Although I grew up in a very ‘meat and potatoes’ household, I was never a big meat eater. It’s not that I despised it, but it was one of those things I could easily skip over. I didn’t feel compelled to eat meat and would be more than happy with a big plate of veggies or other sides.
Sunday night dinner at our house was always roast beef and the remaining nights we typically rotated amongst chicken, pork chops, ground beef or steak . It would have never occurred to me to eat wild game or less ‘mainstream’ meats. Elk or lamb? Eww, no way. I had major texture issues and as a result, it took quite awhile to even work myself up to fish. If someone would have suggested I try liver, heart or tongue, my gag reflex would immediately kick in. Yuck. No way. Not happening.
It’s amazing how much power the mind has once you’ve decided on something. To me it wasn’t ‘normal’ to eat those things. Don’t ask why I decided a cow was fine to consume but a lamb wasn’t, but once you have identified something as off-limits and spent your life avoiding it, it’s hard to wrap your head around suddenly consuming it.
After my diagnosis with MS in 2009, my relationship with food changed drastically. Aside from cutting out all processed junk foods, I started to include way more plant-based foods into my diet and went completely vegetarian. This had me feeling fantastic for quite awhile.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned about diet and lifestyle though, it’s that there is no one set diet that works for everyone. Each of us has nutritional needs that vary at different points in life. My diet today may not be what’s best for me five years from now. Our age, activity level, environment and state of our overall well-being all plays a role in determining what we need at any given time. It’s important to be able to listen to our bodies and adapt based on these ever changing circumstances.
I learned this to be true after the birth of my daughter. Like many women, I found that pregnancy and child birth changed my body. After she was born, I developed all sorts of food sensitivities to things that had never seemed to bother me before. While gluten and dairy had always aggravated my symptoms, I began to experience problems when ingesting almost any grain, bean or legume. Chickpeas, kidney beans, black beans and even many of the nuts and seeds that had previously been staples in my diet no longer seemed to be tolerated (whether they were soaked and sprouted or not.) Joint pain and an increase in my MS symptoms would always ensue after eating many of the foods I had previously loved.
While I fully embraced more veggies, healthy fats, anti-inflammatory spices and fermented foods over the years, organ meats had always remained off limits to me. I’ve been a long-time follower of Dr. Terry Wahls and after listening to her repeatedly speak about how organ meats helped her to restore her health though, I decided I could no longer ignore the potential benefits of incorporating these nutrient-dense foods into my diet.
Traditional cultures were known to have strong preferences for organ meats, given they can offer proper amino acid balance and high levels of vitamins and micronutrients. Organ meats are also a rich source of B vitamins, selenium, vitamins A and D, heme iron (the most bioavailable form of iron), CoQ10 and other mitochondrial nutrients that are beneficial for the brain, heart and more.
North America’s obsession with muscle meats has led to increased factory farming and excessive waste. Factory farmed animals are also now bred to have larger muscle meats to the detriment of the animal. An example of this is chickens suffering from broken legs, simply because they are bred to develop larger breast muscles which their small legs and frames cannot support.
Consuming all parts of an animal may not only help to address nutrient deficiencies, but aid in eliminating waste. Given muscle meats are what consumers most commonly demand, the rest of the animal is often discarded. As a result, many butchers will give these parts away for free or at discounted prices, making it an economical way to consume a more Paleo-style diet.
Whether purchasing muscle or organ meats, always source pasture-raised/grass-fed animals from local, ethical farms and use as much of the animal as possible. While I still have a long way to go when it comes to organ meats, I am trying harder to eat what I can. We compost what is inedible, make bone broth and render fats for cooking whenever possible. Here are six tricks that have helped me to more easily incorporate organ meats into my diet:
Start Basic – don’t start off by serving up a big portion of brain or head cheese right away. Beef heart was a great starting place for me, as the taste is very similar to beef with a bit of a tougher texture.
Hide It – stew, chilli and soups are some of my favourite go-to dishes when consuming organ meats given they can mask what it is you’re eating and prevent you from thinking about it too much.
Cut it Up – when first trying heart, I cut it into teeny tiny pieces which made it impossible to even identify when combined with other ingredients.
Mix It – one of my favourite ways to consume liver is to blend it up and combine it with grass-fed ground beef in order to make burgers.
Go Bold – use organ meats in curry and other dishes that have bold flavours and are appealing to your palette.
Learn to Prepare – Krishn and I found a local organ meat workshop that helped give us confidence and equipped us with recipe ideas for preparing organ meats.