Nutrient Showdown: Best Sources of Vitamins & Minerals

We often discuss vitamins and minerals and their essential role in human health; however, that can be rather abstract until you take the time to examine nutrients and foods on a case-by case basis.   How exactly does vitamin K or riboflavin or selenium support our health?   Is liver really a nutritional powerhouse? How so?

Moreover, we consistently hear that plant foods – fruits, vegetables and whole grains – offer the very best sources of vitamins and minerals and while they certainly play a critical role in a wholesome diet, plant foods do not always represent the best source of nutrients.   Indeed, animal foods – particularly liver, roe and shellfish – offer some of the most concentrated sources of vitamins and minerals.   Turkey liver offers 3 times more vitamin A than the same quantity of sweet potato.     Keep in mind that vitamin A from animal foods (retinol) is more easily absorbed and metabolized than beta carotene from plant foods.  Indeed certain adults suffering from autoimmune diseases, babies and young children cannot convert beta carotene to true vitamin A at all, making all those carrots and sweet potatoes relatively worthless for their vitamin A content.  Similarly, vitamin K1 (found in leafy greens and vegetables) does not offer as substantial a benefit as vitamin K2 (found in animal foods, butterfat and fermented soy). Smoked salmon offers 40% more riboflavin than peanuts.   Plant foods are grossly lacking in all but nominal amounts of vitamin D and completely lacking in vitamin B12, while one could conceivably receive all one’s vitamins and minerals from animal foods alone – though I wouldn’t recommend it.   In the end, what you see in this chart is a beautiful balance between nutrient-dense animal foods and nutrient-dense plant foods: an omnivorous diet.

In examining these foods – a few nourishing foods kept appearing over and over again.   Liver appears 34 times on this list, while sesame appears 9 times and oysters 7.   Many of these foods are sacred foods – foods cherished by our ancestors and they should regain their rightful place on the kitchen table.   You’ll note that grain, dairy and even fruit are barely mentioned among these nutrient-dense foods which, I imagine, will pique the interest of many of Nourished Kitchen‘s primal readers.   While all truly natural foods can also be truly health-giving foods,   a mindful eye to maximizing nutrient-dense foods is vital.

As you examine these foods, their nutrients and the value they should play in your kitchen, please note that while much of the data regarding fish and shellfish is based on wild-caught seafood, the data regarding animal foods are based on conventionally-raised animals.   Data on the nutrient content of pasture-raised foods is very difficult to find on such a massive scale; rest assured that data consistently indicates that grass-fed and pasture-raised animals produce more nutrient-dense food than their confined, industrial counterparts.   Moreover, please note that while muscle meat is rarely listed – that doesn’t mean it offers no value, only that it is simply not as nutrient-dense as offal.   Quite often muscle meat scored higher than the plant food sources listed.   Similarly, in many instances, plant foods not listed scored higher than animal foods that are listed.

I omitted obscure ingredients – whale blubber and walrus meat for instance – as they’re unlikely to be widely available.   I also omitted heavily processed, fortified foods, choosing to rely instead of the natural value of food in their naked and unadulterated state as much as possible.

Nourish yourself mindfully and well.

Nutrient

Why You Need It:

Best Animal Food Sources1:

Best Plant Food Sources1:

Vitamin A
  • Vision Health
  • Skin Health
  • Reproductive Health
  • Immune Function
  • Turkey Liver (75,337 IU)
  • Calf Liver (70,559 IU)
  • Beef Liver (31,718 IU)
  • Liverwurst (27,671 IU)
  • Lamb Liver (25,999 IU)
  • Baked Sweet Potato (19,217 IU)
  • Boiled Carrots (17,036 IU)
  • Raw Kale (15,376 IU)
  • Boiled Dandelion Greens (14,545 IU)
  • Dried Apricots (12,669 IU)

Plants DO NOT contain true vitamin A; rather they contain beta carotene.

Vitamin C
  • Skin Health
  • Immune Function
  • Heart Health
  • Antioxidant Activity
  • Anti-inflammatory Properties
  • Cured Beef Pastrami (35 mg)
  • Chicken Liver (28 mg)
  • Pork Liver (24 mg)
  • Steamed Clams (22 mg)
  • Raw Fish Roe (16 mg)
  • Raw Acerola (1,677 mg)
  • Rosehips (426 mg)
  • Green Chili Peppers (242 mg)
  • Raw Guava (228 mg)
  • Sweet Yellow Peppers (183 mg)
Vitamin D
  • Immune Function
  • Reproductive Health
  • Bone Health
  • Cognitive Health
  • Longevity
  • Pickled Herring (680 IU)
  • Dried Trout (628 IU)
  • Mackerel Sashimi (360 IU)
  • Raw Oysters (320 IU)
  • Caviar (232 IU)
  • Mushrooms (21 IU)
  • NO OTHER SOURCES
Vitamin E
  • Antioxidant Activity
  • Reproductive Health
  • Skin Health
  • Heart Health
  • Formation of Red Blood Cells
  • Raw Fish Roe (7 mg)
  • Baked Conch (6 mg)
  • Salmon Sashimi (4 mg)
  • Raw Egg Yolk (3 mg)
  • Butter (2 mg)
  • Hazelnut Oil (47 mg)
  • Sunflower Oil (41 mg)
  • Almond Oil (39 mg)
  • Grapeseed Oil (29 mg)
  • Palm Oil (19 mg)
Vitamin K
  • Bone Health
  • Cognitive Health
  • Heart Health
  • Blood Clotting
  • Anti-inflammatory Properties
  • Broiled Beef (17 mcg)
  • Braised Veal (7 mcg)
  • Butter (7 mcg)
  • Broiled Lamb (6 mcg)
  • Fried Egg (6 mcg)

Animal foods contain vitamin K2.

