In the world of liver recipes and nutrition, duck, chicken, and beef seem to overshadow pork by a mile. Everyone knows how good beef and chicken liver are for your body and taste buds, but what about the pigs?
Just how nutritious (and delicious) is pork liver?
Let’s figure that out.
What is pork liver?
Pork liver is the liver found in pigs, hogs, swine, or any other synonym you find for those delicious four-legged mammals we know and love.
Pork liver has a bold flavor, with a gamey, metallic taste and a slightly sweet aftertaste. It can take some getting used to, but I highly recommend it.
Livers in pigs, similarly to humans, act as a sort of processing plant for the food pigs eat. Unfiltered blood goes in, and nutrients that their bodies can use go out. There are over 500 important functions associated so far with the liver [*]. These functions are why livers are so nutritious.
Is pork liver healthy?
When compared to other parts of the pig, like the pork belly where bacon is sourced, there is a substantial difference in nutritional benefits. Pork liver has less fat and more Vitamin B, D, Vitamin A, Vitamin K, and selenium than any other cut of pork.
It is a fantastic thing to add to your diet, and even super small servings can make a big difference.
In other words, if you’re going to eat any pork, pork liver is arguably the best choice, at least from a nutritional perspective.
Pork liver nutrition
Pork liver is protein-rich, full of vitamins, and relatively high in fat, with most of that fat being unsaturated.
Specifically, 100g of braised pork liver has [*]:
- Calories: 165
- Carbohydrate: 3.76g
- Fiber: 0g
- Sugar: 0g
- Fat: 4.4g
- Protein: 26g
- Vitamin A: 61% DV
- Vitamin B10: 22% DV
- Vitamin B2: 169% DV
- Vitamin B3: 53% DV
- Vitamin B5: 95% DV
- Vitamin B6: 34% DV
- Vitamin B12: 778% DV
- Vitamin B9: 41% DV
- Vitamin C: 26% DV
- Calcium: 10mg 1% DV
- Copper: 0.63mg 70% DV
- Iron: 17.9mg 100% DV
- Magnesium: 14mg 3% DV
- Manganese: 0.3mg 13% DV
- Phosphorus: 241mg 19% DV
- Potassium: 150mg 3% DV
- Selenium: 67.5mcg 123% DV
- Sodium: 49mg 2% DV
- Zinc: 6.72mg 61% DV
Pork liver vs. beef liver
Although pork liver is richer in antioxidant vitamins, selenium, iron, and zinc, beef liver has more B-complex vitamins and phosphorus than pork liver. Pork liver also has a little less Vitamin A, but since eating too much Vitamin A can lead to toxicity, this isn’t the worst thing [*].
As far as taste goes, pork liver tastes a bit sweeter compared to beef liver, which has more of that earthy, metallic taste.
Here are a few specific nutritional benefits of pork liver worth knowing:
Good protein-to-calorie ratio
Pork liver is more than 60% protein per calorie, making it a great source of protein. It also contains all 9 essential amino acids, which are the building blocks of all proteins. This is what people mean when they say something is a “complete” protein.
Amino acid deficiency can cause decreased immunity, digestive problems, depression, fertility issues, lower mental alertness, slowed growth in children, and many other health issues [*].
High in iron
100 grams of pork liver gives you your complete daily value of iron. Our bodies use iron for growth and development, and in particular, we use it to make hemoglobin. These are proteins that help our blood red cells distribute oxygen from the lungs to everywhere else. They are sort of like little transports. Iron also helps make myoglobins, which are proteins that provide oxygen to muscles [*].
Bioavailability is also an important aspect of iron, and since the iron sourced from pork liver is known as heme iron, that fact and the Vitamin C in livers help your body absorb iron faster [*].
Good source of selenium
Pork liver is a great source of selenium, with 100 grams providing 123% of your daily recommended amount. Selenium is a trace mineral that helps make DNA and protect against cell damage and infections. Selenium proteins are also involved in reproduction and the metabolism of thyroid hormones [*].
