The Surprising Benefits of Brains, Kidneys and More
Although eating brains might sound like something from a horror movie, eating organs is not only commonplace in many cultures, it also offers a variety of health benefits.
Dense in nutrients, liver is rich in vitamin B12 and B2, vitamin A and iron. Most commonly pan-fried with onions, you can give this recipe a makeover by incorporating it into your spaghetti Bolognese or adding minced liver to your burger patties.
Particularly common in Irish and English cuisine, lamb kidneys are used in stews, devilled kidneys, and steak and kidney pie. If savory dishes are not your cup of tea, a curried version using goat or lamb kidneys is popular in certain African and Asian countries. This cut of meat is especially rich in iron, which is an essential component of the substance (hemoglobin) that carries oxygen through your body.
Calf brains are used in French, Italian, Spanish and Mexican cuisine. Bethany Doerfler, a registered dietitian at the Northwestern Medicine Digestive Health Center, says eating brains is especially beneficial for children because the organ contains omega-3 fatty acids, a helpful fat for brain cells. It’s high in protein, fats and B vitamins ― nutrients that help developing brains. Calf brain tastes like pork, so try incorporating this meat into child-friendly dishes like ravioli or another popular choice — brain sandwiches.
Tripe, or the edible lining of a cow’s stomach, can be found in dishes all over the world, particularly soup. It’s one of the main components in the traditional Mexican soup dish menudo. You can also try an Italian version, served with fresh bread for dipping. If you can stomach the chewy texture, you’ll find it’s packed with minerals and vitamin B-12.
Shake up your taco Tuesday with tacos de lengua, a popular dish made with beef tongue. In European countries such as Belgium and France, tongue is braised and accompanied by mushrooms and Madeira sauce (a classic French brown sauce).
Served all over the world, pigs’ feet (also known as pig trotters) are particularly popular in China and Japan. Considered a “beauty food,” tonsoku (the Japanese name) are a great source of protein, especially collagen, which benefits your joints and skin. For an Asian-inspired version, try pork soup dumplings. You can also try it in stews, like these Philippine or Mexican versions.
Like any cut of meat, organs should be eaten in moderation. Doerfler suggests limiting organ meats to several times a month at maximum, since all of these organs are particularly high in cholesterol and saturated fat. Tongue, for example, also has 19 grams of fat for each 3-ounce serving. Additionally, these cuts could have environmental contaminants. “It’s important to get organ meats from organic and sustainably farmed animals to reduce those risks,” she says.