  • Amaranth Leaves (1,440 mcg)
  • Raw Swiss Chard (830 mcg)
  • Cooked Kale (817 mcg)
  • Raw Dandelion Greens (778 mcg)
  • Cooked Collards (623 mcg)

Plants contain vitamin K1.

Thiamin
  • Conversion of Carbs to Energy
  • Heart Health
  • Nerve Health
  • Emotional Well Being
  • Cognitive Health
  • Grilled Tuna (1 mg)
  • Pan-fried Pork Chops (1 mg)
  • Broiled Venison (1 mg)
  • Salami (1 mg)
  • Chorizo (1 mg)
  • Flaxseed (2 mg)
  • Sesame Tahini (2 mg)
  • Sunflower Seeds (1 mg)
  • Pine Nuts (1 mg)
  • Macadamia Nuts (1 mg)
Riboflavin
  • Bone Health
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Healthy Skin
  • Healthy Vision
  • Maintenance of Body Tissues
  • Lamb Liver (5 mg)
  • Beef Liver (3 mg)
  • Calf Liver (3 mg)
  • Turkey Liver (3 mg)
  • Chicken Liver (2 mg)
  • Dried Shiitakes (1 mg)
  • Dried Lychees (1 mg)
  • Almonds (1 mg)
  • Sesame Tahini (1 mg)
  • Cloud-ear Fungus (1 mg)
Niacin
  • Enzymatic Functions
  • Nerve Health
  • Digestive Health
  • Hormonal Balance
  • Cognitive Function
  • Smoked Salmon (23 mg)
  • Skipjack Tuna (19 mg)
  • Tuna Sashimi (16 mg)
  • Chicken Liver (16 mg)
  • Calf Liver (14 mg)
  • Peanuts (16 mg)
  • Dried Shiitakes (14 mg)
  • Sundried Tomatoes (9 mg)
  • Sunflower Seeds (8 mg)
  • Buckwheat (7 mg)
Vitamin B6
  • Macronutrient Metabolism
  • Blood Synthesis
  • Immune Function
  • Maintenance of Blood Sugar Levels
  • Wild Salmon (1 mg)
  • Grilled Tuna (1 mg)
  • Roast Pork (1 mg)
  • Roast Bison (1 mg)
  • Roast Elk (1 mg)
  • Pistachio Nuts (3 mg)
  • Sunflower Seeds (1 mg)
  • Dried Shiitakes (1 mg)
  • Sesame Seeds (1 mg)
  • Dried Prunes (1 mg)
Folate
  • Reproductive Health
  • Heart Health
  • Bone Health
  • Hormonal Health
  • Cognitive & Emotional Health
  • Fetal Development
  • Turkey Liver (691 mcg)
  • Lamb Liver (400 mcg)
  • Chicken Liver Pâté (392 mcg)
  • Beef Liver (260 mcg)
  • Broiled Conch (179 mcg)
  • Peanuts (246 mcg)
  • Sunflower Seeds (238 mcg)
  • Boiled Black-eyed Peas (208 mcg)
  • Boiled Cranberry Beans (208 mcg)
  • Raw Spinach (194 mcg)
Pantothenic Acid
  • Macronutrient Metabolism
  • Adrenal Support
  • Stress Response
  • Production of Healthy Fats
  • Chicken Liver (8 mg)
  • Beef Liver (7 mg)
  • Calf Liver (7 mg)
  • Pork Liver (5 mg)
  • Caviar (4 mg)
  • Dried Shiitakes (21 mg)
  • Sunflower Seeds (7 mg)
  • Triticale Flour (2 mg)
  • Boiled Mushrooms (2 mg)
  • Sundried Tomatoes (2 mg)
Vitamin B12
  • Brain Health
  • Nerve Health
  • Production of Healthy Fats
  • Maintenance of Red Blood Cells
  • Clams (99 mcg)
  • Lamb Liver (86 mcg)
  • Calf Liver (85 mcg)
  • Beef Liver (83 mcg)
  • Steamed Oysters (35 mcg)
  • NO SOURCES
Choline
  • Cellular Health
  • Emotional Health
  • Cognitive Health
  • Fetal Development
  • Raw Egg Yolk (682 mg)
  • Caviar (491 mg)
  • Beef Liver (426 mg)
  • Chicken Liver (327 mg)
  • Salt Cod (291 mg)
  • Dried Shiitakes (202 mg)
  • Sundried Tomatoes (105 mg)
  • Flaxseed (79 mg)
  • Miso (72 mg)
  • Pistachio Nuts (71 mg)
Betaine
  • Cardiovascular Health
  • Digestive Health
  • Smoked Whitefish (88 mg)
  • Mutton (34 mg)
  • Chicken Breast (29 mg)
  • Braised Beef (18 mg)
  • Braised Veal (17 mg)
  • Boiled Spinach (577 mg)
  • Raw Lambsquarters (332 mg)
  • Dark Rye Flour (146 mg)
  • Raw Beets (129 mg)
  • Bulgur (83 mg)
Calcium
  • Bone Health
  • Nerve Health
  • Muscle Health
  • Heart Health
  • Renal Function
  • Parmesan Cheese (1,184 mg)
  • Romano Cheese (1,064 mg)
  • Gruyere Cheese (1,011 mg)
  • Goat Cheese (895 mg)
  • Dried Whitefish (810 mg)
  • Poppyseeds (1,438 mg)
  • Sesame Seeds (989 mg)
  • Fireweed (429 mg)
  • Lambsquarters (366 mg)
  • Almonds (291 mg)
Iron
  • Blood Health
  • Muscle Health
  • Maintaining Energy Levels
  • Cellular Function
  • Neural Development
  • Steamed Clams (28 mg)
  • Pork Liver (18 mg)
  • Chicken Liver (13 mg)
  • Oysters (12 mg)
  • Caviar (12 mg)
  • Pumpkin Seeds (15 mg)
  • Sesame Seeds (15 mg)
  • Poppyseeds (10 mg)
  • Sundried Tomatoes (9 mg)
  • Natto (9 mg)
Magnesium
  • Carbohydrate Metabolism
  • Muscle Function
  • Nerve Function
  • Regulating Blood Sugar
  • Heart Health
  • Caviar (300 mg)
  • Broiled Conch (238 mg)
  • Fish Sauce (175 mg)
  • Salt Cod (133 mg)
  • Grilled Salmon (122 mg)
  • Pumpkin Seeds (535 mg)
  • Cocoa Powder (495 mg)
  • Sunflower Seed Butter (369 mg)
  • Sesame Tahini (353 mg)
  • Poppy Seeds (347 mg)
Potassium
  • Heart Health
  • Skeletal Health
  • Renal Health
  • Digestive Function
  • Dried Trout (1,720 mg)
  • Salt Cod (1,458 mg)
  • Gjetost Cheese (1,409 mg)
  • Dried Whitefish (1,080 mg)
  • Smoked Salmon (960 mg)
  • Sundried Tomatoes (3,427 mg)
  • Cocoa Powder (2,509 mg)
  • Dried Apricots (1,850 mg)
  • Raw Hearts of Palm (1,806 mg)
  • Dried Shiitakes (1,534 mg)
Zinc
  • Immune Function
  • Reproductive Health
  • Skin, Hair & Nail Health
  • Prostrate Health
  • Sexual Function
  • Oysters (182 mg)
  • Calf Liver (12 mg)
  • Lamb (10 mg)
  • Bison (9 mg)
  • Cooked Crab (8 mg)
  • Sesame Tahini (10 mg)
  • Poppyseeds (8 mg)
  • Dried Shiitakes (7 mg)
  • Pumpkin Seeds (7 mg)
  • Peanuts (7 mg)
Copper
  • Maintenance of Connective Tissue
  • Bone Health
  • Immune Health
  • Formation of Red Blood Cells
  • Calf Liver (15 mg)
  • Beef Liver (15 mg)
  • Lamb Liver (15 mg)
  • Oysters (8 mg)
  • Squid (2 mg)
  • Dried Shiitakes (5 mg)
  • Sesame Tahini (4 mg)
  • Cocoa Powder (4 mg)
  • Cashew Nuts (2 mg)
  • Sunflower Seeds (2 mg)
Manganese
  • Macronutrient Metabolism
  • Bone Development
  • Healing
  • Collagen Formation
  • Mussels (7 mg)
  • Oysters (1 mg)
  • Clams (1 mg)
  • Grilled Bass (1 mg)
  • Trout (1 mg)
  • Hazelnut Flour (13 mg)
  • Pine Nuts (9 mg)
  • Fireweed (7 mg)
  • Poppyseeds (7 mg)
  • Pecans (5 mg)
Selenium
  • Skin, Hair & Nail Health
  • Neutralizing Free Radicals
  • Thyroid Health
  • Immune Function
  • Pork Kidneys (312 mcg)
  • Oysters (154 mcg)
  • Turkey Skin (153 mcg)
  • Chicken Skin (137 mcg)
  • Lamb Liver (115 mcg)
  • Brazil Nuts (1,917 mcg)
  • Sesame Seeds (98 mcg)
  • Sunflower Seeds (79 mcg)
  • Whole Wheat Flour (71 mcg)
  • Dried Cloud Ear Fungus (43 mcg)

