesterol is much more dangerous than high cholesterol.

 Elevated cholesterol needs to be looked at as a warning sign, not the problem itself. It would be like every time we see a house on fire, we also see loud, noisy, fire trucks. So we start assuming that the fire trucks are causing the problem. If we just stop the fire trucks, the noise stops! But does the fire actually go away? No. That’s what’s going on when we treat cholesterol as the problem. Remember – cholesterol is a vital, life-giving substance, without which we will die. Elevated cholesterol is a symptom.

Life-giving you say? Why yes! Cholesterol is the building blocks of vitamin D, testosterone, estrogen and progesterone (among other steroid hormones). It also makes up about 25% of our brain (hence the massive cognitive decline that many people taking statins like Crestor and Lipitor experience). In fact, there are many arguments for why you should eat more cholesterol – namely because foods high in cholesterol are also high in choline, an absolutely essential nutrient (albeit recently essential – it was added to the list in 1998). Most North Americans are significantly under-consuming choline due to fear of cholesterol. This is especially a problem for pregnant and breast-feeding women since choline is critical for fetal growth and milk production.


Does it have to be organic?

In an ideal world you are able to source all of your meat from grassfed and pastured sources, however I know that is not always possible (both physically and financially). I always recommend to clients to start by purchasing the fatty cuts of meat organic (since those cuts store the most junk). So things like bacon, marbled steaks, and sausages really should be a priority. 

But if we consider everything we said above – that the liver doesn’t store toxins and it’s so low fat so even if the animal has been exposed to a ton of junk during its lifetime in a confined animal feeding operation (CAFO), there isn’t really anywhere for the liver to hold on to those toxins. Buying organic bacon is way more important than buying organic liver.

Standard liver is still way better for you than no liver at all!


So, who needs liver? Everyone!

But there specific cases where I use it therapeutically:

  • recovery from illness (either acute or chronic)
  • autoimmune disease recovery (the immune system is a massive drain on our nutrient reserves, so to re-regulate it, organ meats are a must)
  • post-surgery
  • pregnancy (for development of baby, but more importantly to keep mom sufficient in nutrients – baby will take everything it needs, leaving mom deficient)
  • low iron / anemia (it’s particularly helpful on day 1 and 2 of your menstrual cycle)


What’s the best way to eat liver?

Now I know liver isn’t everyone’s favourite food… (those of you who love it and have been avoiding it because it’s toxic – you lucky ducks). I wasn’t raised on it and I can certainly tell you I did not enjoy it the first time I ate it. However, I knew how important it was as part of a healing, nutrient-dense diet. I also knew that it would be important for me to consume when we decide to have kids. So I sucked it up and started eating it. I definitely did not enjoy it at first, but trying it a few different ways, and exposing myself to it on the regular, eventually changed my taste buds. As Diane SanFilippo says “time to put on your big girl pants and just eat some liver!”

One quick tip – if you don’t like it, start with chicken livers – they are much more mild in flavour. I still struggle with beef liver (our pup gets the beautiful grassfed beef liver from the cow we purchased, sighhh), but I actually find chicken livers quite delicious now! Oh and I also recommend starting with pate – it completely eliminates the chewy, texture issue people have with fried livers.

Here are some great ways to prepare liver:

Note: many recipes say to soak livers in milk or buttermilk for a few hours or overnight to reduce. If you’re sensitive to dairy, the alternative suggestion is often soaking it in lemon juice. I’ve never done this, but I likely will the next time I try beef liver.


Easy Chicken Liver Pate from Practical Paleo (this is my absolutely favourite way to eat liver. I use balsamic vinegar instead of wine, and duck fat or even olive oil in lieu of butter, and I eat it on apple slices. Amazing.)

Raymond Blanc’s Chicken Liver Parfait (my uncle made this for us last week, and used duck fat in stead of butter. Holy heck it was amazing! 2 quick things though (1) There is a typo in the recipe – it should say cook until 65 degrees C (150F), no more! Once you hit 70C all the proteins are overcooked, and the pate will be grey, grainy and thick. See video here and (2) the indicated baking time is too long. Start checking at around 30 minutes.)

Chicken Liver Mousse from Paleo Parents

Bacon Beef-Liver Pate with Rosemary and Thyme from AutoImmune-Paleo (AIP)

Chicken Liver Pate with Mushrooms and Bacon from Eat, Heal, Thrive (AIP)

Liver in its Whole Form

Liver and Caramelized Onions from The Domestic Man

Beef Liver with Bacon & Mushrooms from Starbright’s Kitchen

Liver & Bacon Sautee with Potatoes & Parsley on The BBC

Crispy Spiced Chicken Livers from Melissa Joulwan

Hidden Liver

50/50/50 Burgers from The Paleo Mom (note: I actually use ground beef heart in this recipe, and add onions, garlic and toasted cumin. I make a large batch and freeze the patties on parchment paper for quick dinners later on.)

