When I was a kid, I used to think of the beef liver as one of those foods my mum would cook for my dad and I would feel grossed out by (and beg to have a burger instead).
Growing up and learning about how valuable eating the whole animal is (both for health and my wallet), I realized that including animal products in my diet was one of the best ways to ensure optimal nutrient status, but if I were are only eating muscle meats, I was missing out!
What are the benefits of nose-to-tail eating?
Eating the whole animal, including the skin, cartilage and organs will provide you with higher concentrations of vitamins, minerals, and amino-acids stored in these areas.
It is also more cost-effective and environmental-friendly as if you are also using the parts of the animal that would usually be discarded (e.g. organs, skin, bones), instead of the ‘lean meats’ only, you can make it go a long way.
Eating a variety of foods such as liver, heart, bone broth and eggs will supply you with nutrients that can be readily used in the body, as they are already converted into the animal form.
Here are some of the top ones and their benefits:
B vitamins – This group of vitamins is responsible for the conversion of carbohydrates into glucose and the metabolism of fat and protein, as well as detoxification, hormonal balance, and nervous system function, supporting the body in times of stress and intense training. As they are water-soluble, which means they can be lost through sweat, the daily intake needs are increased when training in hot environments. The liver is one of the best sources – try adding it to burger patties or pate.
CoQ10 – this co-enzyme is essential for cellular energy production as well as cardiovascular function and its production in the body declines with age. Beef heart is one of the best sources.
B 12 –This vitamin is vital for the formation of blood cells and neurons (deficiency can lead not only to tiredness and anemia but also irreversible neurological conditions). It is only available from animal sources, so include a variety of fish, poultry, meat, and eggs.
Zinc – one of the most important minerals in the human body, it is needed for sexual health (both in males and females), testosterone levels, protein synthesis (aka muscle building), as well as skin (zinc deficiency is one of the most common causes for acne). Liver and seafood are the best sources.
Choline – a precursor to the acetylcholine – the brain chemical responsible for memory and learning. It has been shown to be particularly beneficial for endurance athletes, especially when training sessions are longer than 2 hours. Eggs are one of the best sources and it is found in the yolk, so don’t be afraid of eating the whole egg.
Glycine – I saved this one for last and would like to give it special attention because of how underrated it is. Glycine acts as a major inhibitory neurotransmitter, which means it is the most powerful brain chemical responsible for making you relax and switch off, improving sleep and memory. It is also one of the building blocks for collagen and creatine, making it one of the most useful nutrients for performance, recovery, and long-term health of your joints, skin, and hair.
Bone broth is one of the richest sources – try having some in the evening for great sleep.
Does grass-fed / pasture-raised matter?
Choosing animals that had access to sun-light, movement, and the appropriate nutrition is super beneficial to the environment, as it ensures the soils have natural maintenance without the need for weed-killers and artificial fertilizers. It also ensures you are getting a better omega 3:omega 6 ratio, which reduces inflammation, improving brain function, mobility, hormonal health, and energy production.
Nose-to-tail eating is more than a trend, it’s a return to old traditions and it will provide you with the most effective forms of nutrients needed for optimal health while reducing resource waste. If you’re new to it, start by trying some of the milder-tasting options such as chicken livers or bone broth.
Written by Mariana Rodrigues