1. Nutrient data is based on 100-gram servings of foods listed. Nutrient information was sourced from NutritionData.com and is provided exclusively for educational and informational purposes.   I make no warranties about its accuracy or reliability.

2. Photo credit.

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What people are saying

  1. Local Nourishment says

    Oh man, I’m bookmarking, tweeting, stumbling and sending this link to everybody I have ever heard of. Awesome, awesome post!! Thank you!!

  2. says

    What are the recommended daily requirements for these nutrients. I’m curious to see how much of each item would be needed to make up each days requirement.

    • Michael Johnson says

      Post your results. I used the USDA’s numbers and found that it’s almost impossible to hit 100% in everything in a reasonable amount of food. The calories weren’t high per se but the volume of food (12 cups of salad?) would be way to expensive.

  3. Gina says

    Great!
    I’ve heard a lot recently that the highest animal source of vitamin D (other than cod liver oil) is actually wild Sockeye Salmon, due to their unique natural diet. Not sure the exact amount, though.

  4. Jenny says

    Thank you for spreading the word about the post.  It took A LOT of time to research.  I hope it helps some folks.

     

    - Jenny

    • Dina says

      Yes, very very helpful. Thanks so much for your work to put this together. I’ve seen most of the bits and pieces but all in one place really makes a difference. Very interesting to see how plant and animal sources compare. So useful! This is a BIG one for me as far as posts go! Thank you soooo much!