Frozen Raw Liver Pills from Primally Inspired

Liver Supplement from Vital Proteins

Raw Liver Smoothie Shot from Real Food Liz


So tell me, have I convinced you to eat liver? Newbies – are you going to give it a try? Or do you already like it and are relieved you can finally eat it again?

Bacon and Apple Braised Cabbage

Bacon & Apple Braised Cabbage | AmandaNaturally.comCabbage isn’t many people’s first choice of veggie. It has a bad reputation that it simply doesn’t deserve! Cause you know what? It’s one of my favourites and I’m not a notorious eat what most normal people don’t like person. I have learned that if you cook food properly, it can taste amazing. Case in point – cabbage and brussels sprouts. When I ask clients what their dislikes are, the overwhelming majority responds “brussels sprouts” (which btw are the same family as cabbage – they’re pretty much just baby cabbages). To which I respond, “have you ever had it cooked any other way than boiled?”

<< silence >>

Exactly. I wouldn’t want to eat that $h*t boiled either! So trust me when I say that as long as you cook it right, cabbage and brussels sprouts can be amazingly delicious!

I love cabbage in slaw form, but hands down my favourite way to eat it is braised, or more specifically as Bacon and Apple Braised Cabbage. It turns deliciously sweet as the onions and apples get caramelized! My favourite dishes to pair braised cabbage with are pork chops, sausages or roast chicken. 

One of the best parts about cabbage is it’s super inexpensive, local, easy to find organic (and reasonably priced!) and it makes a huge amount. The leftovers seem to get better as they sit in the fridge, and they reheat amazingly well. I love the leftovers because they pair so wonderfully with breakfast! (anyone who works with me knows I am always trying to get people to eat veggies at breakfast!) Scramble up a few eggs, cook up a few extra pieces of bacon, side of apple braised cabbage – boom. Incredibly healthy breakfast.

Speaking of healthy, I’m just going to remind you the incredible health benefits of cabbage (I listed these over in my Simple Coleslaw recipe, but it can’t hurt to be reminded!).

Cabbage, along with other cruciferous veggies (kale, chard, collards, brussel sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, bok choy), are nutritional powerhouses. Here are some of their health benefits:

  • very high in the sulfurous compound, glucosinolate, which is metabolized by the body into potent antioxidants isothiocyanate and thiocyanate.
  • isothiocyanates have also been shown to be effective in protecting against cancer, specifically breastcoloncervical and prostate.
  • help the body excrete excess estrogens (this is particularly helpful for someone coming off of birth control, or anyone who has estrogen dominance. Also a good idea for everyone, because many of the chemicals we are exposed to daily, from plastics to fragrances to pesticides, are xeno-estrogens, which means they mimic estrogen in our body) (additional source)
  • contains sulforaphane which may reduce hypertension and improve kidney function
  • packed with nutrients – vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, fibre
  • contains indole-3-carbinol which supports phase 2 liver detoxificationphase 1 is also supported via the sulforaphane content. This balance is important because many “liver supporters” only up regulate phase I. Phase 1 often turns chemicals into more toxic substrates, before phase 2 neutralizes them. Only supporting phase 1 liver detox can result in nasty symptoms. (Note: supporting phase 1 and 2 liver detoxification is real detox, not juice-cleansing, cayenne shooters, no protein “detox” – that’s a load of crap.)

Cabbage Prep

Never prepared cabbage before? Here’s how I do it for braising:

1. Remove the outer few layers of the cabbage.

2. Chop the thick end off.

3. Cut into quarters. If the core is really dense, slice out a bit of it and discard. (I didn’t have to for this cabbage)

4. Roughly slice.

Bacon and Apple Braised Cabbage
A trusted recipe for making cabbage actually taste delicious!
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Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
45 min
Total Time
50 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
45 min
Total Time
50 min
  1. 1 large head of cabbage, roughly sliced
  2. 2 apples, sliced thin
  3. 2 onions, sliced thin
  4. ½ lb pastured bacon, diced
  5. ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  6. sea salt
  7. black pepper (optional)
  1. In a large pot, braiser or sautee pan (make sure it has a lid), cook the bacon pieces over medium heat, until crispy. Approximately 10 minutes.
  2. Remove the bacon pieces and set aside. If there is an excessive amount of rendered grease, pour of some to use another time.
  3. Reduce heat to medium low, add onions to remaining bacon grease and sauté for 5 minutes.
  4. Layer apples over the onions and immediately top with the sliced cabbage.
  5. Add in apple cider vinegar, and about 10 grinds of sea salt.
  6. Cover and cook for 45 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so. (if you find it's starting to burn, reduce temperature to low)
  7. Season with additional sea salt and pepper (to taste), top with crispy bacon bits and serve!
  1. You can absolutely make this without the bacon (but why would you?) For a bacon-free/vegetarian option use your favourite cooking fat such as avocado oil, olive oil or butter.
  2. Feel free to sub in apple cider (the juice or the alcoholic beverage) in lieu of ACV if you want! I'm sure beer would work well too if you tolerate it.
  3. You can use red or green cabbage. I just think red is prettier!
Amanda Naturally http://www.amandanaturally.com/

Bacon, Guac & Tomato Bites (and why you don’t need to be afraid of bacon!)

