Should You Add Liver To The Paleo, Keto or Carnivore Diet?

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Hand with raw beef liver.  should you add it to your diet?

For those of us on the Paleo, Keto, or Carnivore Diet we like to live life optimally and most of us are by including nutritiously abundant food into our programs.

So what about liver? It’s hands down the most nutrient-dense product on the market. In this post, I intend to provide some history, some data, some myths, and some ways in which to eat it so that you can make the decision on your own if you want to include into your diet.

And as an added bonus I’ll have a couple of paragraphs on why vegetarians and vegans are missing out by not eating liver and the potential detriments they are causing to their health. These are some great points that can be used as more reasons on why their dietary practice is inferior and consequential.

Scroll to the bottom of the page for the Liver Comparison Chart.

The Ultimate Superfood: Liver

Pound for pound liver is considered the most nutrient-dense food on the planet as it is packed with essential vitamins, tons of minerals, and a good amount of protein.

For those of us that have already forgotten what they learned in biology class here are the basic functions of the liver in a nutshell…the liver is an organ responsible for filtering the blood by removing toxins from digested foods. It also stores glucose, iron and other essential vitamins and minerals. (1)

Let’s dig into what the liver is packing in terms of nutritional profile. If you were to analyze cooked beef liver this is what you will find:

Freshly Cut Liver ready to Cook
Fresh grass fed liver ready to cook.

The Major Vitamins in a 100 gram portion

  • Vitamin B-12. Approximately 3,460% of the recommended daily allowance. B-12 is crucial in the formation of blood cells and helps with the DNA. Not to mention B-12 plays an important part in brain function. It’s good for energy and strengthens your blood. (2)
  • Vitamin A. You are looking at approximately 860-1000% of the recommended daily allowance. Vitamin A essential for healthy organ functions, immune system, and most knowingly vision health. Vitamin A from liver is massively bioavailable. There was a myth going around for a while stating that vitamin A can become toxic and harmful but it was from a study that used high amounts of “synthetic” vitamin A. (3)
  • B-2 aka Riboflavin. You’d get approximately 210-260% of the daily recommended daily allowance. B-2 helps convert your food into energy as well as cellular development. (4)
  • B-9 aka Folate. Approximately 65% of the daily recommended allowance. B-9 is a major player in the formation of DNA and the growth of cells. (5)
  • Vitamin K-2. This essential vitamin can only be found in meat and is abundant in liver. It helps transfer calcium to your teeth and bones. (6)
What minerals and vitamins do you get from liver?

The Major Minerals in a 100 gram portion

  • Iron. You’d get about 74% of the RDA for men and 32% for women. Iron is crucial for red blood cell function and production. If you lack iron chances are you will get anemia and neurological development will become impaired.  Iron from liver is great due to its bioavailability and superior than that going from veggies. (7)
  • Zinc. With this serving, you get about 45% of the RDA. Zinc plays many critical roles like wound healing and the region of hormones and blood coagulation. Some studies have shown that zinc may help prevent macular degeneration and neurological disorders like ADHD. (8)
  • Copper. In 100 grams of liver you get well over the RDA. You’re looking at 14,042 micrograms. Copper has many roles including the synthesis of red blood cells and collagen. It also helps out with the immune and nervous system. (9)
  • Phosphorus. A 100-gram serving provides about 48% of the RDA. Phosphorus is critical in the regulation of magnesium, vitamin D, and zinc. It aids in the broth of teeth and bones plus the production of DNA and RNA. (10)
  • Selenium. You will get approximately 57% of the RDA. Selenium helps protect DNA like an antioxidant plus it helps out with the immune system and the function of the thyroid. (11)

Choline

In a 100 gram portion of beef liver you would essentially get an adequate amount of choline. Choline itself is very important for brain development and liver function. It is very similar to B vitamins as it helps with metabolism and to synthesize cell membranes. (12)

When looking at your own liver, choline is used to help create cholesterol which in turn helps build hormones like testosterone.