  5. Jenny says

    Gina -

    It’s my understanding that Wild Sockeye Salmon is a good source of vitamin D.  A 100-gram portion contains about 660 IU vitamin D.  Not bad at all.  Most oily fish are a good source of this vital nutrient.

    Take Care -

    Jenny

  6. says

    This is a fabulous post. I am definitely going to be referencing this one a lot and sending friends to it as well. Thank you so much for putting it together. What a lot of work!
    BTW, Dried Ear Cloud Fungus sounds yummy. ;)

  7. says

    This is an awesome list. Thank you so much for taking the time to research it and put it all down in one, easy to reference, place. I was surprised not to see raw milk anywhere on the list. I suppose I’ll have to up our intake of liver (which I already knew) =)

  8. Jenny says

    Marianne -

    Raw milk is decidedly a deeply nourishing food; however, much of its weight is comprised of water so when you examine nutrient density based on 100-gram values, more concentrated foods such as butter and cheese will contain more nutrients on a gram-by-gram basis.  This is also why dried shiitake mushrooms make the list, but fresh shiitakes don’t.  That’s not to say these aren’t nourishing foods – they are; however, they simply aren’t as concentrated due to the water weight.  It was definitely an interesting list.  I was surprised by how often sesame made the list!

    Take Care and Thanks for Reading! 

    Jenny

  9. Selena says

    THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!! This is MARVELOUS! I really appreciate you researching this and then posting for us. I’m printing out a copy to post in my kitchen and as a reference as I do my meal planning for my family!

  10. Valerie says

    This is an extremely helpful post. I’m forwarding to all my friends. I may have missed it, but I don’t think I saw where you got this data from. Is this from the USDA?

  11. Jeanmarie says

    Fantastic chart! This must have been a lot of work. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I only wish you had a “print view” function so I could print this out and memorize it!

  12. Jenny says

    Leah -

    To answer your question about amaranth – amaranth leaves are easy to grow in most locations, even on a patio!  Also, you can often find them at farmers markets, though they’re rarely carried at super markets. 

     

    Take Care -

    Jenny

  13. says

    I think it’s remarkable just how many times liver of some type of animal liver appears on this list! I am sheepish to admit this, but we really don’t eat liver in our house, not because I wouldn’t try it, but because I am intimidated about preparing it. I’m still very much a novice cook, and although we do have a variety of foods in our house, this is one that still hasn’t made it to our kitchen or plates. I guess I need to go and review all the good recipes available for preparing liver. I’m also lacking various kitchen devices that might make preparation of not only this but several other nutrient-dense foods easier. Those will have to be on my list in the coming year! Thanks for the list and all the hard work, it’s evident you spent a lot of time on this! :)

    • Chantal says

      I ran into an elderly lady in the grocery store this week who had a few packages of beef liver in her basket. I haven’t eaten liver yet, let alone prepared it, so I asked her what she does. She said she takes waxed paper and sprinkles flour on it, mixed with some dried mustard, salt and pepper. Then she slices the liver thinly (like you would a bun), coats it in the flour mixture and fries it quickly. So, the most complicated thing you’d need to prepare this is perhaps a skillet or a good knife… Happy eating!

    • Bebe says

      I’m with you Raine… liver can have such a strong flavor it just turns people off. Her is my two cents based on my personal experience: do not start with beef liver! It is, by far, the strongest tasting of all. Pork liver has a much more refined flavor, if you can find it consider it gold. Chicken livers are mild too and a good place to start would be Jenny’s recent post for Sage & Chicken Liver Pate: http://nourishedkitchen.com/chicken-liver-pate
      Funny thing is I just finished making my first batch of it this morning and I can attest that it it fabulous! The very high butterfat content is probably what makes it so unctuous but the sage and sherry really elevate the taste to a new level.
      I also recently tried Monica Ford’s Liver Shooters which was a timely post. It is something I’d been wanting to try based on Dr. Pottenger’s use of a raw liver and tomato juice concoction for his patients. http://www.holistickid.com/raw-liver-shooters/. Very similar to Sarah’s at The Healthy Home Economist: http://www.thehealthyhomeeconomist.com/pottengers-remedy-for-respiratory-illness/. I wish you lived close by, I’d definitely do a shooter party with you!

  14. says

    There is something missing here:
    The most strong person is who eat simple stuff but capable of absorbing it and even turning it into all beneficial to one’s own health benefit, physically as well as spiritually.
    While the weak persons eat stuff containing all nourish elements, yet unable to absorb them, even harmed by the dishes.
    The funny thing is people who drink milk, supposed to have a lot of calcium, tends to lose calcium already inside their bodies.
    There are a lot delicate mechanisms in the Creation’s design, eating something doesn’t mean your body will get all elements in it.
    In my own experience, quiting animal products, choosing vegan diets, does make me healthier, and happier. Even the liver is full of vitamins, the main concern is that can human bodies get benefits by eating it eventually?
    Concerns about nutrition and health? “The China Study” is a book you may not want to miss.

    • Josh says

      Ahimculture,

      I am not trying to be snarky by saying this, but you’re picking up too many talking points.

      In regards to milk and calcium, it’s commonly reiterated that the countries with the highest dairy consumption like the US also suffer from the highest rate of bone disease. A simple look at diet and nutritional biochemistry can reveal why: a lack of magnesium and vitamin D, both of which assist the body with calcium absorption. Looking at the average American diet, it’s very easy to see why people are deficient in these.

