|MadSci Network: Anatomy|
Aloha, Lynn, The question you ask is a fairly common one, but a very important one, too. It shows that you are questionning what you hear...and that is the mark of a critical thinker. You are correct in your statement about the liver being a filter to take away impurities (not all of them, though) from our bodies. But, the liver does a lot more: it manufactures some compounds (such as bile); it modifies some nutrients (fats, proteins, carbohydrates); and it stores some nutrients (iron, protein, carbohydrate). It is one of the most important organs in our body. That is why when a person's liver begins to fail, eventually a transplant is the only thing that will work, towards the end. Now, to your question. Actually, the answer is part of a lecture that I give to my introductory nutrition classes every semester, here at the University of Hawai`i/Manoa. Liver (beef, pig, etc.), as food, can be a good source of iron, but there are also other good sources of iron in our food supply...meat or animal flesh, of most kinds; fortified grain products (breads, cereals, pasta, etc.); some green vegetables; dried beans/peas (like kidney beans). Also, getting iron from a multiple vitamin/mineral table may be an appropriate way to get iron for some people (for example, pregnant women, vegetarians, a person who has been diagnosed as anemic). Some people really do not like the taste and/or texture of liver. Personally, I enjoy eating liver once in a while, but my husband and children (when they were at home) hate it. So, we didn't eat a lot. I share your concerns about the liver (in cattle or pigs) being an organ that helps detoxify compounds. BUT, the emphasis is on the term 'detoxify.' If the animals liver is functioning properly and the animal hasn't been exposed to toxic substances during the time before slaughter, there shouldn't be much risk of there being much residue left in the liver. Thus, that knowledge makes me feel a whole lot better about eating liver sausage, occasionally...which I really do enjoy, especially now that I can find lower fat versions. Thus, it is really your choice. If you like the taste of liver, I'd say eat it occasionally; if you don't like the taste, you can always get adequate iron from other foods. You can also increase your body's ability to absorb iron from the food you eat by making sure you have adequate vitamin C in your diet (for example, orange juice, citrus fruits, strawberries, dark green leafy vegetables, broccoli). If you feel you aren't getting enough iron in your diet, then multi V/M supplements, where the level of iron is somewhere around 100% of the USRDA, are a second step. However, too much iron can be just as dangerous as too little, so I'd suggest that you get the advice of a medical doctor and/or dietitian before you add that.
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