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Those who know me know that I am a big fan of liver. In fact, liver is a depression buster food and probably in a class of its own providing in large quantities every depression-fighting nutrient in my book Rebuild From Depression except for magnesium. Most foods make the list because they excel in one or two nutrients or in Omega-3 fatty acids. Not liver. It could nearly be your replacement for a multi-vitamin/mineral complex.
Liver is known for its quantities of B vitamins. Adelle Davis, mother of nutrition writers in this country, claimed that liver also has an “anti-stress factor.” I am not sure what that is or whether it has been isolated. But something many people don’t know about liver is that it can have a pretty nice little dose of Omega-3 fatty acids.
Previously I argued that beef (the muscle, not the liver) is not a great source of Omega-3 fatty acids (here), even if it comes from cattle fed exclusively on grass. A grass diet improves the level of Omega-3 fatty acids in that steak, but a steak is not Omega-3 nirvana.
In a 1998 study comparing the fatty acid composition of grass fed beef and lamb compared to exclusively grain fed bulls found that 100 grams of grass fed beef liver contained 151 milligrams of EPA and 83 milligrams of DHA, both depression-fighting Omega-3 fatty acids. It also contained 92 milligrams of ALA and 283 milligrams of DPA, both Omega-3 fatty acids that our bodies use to make more EPA.
That 100 grams of liver (about 3 ½ ounces) contains a total of 609 milligrams of Omega-3 fatty acids. That’s pretty darned good for a single meal that does not include fish — which is still Omega-3 nirvana.
Even that bull fed a grain diet has some Omega-3 fatty acids in his liver. I compare the liver from the grass fed steer and grain fed bull in the figure above.
When I’m in the middle of a stressful week or in the past when I’ve hit down-cycles in my depression, I eat liver about three times a week and feel an improvement in my mood and my energy after just a few meals. Liver is cheap and loaded with nutrients. Even organic liver at Whole Foods will provide a very inexpensive dinner for you. Give liver and onions a try to start — a caramelized onion goes a long way to covering the strong flavor of liver.