      Secondly, in regards to The China Study, the science done by Dr. T. Colin Campbell is horrible. Dr. Campbell’s rat studies were done using powdered casein. Anyone that knows something about nutrition can tell you that this is not good science; you simply don’t do a study on a powdered food isolate and then compare it to the whole food. There are many other things besides this which Denise Minger (see below) went through in extreme detail that shows that Dr. Campbell’s science was really sloppy.

      In general, the notion that animal products are cancerous or otherwise are a source of disease is astoundingly false. This can be seen easily with a look at the traditional diets of every culture on the planet.

      Denise Minger’s formal analysis of The China Study and response to Dr. Campbell can be found here: http://rawfoodsos.com/2010/08/06/final-china-study-response-html/

      I’d suggest reading through Paul Pitchford’s lauded book “Healing With Whole Foods: Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition”. I (as someone with a background in integrative nutrition) don’t agree with all of it, but still, it’s a very good book for someone who wants to follow a plant based diet.

  15. Lydia says

    Wow!! What a great resource you have just provided, along with the link for the daily recommended needs of each vitamin or mineral. I am so thankful!! I am wondering if dessicated liver tablets would do the trick at all , in place of liver. I still haven’t wrapped my brain around eating liver! (a little bit chicken I guess, although it is very affordable :) )

  16. Jenny says

    Ahimculture –

    You bring up very valid points – namely, that it’s more than what you choose to consume, but also how well your body absorbs it; however, you’re headed in the wrong direction with your data.  There, indeed, are many delicate mechanisms involved in nutrient metabolism; however, veganism is not the answer.  

    For example, greens may contain calcium; however, they also contain oxalates which bind minerals together preventing their full absorption in the intestinal tract, and while healthy intestinal flora will help to metabolize those oxalates most people suffer from some degree of gut dysbiosis thanks to lack of breastfeeding, medicalized birth, lack of probiotic foods and an oversanitized society – meaning that most people don’t have a healthy enough intestinal tract to work around those mineral-binding oxalates.  

    Moreover, many plant-food sources of vitamins and minerals simply aren’t well metabolized.  Take beta carotene for example: beta carotene can be metabolized into a usable form of vitamin A; however, the human body is notoriously inefficient at converting beta carotene into a usable form of vitamin A.  Indeed recent studies indicate that, under optimal conditions, the human body needs 21 units of beta carotene to make 1 unit of vitamin A; however, retinol (the vitamin A found in animal foods) is readily absorbed.  Another example is DHA/EPA which are only found naturally in animal foods (namely, oily fish).  The human body is poorly adapted to converting omega-3 fatty acids into DHA and EPA that means vegans can consume all the flaxseed and hemp seed they want, but their bodies still won’t adequately metabolize those omega-3 fats into DHA and EPA.  Vitamin D is yet another example: you’d have to eat 3 pounds of mushrooms to come close to the vitamin D levels found in 1 3.5-ounce portion of oysters.  Then there’s the challenge of iron.  Iron from animal foods is heme iron and numerous studies indicate that heme iron is better absorbed than non-heme iron from plants. And I haven’t even touched vitamin B12 which is lacking in plant foods altogether.

    So while you’re on the right track in keeping a mindful eye as to how well the human body absorbs nutrients; you’re on the wrong track in thinking that plant foods offer better nutrient absorption than animal foods.

    Regarding the China Study, I have read it and it was undoubtedly one of the most poorly researched books on nutrition I have ever examined.  Much of the book focused on using isolated compounds of animal foods (i.e. casein and only casein) which is problematic because if making a broad statement about food, one must study broad foods.  All China Study did was indicate massive quantities of casein (without other foods)is unhealthy.  Moreover, despite China Study’s title, the author spent little time analyzing the native diet of isolated Chinese populations, nor did he address confounding factors.  

    Thanks for reading –
    Jenny

     

  17. Jenny says

    Lydia -

    Thank you so much for your warm comments.  It’s my understanding that dessicated liver tablets are an acceptable way to get in this vital and sacred food if you can’t tolerate it on the plate.  If you can; however, eating liver weekly is ideal.  At the recent Wise Traditions conference, Sally Fallon Morrell – in discussing B12 – explained that eating liver once a month is the equivalent of eating red meat every day for a month.  Pretty powerful stuff, you know?

    Take Care -

    Jenny

  18. ega278 says

    Awesome post, I’m glad people are finally starting to take notice of what proper human nutrition is.

    I guess you’ve never heard of Vilhjalmur Stefansson? Google him and and the word “meat”.

    So after enlightening us on the nutritional value of animals, why wouldn’t you recommend eating an all meat diet? The nutrients are there, right?

  19. Jenny says

    Thank you so much for the comment.  Vilhjalmur Stefansson, the Iniut and others – present an excellent case for the consumption of animal foods (even a diet comprised exclusively of animal foods).  Moreover, studies conducted early in the 20th century indicated than study participants thrived on a diet comprised exclusively of meat.  It’s quite fascinating, especially given that meat (nose-to-tail eating, that is) can provide every vitamin, mineral, fat and amino acid humans need for survival.

    While I strongly feel that a diet comprised exclusively of meat is infinitely more nourishing than one comprised exclusively of plant foods; I don’t recommend it for two reasons: practicality and culinary enjoyment.  Practically speaking, such a diet would be quite difficult to maintain (though not impossible, and certainly a devoted adherent could do it).  Personally, I recommend an omnivorous diet not only because it can be nutrient-dense, but also because the flavors, colors and even sounds of various foods bring so much to the table.  Life without a ripe mandarin in winter or a fresh strawberry in spring would lack the inherent value and beauty of variety.  Nourished Kitchen is more than a site about nutrition and wellness; it’s a site about enjoying and celebrating real food.