Bacon, Guac & Tomato Bites | AmandaNaturally.comIn honour of the ridiculous report released by the WHO earlier this week (saying that bacon and red meat are akin to cigarettes regarding cancer risk), I’ve decided to share a go-to appetizer in my house – Bacon, Guac & Tomato Bites! This doesn’t even really require a recipe per se, it’s more basic directions for the world’s best appetizer!

But briefly, before I jump into the awesomeness that are my BGT Bites, I just want to post a few links to solid articles (and my favourite quotes from each) to put you at ease for eating both red meat and bacon:

World Health Organization, Meat & Cancer – Zoe Harcombe

“…the baseline for the processed meat eaters showed that they were far less active, had a higher BMI, were THREE TIMES more likely to smoke and almost TWICE as likely to have diabetes. This makes processed meat a MARKER of an unhealthy person, not a MAKER of an unhealthy person.”  (bold emphasis is mine)

The Link Between Meat & Cancer – Dr. Sarah Ballantyne

“Where heme becomes a problem is in your gut: the cells lining your digestive tract metabolize it into cytotoxic compounds (meaning toxic to living cells), which can then damage your colonic mucosa, cause cell proliferation, and increase fecal water toxicity—all of which raise cancer risk….Here’s where vegetables come to the rescue! Chlorophyll, the pigment in plants that makes them green, has a molecular structure that’s very similar to heme. As a result, chlorophyll can block the metabolism of heme in your intestinal tract and prevent those toxic metabolites from forming. Instead of turning into harmful byproducts, heme ends up metabolized into inert compounds that are no longer toxic or damaging to your colon.” (bold emphasis is mine)

Bacon Causes Cancer? Sort of. Not Really. Ish. – Sarah, Zhang at Wired

“…smoking increases your relative risk of lung cancer by 2,500 percent; eating two slices of bacon a day increases your relative risk for colorectal cancer by 18 percent. Given the frequency of colorectal cancer, that means your risk of getting colorectal cancer over your life goes from about 5 percent to 6 percent…” (bold emphasis is mine)

“[The list of carcinogenic compounds] includes processed meat, and also asbestos. Also alcohol (boo!) and sunlight (yup!).”

“Risk assessment involves looking at different scenarios, finding out real-world exposure levels, and weighing possible benefits. (Useful drugs like Tamoxifen—used to treat breast cancer—are also carcinogens, for example.)”

The moral of the story is: The medical literature simply does not support these recommendations. I am confident in my understanding of the medical literature, to continue to recommend the consumption of a moderate amount of meat (ideally grass-fed, pasture-raised whenever possible) along side as many vegetables as possible.

Now that that’s out of the way….BACON!

Bacon, Guac & Tomato Bites (a.k.a. BGT Bites)


1 lb pastured bacon (or organic thick cut)

1-2 cups guacamole (see recipe)

1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes


  1. Preheat oven to 400F. 
  2. Slice each piece of bacon into 4 equal pieces. If the slice of bacon is particularly short, only cut into 3 pieces. They lose quite a bit of their size once cooked, so don’t cut too small!
  3. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until very crisp.
    1. Option 1: lay flat on parchment paper lined baking sheet
    2. Option 2: line baking sheet with tin foil, place baking rack on top, lay bacon on rack. This allows you to save the rendered back grease for later use (hello bacon-fried eggs and bacon-mayo!)
  4. Meanwhile, make a batch of guacamole. If you’re out of time, or there aren’t any ripe avocados, Wholly Guacamole is fairly clean. As is the one found at Costco.
  5. Slice the grape/cherry tomatoes into discs – approximately 3-4 slices per tomato.
  6. Remove bacon and let cool.
    1. NOTE: If you are assembling this appetizer elsewhere, store the 3 ingredients in separate containers. You can transport the guac in the ziploc bag (see below), just make sure to squish it all into one corner and get rid of every last bit of air to prevent it from browning! Keep the bacon and tomatoes in separate containers to prevent the bacon from getting soggy. A piece of paper towel in with the bacon can also help this.
  7. Assemble BGT Bites – line a serving tray with bacon pieces. Spoon the guac into the corner of a ziploc bag. Cut off the corner and use like a pastry bag – squeezing a dollop of guac onto each piece of bacon. Top with a tomato slice!

Bacon, Guac & Tomato Bites | AmandaNaturally.com

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