I’m just gonna say the word and get it out there. LIVER. Now before you have flashbacks of your grandmother cooking liver and onions on the stovetop and being totally grossed out (did any else’s grandmother do this?!), just hear me out. It’s PHENOMENAL for fertility, and that’s why it’s part of my Superfoods for Fertility Blog Series :).
Before diving deep into the world of liver, you can catch up on the series below:
Superfoods for Fertility Blog Series : Chia Seeds
Superfoods for Fertility Blog Series : Maca Root
Superfoods for Fertility Blog Series : Egg Yolks
Superfoods for Fertility Blog Series : Wild Caught Fish Seafood
Superfoods for Fertility Blog Series : Bone Broth
The nutritional wisdom of our ancestors has been lost in our modern day society. Traditionally, every native culture had sacred foods that were fed to newly married couples, pregnant women and children. These foods contained a powerhouse of vitamins and minerals that nourish growing babies and children. One of these sacred foods is liver!
Liver, that much loathed food, is perhaps one of the most nutrient-dense, and valuable additions for couples who are planning to conceive and who wish to optimize their children’s nutrition in the womb. Liver is a rich source of folate, pantothenic acid, riboflavin, niacin and vitamin A. All of which are necessary for healthy fertility. It also packs a punch of Vitamin B12, which is required for proper formation of red blood cells and DNA.
Besides being the ultimate source of true vitamin A and folate, liver is also a rich source of essential saturated fat, cholesterol, omega-3 fatty acids, and B vitamins – all crucial players for fertility, pregnancy, and fetal development.
Women suffering from polycystic ovarian syndrome, the most common cause of infertility, tend to suffer from particularly low levels of folate and B vitamins. So eating liver is a must if you’re suffering from PCOS!
Liver is loaded with a nutrient called choline. Choline is an essential water-soluble nutrient that is usually grouped in as part of the B-Vitamin complex. It is particularly important for women who are pregnant and breastfeeding to eat choline-rich foods, as this nutrient plays an important role in the fetal development of the brain and nervous system. Deficiency in pregnancy has been linked to long-term learning disability and memory problems in offspring. Choline also naturally occurs in breast milk, as young children require a substantial amount to support the formation of the nervous system, which continues at a high rate into the fourth year of life.
The current daily dietary recommendation for choline is 425 mg daily for women and 550 mg daily for men- standards that put nearly all Americans in the deficient range. Consuming 5 oz of raw liver contains 423 mg of choline! These modest dietary recommendations are just based on the minimum needed to prevent liver disease, and recent studies suggest that much higher intakes of choline have exceptional health benefits. One more reason to eat your liver ;).
It’s also a great source of highly absorbable iron, which helps prevent miscarriage and maternal anemia.
Liver is also a good source of bioavailable protein, zinc, and folate. A single 100-gram portion of pan-fried chicken livers contains three times as much folate as an equivalent serving of raw spinach – a food known for its folate content!
Ok, I completely understand your hesitance when it comes to eating liver. First things first – liver should always be grass-fed, organic and come from reliable sources. In regards to preparation – you have options! You can freeze chicken livers (a milder flavor than beef) and then grate them into meat sauces – the flavor will be masked, but the finished product will be deliciously rich. Or, you can skip freezing the livers, and throw them directly into chili, meatloaf, and hamburgers – again, the distinct flavor won’t be noticeable, but the overall dish will have enhanced flavors. And, if all else fails, you can always make one of my absolutely favorite liver dishes – Beef Liver with Fig, Bacon and Caramelized Onion Compote. Serve it over gluten-free crackers, and your tastebuds will be in love! And, if you don’t tell anyone, they’ll never know that it’s chockablock full of nutrient dense liver ;).
375g organic beef liver, sliced
the juice of 1 lemon
2 tsp arrowroot flour
½ tsp Himalayan or unrefined sea salt
½ tsp freshly cracked black pepper
4 slices organic, pastured bacon, cut crosswise into ½” pieces
2 large onions, sliced
200g mushrooms, sliced
4 dried figs, chopped
¼ tsp Himalayan Salt
½ tsp freshly cracked black pepper
2 sprigs fresh sage, chopped
2 tbsp white balsamic vinegar
¼ cup water
In a non-reactive sealable container, marinate the beef liver in lemon juice for at least 8 hours (or up to 24 hours) in the refrigerator. In a cold, large heavy skillet (cast iron preferred) set over medium heat, cook the bacon until nice and crispy.
While the bacon is cooking, rinse the beef liver slices under running water and pat them dry. In a shallow bowl or plate, combine the arrowroot flour, salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly with a whisk until very well combined. Dredge the liver slices in the arrowroot mixture and shake well to remove any excess. Set aside in a plate until bacon is done cooking. When bacon is nice and crispy, remove it to a plate with a slotted spoon, and set aside.
Pour the bacon fat into a small bowl but leave about 2 tablespoons in the pan. Put the skillet back over high heat. When the pan is really nice and hot, add the liver slices and sear for about 45 seconds to one minute per side, just long enough for them to get a beautiful dark brown and crispy exterior. You might have to work in batches, depending on the size of your skillet.
Remove the liver to a plate, cover loosely to keep it warm while you work on the onion compote. Put your pan back over the heat source and lower heat to medium-high; add about half the remaining bacon fat and throw the sliced onions in. Let the onions caramelize for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. When the onions have become a nice golden color, add the remaining bacon fat and the sliced mushrooms. Continue cooking for 2-3 minutes, until the mushrooms become soft and slightly golden.
Add figs, vinegar and water and cook for another minute or so, until liquid is completely evaporated. Stir in fresh sage, kill the heat and place liver slices on top of the onion compote. Cover loosely and let sit for about 5 minutes just to warm up the liver and allow all the flavors to mingle happily.
Sprinkle with crispy bacon, and serve immediately.
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Sarah Jane Sandy is a certified nutrition therapist, and a fertility and women’s health expert. She has helped hundreds of women increase their fertility naturally and go on to have healthy full-term pregnancies. She has been working with women and couples trying to get pregnant for over 15 years and over 90% of the women who work with her get pregnant and have healthy babies. Learn more about her own fertility journey here. To send Sarah a message, complete her Contact Form.