    Take care and thanks for commenting -

    Jenny

  20. Michelle says

    How would you suggest helping the body be able to absorb these nutrients if there is an absorption issue such as leaky gut?

  21. says

    This is very wonderful. Thank you Jenny. I’d love to see some liver recipes. I bought some yesterday after reading your post and now I have to decide what to fashion out of it.

  22. Rosie says

    I used to feed my dairy goat raw soaked barley for vitamin B12, and I took it myself for a while to try and help the eczema I had, although the stuff tastes pretty ordinary! I have a cold-press juicer now so I may try juicing raw soaked barley in the near future. I would be interested to find out if the vit B12 is actually absorbable from that raw grain source, for humans. As I realise goats are herbivorous ruminants, and we are not. But, the milk of a goat who receives enough B12 will have B12 in their milk which is available to humans. The source for feeding the raw soaked barley to the dairy animal is Pat Coleby’s handbooks on dairy goats, horses, and dairy cattle. Thanks for the great article. Will have to go and find liver recipes now.

    • Bebe says

      Are you perhaps assuming the vitamin B12 was* in* the soaked barley as opposed to containing the raw material which the goats then *converted* into B12? Without doing the research myself that would be my first thought. I would be very interested to see the data!

  23. Giada says

    Wow what a wonderful list! Can’t imagine the time it took to write this post. Thank you :) .

    I do have a request though…is it possible you could add iodine?

  24. says

    This is a great rundown, very thorough but perhaps missing is data on the fact that cooking and I assume you are cooking these meats and livers is that some vitamins are often destroyed in the cooking process. Others are destroyed in water. I have read numerous times that you can lose anywhere from 50% or more of the nutritional content of any given food when you cook it. Eating meat also requires more energy and resources to digest and extract the usable nutrients, so your body has to work twice as hard to get the nutrition in the first place. You are also getting MUCH more calories from meat versus veggies so calorie for calorie meat and liver are not quite the winners they first appear.

  25. Jenny says

    Tiffany -

    Thanks for your comment.  I wish to clarify a few things.  Namely, the animal foods listed in this post (except where noted) are cooked, and even when cooked they are still higher in nutrients on a gram-by-gram basis than the raw and cooked vegetables listed.  While raw liver may be marginally higher in nutrients than pan-fried liver, few people will eat liver in its raw state making the point irrelavent.

    And while cooking does often destroy micronutrients in both plant and animal foods, it also renders other micronutrients more bio-available.  Lycopene in tomatoes, for example, is enhanced by cooking.  Cooking also increases the antioxidant power of carrots.  What cooking does do is damage heat-sensitive food enzymes to a greater degree than the marginal loss of some, not all, vitamins.   That is why, in our home, we consume fermented foods regularly which are teeming with food enzymes and beneficial bacteria. Moreover, cooking renders many plant and animal foods more digestible and improving their energetic value.  Indeed, researchers in the field of evolutionary biology pinpoint the cooking of our foods as of substantial evolutionary significance.

    Regarding meat and digestibility, there is no evidence of which I am aware that indicates the human body must work twice as hard to absorb the nutrients in animal foods rather than plant foods.  If you can direct me to a peer-reviewed study indicating such, I’d really like to see it as I’m working on a post covering the subject.  On the contrary, multiple studies indicate that many nutrients are better absorbed from animal foods: namely EPA and DHA which are difficult to metabolize from plant-based omega-3 fatty acids and of course vitamin A which is difficult to metabolize from beta carotene (though not impossible).

    What’s ultimately important is to eat a well-balanced, nutrient-dense diet based on whole foods and that includes the consumption of both plant and animal foods, cooked and uncooked.

    Thanks so much for your visit and comment!

    - Jenny

  26. says

    I recommend the Live Food Factor (book) it has over 80 studies listed that reflect how cooked food is inferior to raw in terms of nutritional value. It even addresses the fact that cooking can chemically alter the foods we eat making them toxic and even carcinogenic (especially meat). One such study that I recall showed that our immune system will actually attack various cooked foods. I do agree that not all veggies should be eaten raw though. As far as energy consumed digesting meat I know I have read blurbs from various studies but nothing is more significant to me than personal experience. Meat can stay in our bodies for days being digested which will require large amounts of energy. Most meat eaters in the wild eat and then slumber for long hours due to the energy required to digest their meal. Why do we want to sleep after a big turkey dinner?

    I know how lethargic and blah I feel after eating a steak versus eating a green smoothie jam packed with Kale, collard greens, goji berries, hemp seeds, algae powder,(which has DHA), and wheat grass. Blending it all in a high speed bender breaks open the cellulose walls making the nutrients available from the first sip.

    I don’t debate any details of your chart I just think there are other variables to consider that require deeper digging and perhaps don’t put meat out in front of the pack. I tend to allow my body to guide me and I have gone from a meat/dairy based diet, to junk food vegan, to a nourishing traditions type diet, to raw vegan, and then ultimately to macro vegetarian – high raw… got colon cancer somewhere in between the first two diets and finally I found what works for me. :)

  27. redcatbicycliste says

    Tiffany said on 28 December 2009 at 10:47 am: “I know how lethargic and blah I feel after eating a steak versus eating a green smoothie jam packed with Kale, collard greens, goji berries, hemp seeds, algae powder,(which has DHA), and wheat grass. Blending it all in a high speed bender breaks open the cellulose walls making the nutrients available from the first sip.”

