Pork liver might be the last food you're interested in eating, but its nutrition might change your mind. Pork liver has very large amounts of protein, vitamin A, B-complex vitamins, copper, iron and selenium. These are all nutrients that are essential for your health.
Like most other animal livers, pork liver is highly nutritious. Even small servings can be beneficial to your health.
Pork Liver Nutrition Facts
According to an article published in spring 2018 in Gastronomica: The Journal of Critical Food Studies, offal isn't commonly consumed in the United States. However, fine dining has begun to make offal, also known as organ meat, popular again. Foods like sweetbreads, paté and foie gras are all made using offal.
Pork liver is less popular than many other animal livers. However, pig's liver can be used in the same way as other commonly consumed livers, like chicken or beef. Pork liver can be pan-fried, braised, integrated into sausages and cooked in many other ways.
According to the USDA, 3.5 ounces (100 grams) of pork liver contains 165 calories, 4.4 grams of fat, 3.76 grams of carbohydrates and 26 grams of protein. Out of this fat content, very little is saturated: just 1.4 grams. In fact, pork offal contains healthy, polyunsaturated fatty acids. According to a June 2014 article in the Korean Journal for Food Science of Animal Resources, the pig's liver is the organ richest in these healthy fats.
Pork liver also contains a variety of essential nutrients. The USDA states that every 100 grams of cooked pork liver has:
- 660 percent of the daily value (DV) for vitamin A
- 20 percent of the DV for vitamin B1 (thiamin)
- 170 percent of the DV for vitamin B2 (riboflavin)
- 52 percent of the DV for vitamin B3 (niacin)
- 94 percent of the DV for vitamin B5
- 31 percent of the DV for vitamin B6
- 41 percent of the DV for vitamin B9 (folic acid)
- 774 percent of the DV for vitamin B12
- 25 percent of the DV for vitamin C
- 81 percent of the DV for copper
- 99 percent of the DV for iron
- 11 percent of the DV for manganese
- 20 percent of the DV for phosphorus
- 124 percent of the DV for selenium
- 62 percent of the DV for zinc
Like many other animal products, pork liver also contains cholesterol. There are 355 milligrams of cholesterol in every 100 grams of liver.
While it might surprise you, pork liver is much more nutritious than your average piece of pork. The USDA's MyFoodData reports that same-sized serving (100 grams) of pork loin has less of most of these nutrients, with the exception of vitamin B1 (thiamin), vitamin D and magnesium. There's even less fat (including saturated fat) in pork liver compared to pork loin.
Pig Liver Versus Other Livers
According to a USDA comparison of different livers, pig liver is unique compared to other animal livers. For example, compared to chicken liver, the USDA reveals that it has more than twice the calories and protein, as well as more carbs and fat. Pork liver also has more of almost every micronutrient compared to chicken liver.
Pork liver's nutrition has fewer calories and fat, but roughly the same amount of protein compared to beef liver. However, it's actually more similar to lamb liver in terms of its cholesterol content and macronutrients. Both lamb liver and pork liver have roughly the same amount of calories, fat and protein. Pork liver is slightly lower in carbohydrates and has less saturated fat than lamb liver, though.
Pork liver's nutrition in terms of micronutrients is reasonably equivalent, compared to lamb and beef liver. Pork liver has substantially more iron, zinc and vitamin C than both of these livers. However, it has less of most other micronutrients.
While this would not typically be considered to be a good thing, consumption of excessive amounts of certain micronutrients can be harmful to your health. For instance, the USDA reports that there is 1,621 percent of the DV for copper in 100 grams of lamb liver, but just 81 percent of the DV in pork liver. Similarly, there's 353 percent of the DV for vitamin B2 (riboflavin) in beef liver, but just 170 percent in pork liver.
Read more: 15 of the Best Lean Animal Proteins
Dangers of Consuming Pork Liver
While 100 grams (3.5 ounces) might be an average serving for many other meats, this is likely too much pork liver to consume regularly. This is because of the amount of vitamin A and vitamin B12, which are both around seven times the daily value for100 grams.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), there are no major health risks from excessive consumption of vitamin B12. However, this is not the case for vitamin A. The NIH states that too much vitamin A can cause serious side effects. The maximum amount of vitamin A you should consume in a day is 3,000 RAE (retinol activity equivalents) or 10,000 IU.
Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin stored in the liver. According to Oregon State University's Linus Pauling Institute, it's unusual for people to consume too much vitamin A. However, it has happened — notably when people have consumed animal livers rich in this nutrient or when around 10 times more than the recommended amount is consumed for a long period of time.
Excessive consumption of vitamin A can cause a variety of side effects, including:
- Liver damage
- Increased intracranial pressure
- Pain in your joints
- Pain in your bones
When you consume too much vitamin A, it can take a substantial amount of time for the levels in your liver to drop. The NIH reports that excessive vitamin A can be very serious as the liver damage caused by it may be irreversible. Too much vitamin A can even result in death.
Pork liver has 660 percent of the DV for vitamin A in every 100-gram (3.5 ounce) serving, calculated using USDA data. In comparison, lamb and beef liver are even richer in this nutrient, with around 860 percent of the DV.
While a single 100-gram serving of any of these livers is unlikely to be harmful, you might be better off consuming smaller servings if this is a food you eat regularly or consume multiple times a day. If you're keen on eating liver often, you may want to stick with chicken liver, which has less vitamin A (477 percent of the DV per 100 grams).
Is This an Emergency?
- Oregon State University: Linus Pauling Institute: "Vitamin A"
- National Institutes of Health: "Vitamin A Fact Sheet for Health Professionals"
- National Institutes of Health: "Vitamin B12 Fact Sheet for Health Professionals"
- MyFoodData: "Nutrition Comparison of Pork Loin, Chicken Liver All Classes Cooked Pan-Fried, Lamb Liver (Cooked), and Pan Fried Beef Liver"
- Korean Journal for Food Science of Animal Resources: "Characterization of Edible Pork By-Products by Means of Yield and Nutritional Composition"
- Gastronomica: The Journal of Critical Food Studies: "The Offal Truth"
- USDA: "Full Report (All Nutrients): 10111, Pork, Fresh, Variety Meats and By-Products, Liver, Cooked, Braised"