Beef Liver Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

Liver
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Beef liver is an organ meat that comes from cattle. The popularity of liver has varied throughout the years with other beef cuts (like flank steak, ribeye, and other cuts) taking center stage more often. But beef liver is now enjoying a moment of popularity as it has become a favorite among those who follow a paleo diet, low carb diets, or carnivore diets.

Liver is budget-friendly and full of nutrients. It's packed with protein, and micronutrients including vitamin B12, vitamin A, riboflavin, copper, and iron. While it has a strong taste that can be hard for some to tolerate, this food can make a very healthy addition to your diet.

Beef Liver Nutrition Facts

The following nutrition information is provided by the USDA for 4 ounces (113g) of raw beef liver.

  • Calories: 153
  • Fat: 4.1g
  • Sodium: 78mg
  • Carbohydrates: 4.4g
  • Fiber: 0g
  • Sugars: 0g
  • Protein: 23g

Carbs

There are very few carbohydrates in beef liver with a single 4-ounce serving providing just 4.4g of carbs. There is no fiber or naturally-occurring sugar in beef liver, according to USDA data.

The estimated glycemic load of a single serving of beef liver is 3. Glycemic load takes portion size into account when estimating a food's impact on blood sugar levels.

Fats

There are about 4.1g of fat in a single serving of beef liver. This includes different types of fat. A serving of the meat contains 1.4g of saturated fat, 0.54g of monounsaturated fat, and 0.53g of polyunsaturated fat.

Protein

A single serving of beef liver provides 23g of protein.

Vitamins and Minerals

Beef liver is a micronutrient powerhouse. It provides 59.3mcg of vitamin B12 or 988% of your recommended daily intake. It provides 9.8mg of copper, or 488% or your recommended intake, 6582 (731%) of vitamin A RAE, and 2.8mg of riboflavin (162%). It is also an excellent source of niacin, vitamin B6, folate, pantothenic acid, iron, phosphorus, zinc, and selenium. It's a good source of thiamin and manganese.

Health Benefits

Because it is packed with nutrients and is relatively low in fat (especially for a beef product) beef liver is associated with a number of health benefits.

Reduced Risk of Anemia

The substantial amount of vitamin B12 and iron in beef liver can be helpful for those who are at risk for anemia. If you have anemia, your blood has a lower level of red blood cells. Red blood cells carry oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. They also return carbon dioxide from the body to the lungs. People with anemia often report feeling tired or weak and may experience chest pain, shortness of breath, constipation, loss of appetite, and weight loss.

Vitamin B12 is required for red blood cell formation. Iron is used in the body to make hemoglobin and myoglobin key proteins found in red blood cells that are necessary for oxygen transport.

Reduced Risk of Vitamin A Deficiency

Vitamin A deficiency is common in developing countries especially among children, pregnant, and lactating women. In the U.S., vitamin A deficiency is not common except in certain populations such as those with cystic fibrosis. It is estimated that about 15%–40% of patients with cystic fibrosis don't get enough of this vital nutrient.

Those with vitamin A deficiency are at higher risk for anemia, chronic diarrhea, and xerophthalmia (night blindness). A single serving of beef liver contains over 700% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin A for adults.

Reduced Risk of Certain Cancers

Vitamin A is important for regulating cell growth and differentiation in the body. There is some evidence that increased consumption of vitamin A in certain populations may help reduce the risk of lung cancer and prostate cancer. But more research is needed to fully understand the association.

Better Eye Health

The substantial nutrients in beef liver such as vitamin A, iron, zinc, and copper, are associated with a decreased risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a condition that causes substantial vision loss, especially in older adults.

Several large randomized clinical trials found that taking a supplement containing those nutrients along with vitamin E and vitamin C was associated with a 25% decreased risk of AMD. Those at risk for the condition should speak to their healthcare provider about whether or not getting the nutrients from food or taking a supplement is best for them.

Reduced Risk of Other Diseases

The copper in beef liver may help you avoid certain conditions including cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer's disease. Copper plays several important roles in the body including maintaining healthy blood vessels, nervous system, and immune system.

There is some evidence that people with higher levels of copper in the body have a lower risk of Alzheimer's. There is also limited evidence that getting more copper in the diet or from supplements may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. But more research is needed to confirm these associations.

Allergies

There are some limited reports of meat allergy, but they are are not common. However, it is possible to have a reaction from a tick bite that can produce IgE-mediated reactions to red meat. It is not known if liver consumption would produce these effects.

If you notice allergy symptoms after eating beef liver, reach out to your healthcare provider for personalized advice.

Adverse Effects

At least one research study has associated the consumption of raw beef liver with a condition called toxocariasis in patients who have eosinophilia (a white blood cell disorder). Researchers found that raw cow liver was a significant cause of infection in these people. Those who have the condition or are at risk for it should speak to their healthcare provider before consuming beef liver and make sure that the meat is cooked appropriately before eating it.

You might also want to speak to your healthcare provider if you consume beef liver and take supplements or multivitamins. There are some adverse effects associated with excessive consumption of certain vitamins and minerals.

For example, vitamin A is known to interact with medications including Orlistat (found in weight loss medications alli and Xenical) and synthetic retinoids that may be found in medications for psoriasis. Health experts advise that you should discuss your vitamin A status with a healthcare provider if you are on one of these medications.

Getting too much iron can also be problematic. However, you're not likely to get too much of it from consuming liver alone. A 4-ounce serving provides about 5.54mg of iron. The upper limit is 45mg for adults. But if you also take a supplement or multivitamin that contains iron, you may get too much—depending on how much the supplement contains. High doses of iron can cause upset stomach, constipation, nausea, abdominal pain, vomiting, fainting, and other problems. It can also interfere with medications.

Excessive copper consumption can also cause problems if it happens on a regular basis. The upper limit for copper is 10,000 mcg (10mg) according to NIH data. A serving of beef liver contains 11mg of copper. If you take a multivitamin, you may even consume more copper. If you eat beef liver regularly speak to your healthcare provider about maintaining proper copper levels and whether or not taking a multivitamin is recommended.

Varieties

Beef liver can be found in some grocery stores, but you may need to go to a butcher to get it or even order it in advance. Because the meat is not commonly consumed in the U.S. some stores don't stock it unless requested. Beef liver can also be ordered online although many cooks advise buying it in person so the product you get is fresh.

When It’s Best

There is no particular time of year when beef liver is better.

Storage and Food Safety

According to the USDA, beef liver should be consumed within one to two days of purchase. Store the organ meat in the refrigerator after bringing it home from the butcher. If you aren't going to consume it within a few days, freeze it. Store in airtight plastic wrap. When properly frozen, it should remain fresh for 3–4 months.

How to Prepare

Many people struggle with the taste of beef liver. The organ meat is often described as having an intense, iron taste. It is also often described as bitter, but some cooks soak beef liver in milk to get the bitterness out of the meat.

Beef liver can be ground and either used alone or blended with other meats. You can make common ground beef foods, like hamburgers with the mixture.

One of the most common recipes for this organ meat is liver and onions. Usually, the meat is sautéed in oil or butter with garlic, onions, and bacon. Most experts suggest that you don't overcook liver as it can get tough. Many prefer to cook beef liver until it is pink on the inside. The USDA recommends that you cook all organ and variety meats (including liver) to 160 °F.

Recipes

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Article Sources
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