    That is really bad advice: To eat kale or collard greens raw. Those foods need to be cooked, and cooked down considerably, otherwise they will wreck your thyroid (slow it down = hypothyroid). Kale, collard greens, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage are goitrogenic foods and need to have their toxins broken down, and the only way to do that is to cook them. The cuisine of the southern United States, for example, the folks eat their collard greens cooked down with a piece of pork (usually a hock) thrown into the pot for flavour.

  28. says

    redcatbicycliste,

    It wasn’t advice. Everything I have read only alludes to the “possibility” and then mentions that this would be applicable in excessive cases (in theory). I haven’t seen any conclusive studies. Peaches and strawberries are also goitrogenic foods and yet we often eat them raw.

  29. Natalia says

    What a wonderful chart, I’m so glad you’ve put this up! This is an excellent blog.

    Tiffany-
    There is no way that blending on high speed will break down cellulose walls. These walls are microscopic. Anyone with a compromised gut will have difficulty digesting raw food because the human body contains no cellulase enzyme to break it down.
    No doubt cooking food will remove some of the nutrients, that is why it is recommended to slow cook everything or cook slowly over low heat, even meat, to keep the proteins subtle. High heat cooking is what is damaging.
    I have been eating 60-80grams of protein mostly from meat sources for over a month and my health has improved, my energy most dramatically.
    Maybe the meat eaters in the wild are slumbering because they’ve spent the past day hunting and cooking their prey! lol

  30. Leah says

    This is wonderful! Thank you for putting this information all together. I realize this is a late comment, but this is so valuable that I had to comment. Also, I had a giant plate of raw oysters last night, so I’m happy to see them appearing on the list a couple of times. Yum!

  31. Julia says

    Hi Jenny,
    I simply LOVED this article and bookmarked your site!!! I am a mother of a 3.5 year old and as it has been my passion and mission to learn all about nutrient dense eating it hasn’t been enough. Certainly if you don’t know where to steer me I understand but I’m hoping you may have read or heard of children who have overcome their nutrient malabsorbtion issues. My daughter is eating a super high nutrient dense diet (everything she eats is nutrient dense) but her toenails are dry and cracked horizontally. Her tummy is also chronically bloated. She’s eating homemade yogurt, liver, eggs, grass-fed meat, fermented veggies, etc. I’m stuck. Any ideas?

    All the best and keep up sharing the good news!!!

    Julia

    • Bebe says

      Sounds like a perfect candidate for the GAPS diet. It is all about healing the gut so that proper digestion can occur and nutrients can be utilized. What a perfect age to turn things around for your precious daughter! http://www.gapsdiet.com/

  32. says

    The mushrooms that contain vitamin D are only those who have just been plucked from the sunlight or just placed under UVA / UVB lights or something like that. You should note that. Very important. Regular mushrooms don’t contain any D, I believe.

    • Jenny says

      I don’t. I honestly cannot stand the stuff. I do mackerel raw, from time to time and oysters but just can’t get into pickled herring.

  33. valerie says

    jen, What quanities does one need to consume to achieve the stated IU amounts in the chart? for instance, how much of say, turkey livers would one have to consume to get to 75,337 IU of Vitamin A? And, what do you mean by liverwurst? Thanks!

  34. Marci says

    I just can’t understand why eating an animals FILTER [liver] would be healthy and beneficial for us? I mean, doesn’t any vitamin or nutrition one might get from eating liver not be worth the fact of eating something that has filtered the animals blood?

  35. Mary says

    Thank you for this. You are challenging my thinking. My question is about liver. If I’m correct liver acts as the filter of the body? If so, I’m stuck on viewing that as healthy. Can you help me here?
    Thanks!

  36. says

    I must express that I was quite surprised that you listed plant sources for vitamin A. Vitamin A is found exclusively in animal foods and your list is perpetuated a myth. Plant foods contain the precursors to vitamin A but, there are many factors that prevent the conversion and I don’t think folks should look for vitamin A in plant foods. From our presentation, created in concert with Sally Fallon Morell, the president of the Weston A. Price Foundation:

    Vitamin A vs. Beta Carotene. Unfortunately, the public has been given a lot of misinformation about vitamin A. If you look on the back of a can of tomatoes, it will say the tomatoes contain a certain amount of vitamin A. There are many books on nutrition that tell you to get lots of vitamin A by eating carrots and green vegetables. However, when we look up vitamin A in the biochemistry textbooks, or in the Merck Manual, we learn that there is no vitamin A in plant foods. It occurs only in animal foods. Plant foods contain the precursors to vitamin A, which are called carotenes.

    Carotenes are converted into the true vitamin A in the intestines of animals, including humans. The carotene with the highest conversion factor, that is, the carotene that is most easily converted, is beta-carotene. Various enzymes and vitamins are needed to split beta-carotene into molecules of true vitamin A. It takes at least 6 molecules of carotene to produce one molecule of vitamin A. So while it is true that humans can convert some of the carotenes in their food into vitamin A, many conditions interfere with this conversion. And babies and children do not make this conversion at all. You can give the baby carrot juice until he turns orange – and he will turn orange – but he will not make this conversion. This is why babies and growing children right up to age 18 need more vitamin A in their diet as a function of body weight than adults do. You can give a baby as much or more cod liver oil on a body-weight basis as an adult. It is fine because they really need that vitamin A.