…but what it’s also known for is delaying fatigue in bodybuilding and athletic performance.

Muscles From Eating a Healthy Diet and Liver

Protein

As we all know protein is vital for life. It’s required to build cells, repair cells, and also convert food into energy. 25% of beef liver is all protein but it’s the good high-quality kind of protein that has all the essential amino acids, unlike plant-based proteins.

Remember the importance of amino acids?

They are the building blocks that make up protein and with liver protein you get the full package.

Protein helps build muscle and also prevent muscle loss which is specifically important for those that are trying to lose weight.

In a 100 gram portion of liver you will find 26 grams of protein!

CoEnzyme Q10

CoEnzyme Q10 is just like an antioxidant and vitamin and plays a critical role in the transportation of energy throughout the body. It’s also been hypothesized that it may prevent the mutations of cancer cells. (13)

One of the more interesting things I’ve heard is that it can help with receding gum lines as some vegans out there with poor teeth/gum health that switch to meat and implanted some liver in the diet started to see gum regeneration.

In a 3 ounce serving of beef liver you will find 39-50 mgs.

Some researchers suggest 30-60 milligrams per day.

A vegetarian diet doesn't provide all the amino acids and vitamins.

Some Thoughts For Those Lacking Liver in Their Diet (Vegans-Vegetarians)

The next few paragraphs are going to be somewhat pointed to vegetarians, vegans and those that practice the Standard American Diet, (SAD).

A lot of this info I learned from the book, “Vegetarianism Explained” by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride.

Basically, liver is a superfood and you probably can’t find a supplement or concentration of other products that can compete with the nutritional and bioavailability of liver. Eating liver regularly may provide more benefits than a massive supplement intake, by the way, you will save a ton of money!

In fact, this is what Dr. Paul Saladino believes to be the optimal way to eat a carnivore diet, otherwise known as nose-to-tail. He explains the benefits of organ meat, like liver, in his book, “The Carnivore Code”

Let’s dissect the notion coming from the predominantly plant-based diet practitioners that you can get all of your nutrition from plants, which as it turns out appears to be a falsehood.

A plant based diet comes up short with many deficiencies. Included but not limited to the following:

B-12

Guess what comes only from animal products?

B-12!

That’s right you will not be able to get B-12 from plants which sucks for the plant eaters as B-12 is one of the most essential substances our bodies need to function properly. The brain, immune system, nervous system and other organs in your body absolutely need B-12 to function properly.

Without B-12 you set yourself up to developing pernicious anemia. (14)

What about B-12 supplements? Yep you can take those but it’s not going to do much good because you will most likely not be able to process it correctly as your body needs protein and plant-based protein most likely won’t do the trick. You need protein from animals that comes with all the essential amino acids at least that’s what most carnivore diet doctors and practioners say.

What about gut flora? It produces B-12. Yes but that’s usually from someone with healthy gut flora, to begin with. Most plant-based eaters do not have healthy gut flora.

The Answer for Proper B-12?

Liver is one answer. Liver provides hefty amounts of fat-soluble vitamins and the rest of the essential nutrients and amino acids that are necessary for the body to digest and use the B-12 effectively.

Vitamin A

Growing up I always remembered that vitamin A was good for your eyes but as you can see here, no pun intended, it has many other critical uses.

Our brains, immune system, and all the cells of the body use vitamin A for their structure and proper function. Through meat, we get Retinol A, the source in which our bodies can use.

Wonder what doesn’t contain functional vitamin A Retinol? Plants!

Plants contain carotenoids, which in a proper healthy body, can be broken down and converted into functional A Retinol but when you have a toxin infested and nutrient-deficient body the conversion of A Retinol is compromised and the carotenoids are rendered useless.

