Organ meats. Have you tried them? Maybe just reading the title makes you squirm. Does anybody eat organ meats anymore? Who would like that?! Yuck! Those were some of my first expressions when I first began learning why organ meats are so incredibly beneficial to the diet. Growing up, my grandma used to always share stories of how her favorite dishes to cook for her and my grandpa were liver, tongue, and other various organs of an animal. My younger sister and I would squirm and stick out our tongues with how gross that sounded, but little did we know just how nutritious grandma’s meals were! To this day, my grandma still loves to “snack” on chicken livers, and gets excited about organ meat stew. However, you hear people eating organ meats less and less. What was once considered a traditional sacred food is now hardly spoken of. Well, my goal today is to turn that boat back around and get you excited about why organ meats are such a necessary component to your diet, and specifically the impact and benefit they have on mental health.
In ancient traditional wisdom and cultures around the world, organ meats were revered as “sacred foods.” The dictionary defines “sacred” as “reverently dedicated to some purpose.” For many indigenous tribes that lived off their native land and foods, organ meats were prized, and young women, especially expecting mothers, as well as babies and growing children, were instructed to eat them in abundance. When Dr. Weston A. Price traveled throughout the world and studied these different tribes and their sacred foods, he discovered that these foods were extremely high in vital minerals. These included iron, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, and iodine, all of which are essential to the development and growth of a baby in the womb. Dr. Price also found organ meats to be high in what he termed “fat-soluble activators.” Not much was known about this or what it was back in the early 1900s, but today scientists are discovering these “fat soluble activators” were really the animal forms of vitamins A, D3, and K2. (1) (2)
Let’s look at two of the most nutrient dense superfoods and how they can specifically benefit mental health. First is one of the most well-known and powerful superfoods – liver! Liver is an organ found in the abdominal cavity of both humans and many animals, specifically all vertebrates. People all over the world have prized and revered liver as a superfood aiding in fertility, high energy levels, and mental health. This is because liver is extremely high in B vitamins, iron, and vitamin A. (3)
For more general information on liver and ideas on how to incorporate it into your regular diet, check out the Q&A post Kayla did a while back on liver!
Heart, on the other hand, is a muscle, and shares many similarities with steak, roasts, and ground beef. However, it is far less expensive, and much richer in the vital minerals and fat-soluble vitamins than its more expensive counterparts. Heart is considered the number one food source of copper, and is also abundant in CoQ10, vitamin A, and B vitamins. (4) (5)
So how does this all tie in to mental health? Well, it turns out that just some basic nutrient deficiencies can actually be the cause of many different mental health symptoms. For example, vitamin A helps us cope with stress, and produces those “feel-good chemicals” – endorphins, oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine. Vitamin B12 deficiency is closely tied with psychiatric symptoms such as depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), dementia, and irrational anger. Along with low levels of vitamin B12, Folate (B9) deficiency can lead to schizophrenia. However, did you know, high levels of vitamin C have been successfully used to treat symptoms of schizophrenia, OCD, depression, and anxiety disorders? (6)
Prescription drugs taken for mental illness by about 21% or one in every six Americans, represents a business that brings in over seventy billion dollars annually for the pharmaceutical industry. And yet some of these very drugs have side effects more severe than the symptoms they are trying to treat. Not to mention, these drugs can also cause birth defects and pass into breast milk, and yet they are still often prescribed for pregnant and nursing mothers.(7) (8) (9)
Increasing nutrient intake through eating and/or supplementing with organ meats can be a wonderful way to aid and treat a wide variety of mental health issues, without all the scary and harmful side effects. Perhaps the idea of eating liver, heart, or other organ meats is just not your thing. I will confess; it is still not mine either (though I do force myself to do it sometimes!). So, in order to make sure I am still getting these sacred foods in my diet regularly, I also supplement with Radiant Life’s Desiccated Heart and Liver. Just supplementing with 6 capsules a day of desiccated liver provides the equivalent of about one ounce of liver. Now that is food for thought!