  37. Jeanne says

    What a great chart! Jenny, you’ve really done your homework on this, and I want to thank you and all the others who have contributed to the intellectual conversation around what you have created. Fascinating read, and very thought-provoking.

    I am still trying to process the multitude of super-nutrients on this chart that simply aren’t on our menu, and probably won’t be there without a great deal of change in our family’s diet. You’ve peaked my curiosity – is my grass-fed, raw milk diet really that poor? Where on the lists above do my favorite nourishing foods fit – do they even make the top 10? I’m pretty sure that steak I had for lunch probably makes the top 10 somewhere, but what about my fermented pickles, or sourdough bread? Soaked oatmeal? The salads I’m trying to eat more of? I agree that variety is nice, and I couldn’t live without it – but maybe I should spend less time on those, and more time learning how to make liver!

    And on that note, here’s hoping you’re about to post 101 ways to cook palatable liver entrees, or how to sneak it into other dishes. I have to admit, I haven’t been able to eat what little I’ve prepared so far…

    Thanks again for all your work Jenny, you continue to challenge my thinking about the healthfulness of what I feed my family, and what we can do to eat more nourishing foods. It’s such a pleasure to read a well-informed, thoughtful exchange of ideas around topics that so few people seem to think about anymore, let alone strive to understand.

  38. says

    Love the article!

    Question, would you happen to know where to get Phosphorous?

    What do you know about Phosphorous?

    I’m trying to improve my tooth health, but its an uphill battle all the way. 4 babies in just under 5 years is really doing a number on my teeth, and I just can’t seem to get the upper hand. (I have only been eating Traditional foods for 1 year, and haven’t been able to do it 100% either.)

    Any info you have would be greatly appreciated. (I have the book Cure Tooth Decay, and have read it.)

    Meg Logan

    • Jeanne says

      Meg, if you’ve struggled with tooth decay for awhile, some dentists offer Carries management. It’s a chemical treatment, but it destroys the bacteria in your mouth that cause cavities. We did this for my husband after a very expensive root canal and a series of cavities (and he has excellent oral hygiene, actually). Since then we’ve also begun drinking raw milk, and I believe that is largely responsible for keeping the bacteria under control since his treatment (which we’d like to avoid in the future). So there are two options for you to consider!

      My son’s tooth health has also improved since transitioning to raw milk (he had a soft spot that has since healed). We do not use fluoridated toothpaste, much to his dentist’s objection, but the raw milk does the trick and he’s had no more issues. Happy days!

      Sorry I don’t know much about phosphorous…

  39. kriss says

    Hi
    I am surprised at how little vit E in animal products, and wonder how important this nutrient/antioxident is in high quantities? My family and I completely avoid these oils.
    Also, I think vit K2 should be on this list..
    Thanks for this list!

  40. says

    Jenny,

    This chart’s a brilliant resource showing that animal foods are more nutrient-dense than plant foods.
    Thanks so much for putting this together!

    Best,
    Colin Murphy
    Co-founder
    Nutrition by Tradition

  41. says

    Loved this information and want to add my congratulations along with everyone else for all the time it took to put it all together. One thing ther is no list for Iodine which is in short supply in our New Zealand soils. Would love to know other sources than kelp to get it from. Thanks

  42. says

    I’d be interested to know how much pesticides, medicament residues and other poisenous stuff you would have to take into account when eating liver, as this is also stored (in process) in the liver, just like the nutrients.

    • Jenny says

      No, actually toxins are not stored in the liver. It is a common assumption that toxins are stored in the liver and it is untrue. (http://www.westonaprice.org/food-features/liver-files) Besides, were are not talking about animals fed on pesticide-laced grasses or medicated animals. The only animal foods we recommend on the site are those which are grass-fed/pasture-raised without supplementary hormones and without antibiotics. So even if the liver did store toxins (which it does not), your point would be moot.

      • says

        Yeah, but as far as i know, the liver processes toxins for storage in other body cells, so there would be something in it, even if it is not stored, right? that’s what i meant by “in process”.
        Anyway, i appreciate very much that you recommend grass-fed/pasture-grown animals (even though personally I don’t feel comfortable eating animals at all).
        And what about Vitamin A? Liver is not recommended for pregnant ladies because you might overdose on Vitamin A when eating liver.

        • Jenny says

          Liver is particularly recommended for pregnant and lactating women because of the vitamin A content. Traditional societies reserved vitamin A rich foods like liver and fish roe for women during preconception, pregnancy and lactation. Teratogenic effects of vitamin A are related to the overuse of synthetic vitamin A, not to a whole foods diet.

          • says

            Ah, I see! Thank you for the information, as the warnings about eating liver during the first weeks of pregnancy are quite common here. Maybe you can provide me with a link to a corresponding study that supports your statement?

  43. Michael Johnson says

    So I have an issue with this. The 100g serving, or the 200kcal serving Nutritiondata.com offers isn’t really very useful. It might be best to say “What has the most X for a serving someone would actually eat”. 100gm of raw spinach =/= a serving. Same with 100gm of seeds. That’s 3.5oz (circa). That’s a lot.

  44. Bebe says

    Wow Jenny, nice work! I bet your husband is happy to have you back. ;) I am pinning and printing this. Thanks a bunch.

    p.s… love, love, love the sage and chicken liver pate!

  45. says

    I am curious to find out what blog platform you happen to be using? I’m experiencing some minor security issues with my latest site and I would like to find something more secure. Do you have any solutions?

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