When you see plant-eaters eating large amounts of carrots, sweet potatoes or whatever plants are high in carotenoids they are potentially fooling themselves and also giving their bodies a vitamin A deficiency

Vitamin K2

You can find vitamin K1 in plant sources but K2 is only found mostly in animal products and is abundant in liver. The only other non-animal product that offers K2 is “Natto”, a type of fermented soy.

Why you should have K2? It’s essential for transporting calcium to bones in teeth. Without it, you have poor bones and teeth but the calcium has to go someplace and it usually stays in soft tissue and artery walls helping develop osteoporosis. Oh yeah without it, it adds calcium to your pineal gland in the brain. (15)

The Answer for Vitamin A Defficiency?

You guessed it. Liver.

Dr. Paul Saldino talks about including organ meats like liver into a nose-to-tail diet. You can pick up his book, “The Carnivore Code” here.

“The Anti-Fatigue Factor” a BS Myth from a 1950 Study?

If you search for info about liver and liver supplements and all of the benefits you just may run across the “anti-fatigue factor” which provided people with the idea that liver prolongs energy based on a study done with rats in the early 1950s.

Here’s the study in a nutshell. Dr. Benjamin Ershoff took 3 groups of rats and gave each group their own unique diet. Group one ate a basic diet with an additional 11 vitamin supplements. Group two ate the same diet but with an addition of vitamin B complex. The third group ate the same original diet but added a 10% increase of rationed powered liver.

As described by an article published in 1975 by Prevention magazine, “after several weeks, the animals were placed one by one into a drum of cold water from which they could not climb out. They literally were forced to sink or swim. Rats in the first group swam for an average 13.3 minutes before giving up. The second group …swam for an average of 13.4 minutes. Of the last group of rats, the ones receiving liver, three swam for 63, 83 and 87 minutes. The other nine rats in this group were still swimming vigorously at the end of two hours when the test was terminated.” (16)

Holy crap the liver gave them super energy!

This study which a million people in the health and wellness world have used to sell liver powders and supplements didn’t really dig into the specifics of why this isn’t the case.

James Heathers does a great job of debunking this study with his write up on Medium which you can check out here.

What set off the “this is fishy” alarm for James was the fact that rats are great swimmers and when healthy they can swim long distances.

James basically did his own investigation and found that this is not the case but rather the reason the rats in group three were able to swim so long was most likely not due to the liver but due to their lack of iron in their diets.

The lack of iron most likely made the rats anemic thus sucking the energy right out of them plus the water they were tested in was cold and these iron-deficient rats were unable to regulate their body temperatures as one of the symptoms of anemia is impaired thermoregulation — the loss of the ability to successfully regulate body temperature.

The cost of beef liver is cheap.
This Beef Liver was purchased at my local butcher. It is grass fed and only costs $4.99 per pound. I’m sure you can find it even cheaper.

Financial Benefits of Liver

Back in the day liver was a lot more revered and actually a must-have for most households and restaurants. In fact, when speaking to older folks a lot will mention liver was a normal part of their diet. Nowadays most of the younger kids have never even knowingly tried liver and/or assume it’s not that good for you.

I can hypothesize that the downfall of liver had something to do with the fear-mongering of media and the agenda of those who make a profit off of sick humans.

But with a negative comes a positive. Liver being the most nutritious of the meats, along with other organ meat, is extremely affordable!

You can pick up grass-fed liver on the cheap, ranging from $2-5 per pound. In fact, I get mine from a very reputable source here in Los Angeles at Belcampos, a local restaurant and butcher. They charge me $5 per pound but it’s high quality and comes from their own sustainable farm.

I’m sure when liver was more popular it was more expensive. So while liver is no longer mainstream take advantage and get some while you can. I believe eventually it will have its comeback.

Grass fed cows near the ocean.

Recommendations On What Liver To Buy

Go grass fed all the way on this one and make sure the liver is not older than 18 months. Liver from beef that is older than 18 months can be more prone to toxins, even though liver itself doesn’t store toxins but rather neutralizes them, and or other health related problems associated with age. Also with age the cows liver can develop scar tissue due to a grain diet plus those grains tend to have pesticides within in them.

