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Bad Habits #7 – Offal is Awful

When I was growing up, my mother would make a rather strange form of gravy at Thanksgiving, with chewy mushy bits of what appeared to be meat in it.  Except that it didn’t taste like normal meat.  Because it was kind of gross.  I was informed that these were “giblets”.  Then I was informed what “giblets” are.  Turkey innards.  I nearly spit them out.  And for the rest of our childhood, my brother and I would scornfully refer to this travesty as “guts gravy” and imperiously turn up our noses at the vile concoction.  I don’t honestly know why my mother even put up with our bratty younger selves.

My mother isn’t the only woman in my life that inflicted innards on me.  My wife has done it too.  Because when we visited her native Zimbabwe, I was treated to “guru”.  No, not a wise, spiritual teacher.  Besides, Buddhism isn’t really a thing in Zimbabwe.  No, guru, in the Shona language, is the word for tripe.  Except that they apparently forgot to wash it.  Because the stuff was brown.  I really didn’t want to think about why it was brown either.  I ate it to appease my in-laws.  But the stuff was vile.

Of course, her people are equally horrified by the tripe we find in America, which is bleached into absolute submission so that it’s indistinguishable from lace.  But I’m generally horrified by all organ meat.  Especially kidneys, stomachs, and intestines.  We all know what ultimately comes out of those organs, right?.  No one in their right mind would want to eat that, would they?

But I’ve noticed in my time on Twitter, that numerous diet and nutrition types love to tweet pictures of animal entrails that they’re about to eat.  At first, I assumed they’d lost a bet, but the reality is they’re absolutely celebrating eating the viscera of a dead thing.  Posting pictures of the two pounds of liver they’re about to eat is a weird form of virtue signaling among the Ketobro/Carnobro crowd.

Liver is another thing that mom occasionally fed us that I found foul.  A friend of mine once told me “You’re eating the body’s filter.  Would you eat your air conditioning filter?”  I once made the mistake of sharing this jest on Twitter, and got mobbed by the aforementioned Keto/Carno types.  Mostly insisting, with surprising vehemence (I’m not sure why anyone would be this passionate about animal insides), that the liver is not a filter.  Which, in fairness, is sort of true. 

But it’s also sort of not true.  It does do some filterish type things. But I was taken aback by the visceral (Pun intended, and I laugh at the pain that frightful joke produced in anyone reading this) reaction I got.  Seriously, it was a joke.  Lighten up, broheims.  Animal parts should not produce this much outrage. Well, except amongst vegans.

Where I’m from, liver was always the thing eaten by the hillbillies who had three cars in their driveway.  All three of which would have cinder blocks where the wheels should be.  Not exactly highbrow offerings.  So, my natural coastal Georgia snobbiness, combined with the fact that I’ve never had a good experience with organ meat, made me conclude that organ meat was the worst.  And, I was right.  Sort of.

Now, any number of articles, both at high brow medical sites and shadier sites owned by supplement sellers and diet quacks, will insist that organs have plenty of nutrients.  Which is true.  But there are downsides.

So, let’s consider that awful thing known as liver.  Six ounces of beef liver only has about 300 calories, so that’s not bad.  And literally every type of protein your body needs for a day.  Which explains why the meat-eaters fetishize it so much.  It also has a full day’s supply of most of the assorted B vitamins.  In some cases, way more than a full day’s supply.  Over four times the Riboflavin Recommended Daily Allowance, and fifty times the Vitamin B12 RDA.  Also, a full day’s supply of iron, phosphorus, and selenium, and nearly a full day’s worth of zinc.  

But this is where it gets weird.  Beef liver has about 18 times the RDA for Vitamin A, and about 28 times the RDA for copper.  And, according to various medical literature I’ve seen on this, too much liver can lead to toxic levels of Vitamin A and copper.  The symptoms of which are…nasty.  I won’t bother to list them all here, but it’s pretty much a list of everything that would get someone sent to a leper colony in the Old Testament.

And the real kicker is the cholesterol.  I mentioned in my first piece that high cholesterol was one of the things I was dealing with when I started losing weight.  Six ounces of liver has over three times the cholesterol I should eat in a day.  And if I were to eat chicken or pork liver, I would apparently get lower levels of nutrients with the same (in the case of pork) or much higher (in the case of chicken) cholesterol.  So combine the cholesterol with the potential leper colony side effects (and, of course, the taste) and I think I’ll take a hard pass on liver until the end of time.

And what about that stuff my wife gave me when visiting the in-laws?  Guru (or tripe in Murrican) has about 150 calories per six ounces.  And a smattering of the nutrients liver has, although not in quite the same outlandish quantities.  But it also has more than my RDA in cholesterol.  So I can confirm that my wife was not trying to kill me with Vitamin A or Copper toxicity, but there’s still that cholesterol problem.  And tripe is also awful.

So this got me thinking about other things that one only sees in an autopsy room or a horror movie.  Some people eat lungs, hearts, and intestines.  So I’ll go through these one at a time, starting with lungs.   A six ounce portion of lungs has 150 calories, which is not bad.  It has all of the nutrients that liver has, only less so.  So you won’t have the leper colony problem.  The problem is, it has twice the RDA of cholesterol.  Eating this would anger my doctor.  Which I don’t want to do.  He’s Italian.  He literally looks like one of the hitmen from the Sopranos.  I’d better not touch this stuff.