Lots of B vitamins
Pig livers are full of Vitamin B, supplying ample amounts of various kinds, including 778% of your DV of Vitamin B12 in just a small 100g serving. There are no toxicity concerns surrounding Vitamin B12, so there is no need to worry about that [*].
Vitamin B12 helps with red blood cell creation and anemia prevention, may support bone health and prevent osteoporosis, may prevent major birth defects, may reduce the risk of macular degeneration, and could improve mood and symptoms of depression [*].
And Vitamin B2, or riboflavin, helps us take the energy from food and give it to our cells [*].
Great source of bioavailable vitamin A
100 grams of pork liver has around 61% DV of Vitamin A, and it is extra bioavailable because this Vitamin A comes from retinol.
Retinol is known as ‘pre-formed Vitamin A’, meaning our body doesn’t have to do much to use it [*].
Vitamin A helps with [*]:
- Immune system function
- Bone formation
- Wound healing
A rare source of vitamin C in meat
We usually get Vitamin C from plants. Few meats have it, and if you don’t get enough, it can lead to scurvy.
Pork liver, and livers in general, are special because they are a rare and decent source of Vitamin C in meat, providing 26% of your DV in a 100-gram serving. This is especially important if you are cutting on vegetables, as is the case in some experimental diets like Carnivore.
Potential downsides of eating pork liver
Everything in moderation, as they say. As good as pork liver is, you shouldn’t stake your diet on it.
Too much vitamin A leads to toxicity
You need to keep an eye on your Vitamin A intake when consuming liver more frequently. Vitamin A is fat-soluble, meaning it gets absorbed into fat and takes longer to get out of your body than other vitamins. If you eat too much of it, you can develop toxicity that leads to vision problems, nausea, and bone pain [*].
You’d have to eat a lot of liver, very often to get this, but it’s enough of a risk that many doctors recommend pregnant women avoid eating livers.
Excess copper can be a problem
Similarly, pork liver has a lot of copper, 70% of your DV in a 100g serving. Eating too much copper can lead to oxidative stress and neurodegenerative changes, and may increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease [*][*].
High levels of cholesterol can be detrimental
How to add pork liver to your diet
Pork liver has a strong, gamey taste, and it’s really easy to add to your diet. Here are a few ways to get some of its nutritional power into your weekly eating:
- Pan fry it with some veggies. There’s no need to overcomplicate it. Soak the liver in milk for 30 minutes to an hour to cut some of the metallic taste out, fry it up with some potatoes and onions, and enjoy.
- Eat it as a pate. Pate is a rich spread that’s perfect for eating alongside some fresh bread.
- Stir fry it in a wok. Chinese or other Asian cuisines do great work with livers. Here’s a recipe to get you started.
- Make liver sausage. To mask some of the offal taste, consider mixing it into your meat blend for a more nutritious pork sausage.
The bottom line on pork liver nutrition
Pork liver is full of nutrients, like most other offal cuts and livers, so that makes it worth adding to any balanced, keto, carnivore, or whole-food diet. Don’t overdo it, but that advice goes for everything.
In short, pork liver is:
- High in iron
- Has a great protein-to-calorie ratio
- Lower in calories than many types of meat
- Is a complete protein
- Has tons of B Vitamins
- Supports immunity and general organ health
The most nutritious pork liver comes from the healthiest pigs
US Wellness Meats’ Heritage Pork is pasture-raised where pigs can search for food in a natural habitat, and that makes all the difference in terms of health.
That means our pigs have NO GMOs, NO added hormones, NO antibiotics, NO additives, NO herbicides, and NO pesticides.
What your pig eats, you end up eating. That has a big role in its taste and nutritional value.
Get pork liver from pigs raised the right way delivered straight to your door.
Nathan Phelps owns and writes for Crafted Copy, a boutique copywriting shop that finds the perfect words for interesting products. He is also an ethical foodie, outdoors-aficionado, and hails from Nashville, TN. He splits his time between helping sustainable businesses find new customers and managing his ever-increasing list of hobbies, which include playing guitar, baking bread, and creating board games.