How Much Do They Say To Eat?

Some of the online doctors and health freaks say to eat liver 1-3 times per week totaling 4-6 ounces. Here is a list of suggestions of how and what to do with your beef liver.

  • Cook it yourself, there are plenty of recipes online. I get my recipes from “The Carnivore Cookbook” by Jessica Haggard. (For a limited time use ANDY5 at checkout for $5.00 off)
  • Get some Liverwurst or Braunschweiger. These are mixtures of organ meat and fat. Liverwurst has about 25% liver and Braunschweiger has about 35% liver. You can order grass-fed from US Wellness Meats!
  • Liver bites by Epic. These are little dried-out chunks of meat with added liver. It’s not much but when in a crunch it might help.
  • Make some Liver Mousse and/or Pate. This is blended up liver mixed with fat.
  • Liver Supplements. Exactly as it sounds but these can be pricey after a while. However, if money is not an issue then I recommend Ancestral Supplements Liver Capsules. These are the ones I use and also did a YouTube review on them.
Emily Seeboo and I making Beef and Chicken Liver Pate

Eat Liver Raw?

Naturally whenever you cook food it depletes the vitamin and mineral content so it’s assumed when you eat liver raw you are getting a maximum amount of available nutrients.

Obviously this comes with its own set of risks like bacterial and parasite infections. So do your research if you feel like it could be a benefit to you. If you try this be sure to make sure it’s fresh, grass-fed, a young liver, and from a reputable source.

I’ve had raw liver and done the whole frozen liver pellet routine. I personally dislike the taste and prefer to cook my liver in large amounts of butter with onions, bacon and fats.

Should You Eat Liver Raw?

Some Liver Could Kill You!

Yeah I heard Sea Lion and Polar Bears have poisonous livers if eaten due to a lethal concentration of Vitamin A. I’m sure there are a few other animals so maybe stick to the usual suspects of beef and lamb.

Liver Comparison Chart

From: Nutrition Almanac, by John D. Kirschman

BeefLambVealChicken
Amount1 Pound1 Pound1 Pound1 Pound
Vitamin A199,130229,070102,0606,576
Vitamin B11.161.81.9.044
Vitamin B214.7914.912.3.628
Vitamin B6141.363.04.24
Vitamin B123634722727.35
Biotin454454
Niacin61.676.551.82.96
Pantothen Acid3532.736.31.98
Folic Acid.99.99236
Vitamin C14015216110.8
Vitamin E6.36
Calcium3645363
Copper12.72536.126
Iron29.549.439.92.74
Magnesium5964736
Manganese1.231.04.083
Phosphorus15971583151087
Potassium1275916127573
Selenium206
Sodium61723633125
Zinc1717.98
Total Fat17.519.621.31.23
Saturated Fat6.86.942
Unsaturated Fat56.63.5
Cholesterol136013611361140

My Liver Conclusion

The main question was if you should include liver with your paleo, keto or carnivore diet? And while it’s debatable I personally don’t see why you wouldn’t.

It doesn’t taste that great on its own but if cooked with bacon or prepared in other ways it’s really not that bad. So the answer is no, you don’t have to eat liver (assuming you have an abundance of healthy fats and meat in your diet), but with all the evidence and benefits of liver, I’m keeping it my diet.

Plus it’s a lot cheaper than supplements which may not even work that well.

If you are looking for a carnivore diet coach you can book me at MeatRX.

Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor. Consult with and ask your doctor about any diet or medical-related questions. No information on this site should be used to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure any disease or condition.

Do your own research and see what you come up with. Other than that hope you enjoyed this article.

Andy Storey

Artist, Designer, Sportsman, Athlete and Carnivore Diet Coach at MeatRX. Sharing my adventures in life, health, and wellness one post at a time.

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