So, what about hearts?  I remember from high school biology that heart muscle is different from organ muscle.  In certain ways, it’s more like arm and leg muscles.  I won’t bore you with the details.  Also, I forgot most of them, because I went into public accounting, not medicine.  But I thought maybe this would mean the nutritional info on hearts would not be so bad.  Sadly, that’s not the case.  Six ounces of heart has 300 calories or so, the same assortment of vitamins and minerals as other organs (to varying degrees, but who needs details), and (wait for it) way more cholesterol than I should eat in a day.

And as long as I’m on the subject of innards, let’s think about the one nobody in their right mind thinks is food.  Intestines.  Where the poo is made.  Certain people in my native Georgia eat this in swine form.  Pig’s intestines, also known as chitlins.  Which have 400 calories in every six ounce serving, and are surprisingly light on minerals compared to the other organs I mentioned.  And, of course, a ridiculous amount of cholesterol.  Noticing a pattern here?  Also, if you thought tripe was atrocious, just think about the terrible stuff you’d need to wash out of intestines.

And the story is more or less the same with the other organ known for producing excrement, the kidney.  The single worst thing people put in pies.  A six ounce portion has about 250 calories, pretty much the same types of nutrients as all of these other disgraceful things I’ve mentioned, and, depending on what type of animal the kidney is from, four to six times the cholesterol I should have on any given day.

I’m convinced that no one in their right mind would eat these things unless they had no other choice.  I think the obvious proof of this is my distant Scottish ancestors.  Who ate … haggis.  Which is a sheep’s heart, lungs, and liver (along with other horrible things) stuffed into the stomach and boiled.   Also, it’s often filled with barley as well.  Not that barley is bad for you, unless you’re someone who faints at the sight of carbs like keto/carno bros.  My problem with this is that it’s an abuse of barley.  Any barley not converted into beer is a crime against humanity.

Mike Myers once said Scottish cuisine is based largely on a dare.  Which would explain haggis.  But I have a different theory.  Given that the medieval Scottish were oppressed by the English, I think the only reason they ate this was out of desperation.  Apparently, Edward the Longshanks got the good parts of the sheep and Braveheart was left with the offal.  That probably explains why the Scots were so angry at the battle of Bannockburn.  Well, that and the whole “killing William Wallace” thing.

But there’s even weirder stuff.  Such as the least appetizing organ I can think of.  Apart from rectum, I suppose.  Brains.  An organ that looks like bloody, sweaty, cauliflower.  Not sure why anyone would think that eating this is a good idea.  And it turns out, it’s really not a good idea.  Pretty much any type of brains is going to have 250-350 calories for every six ounces and the usual collection of nutrients I mentioned before.  And about 20 to 30 times the cholesterol you should eat in a day.  You read that right.  I did notice that brains have a surprisingly high portion of Omega-3 fatty acids, which is something many of us need more of.  But it’s really not worth it.

I briefly thought about looking into the nutritional information on eyes.  Yes, eyes.  Some people eat that.  But I agree with what one of the lesser James Bonds (Roger Moore) said in Octopussy.  When his host began chowing down on a sheep’s head (eyeball first) he said “I don’t like to eat while I’m being watched.”  Or something to that effect.  I agree.  If I were to eat an animal’s eye, its dilated pupil staring me in the face on the way to my mouth, I would feel like I was being judged.  I don’t need more judgment.  I’m married.  I get plenty.

And I’ll spare you the info on the weirdest of all organ meats, euphemistically known as Rocky Mountain oysters.  That’s the….uh…. by-product you’re left with when you turn a bull into a steer.  Man-parts, in other words.  Some things should only be eaten by the desperate.  Don’t waste your time with the procreative bits.  

Now, some of the more socially conscious on the Internet will insist that eating organ meat is good for the environment.  Climate change would be slowed if we raised fewer animals, and we’d raise and eat fewer animals if we ate the entire animal.  Or so I’m told.  And it would definitely be good for the climate in another way, since humans would clearly die of cholesterol induced heart attacks more frequently, noticeably reducing the global population.  This is how Thanos would kill half of the population if he was a nutritionist.  I’ll pass.

One thing I couldn’t help but notice is that eating organ meat is totally unnecessary.  Most of the nutrients in organ meat are readily available in regular cuts of meat, without the downside.  And if we want to help the climate, we can do something else with the guts.  Maybe just feed them to the pigs.  Who cares if the pigs get high cholesterol?  They’re just bacon waiting to happen.  And a little pig heart disease won’t matter.  That’s not what’s going to kill them.  Besides, I have no intention of eating the heart after the deed is done, so who cares if it’s a little damaged?

One thing that occurs to me is that everything I’ve listed here is basically zombie food.  Imagine the most graphic scenes in The Walking Dead.  You’ll see zombies feasting on this stuff.  They’re connoisseurs of brains, livers, kidneys, lungs, stomachs, and intestines.  The latter of which they like to play with way too much before eating.  But they don’t have to worry about heart disease.  And they don’t care that innards are repugnant.  Because they’re dead.  But we’re not, and we should try to stay that way by keeping our cholesterol down.  So don’t be like a zombie.  Don’t eat offal.  Because offal is awful.

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Published by drilldowndiet

Formerly obese CPA/health humorist using Cronometer and FitBod to lose weight. Sharing assorted life hacks to squeeze nutrition and exercise into a busy schedule. Also on Twitter at @drilldowndiet and Facebook.

9 thoughts on “Bad Habits #7 – Offal is Awful

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