Have you ever tried chicken gizzards stewed in sour cream, curry chicken gizzards or pickled gizzards? If not, you're missing out on key nutrients that support health and well-being. Also known as the gigerium or ventriculus, the gizzard is a small muscular organ found in the digestive tract of some birds and fish. Like other organ meats, chicken and turkey gizzards are loaded with protein and taste amazing when cooked the right way.
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What Are Gizzards?
Search for "chicken intestine benefits" or "organ meat benefits" online and you'll see the word gizzard mentioned on health and nutrition blogs. This term refers to a tiny muscle that helps birds digest seeds and other foods. It's part of the bird's stomach and helps with food breakdown. All birds, including ducks, lambs, chickens and turkeys, have a gizzard.
Poultry and turkey gizzards are a delicacy in South Africa, Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe and other parts of the world. Along with chicken liver, hearts and kidneys, they're used in a multitude of dishes, from soups and stews to homemade snacks. You can fry, steam, sauté, grill or bake them, put them on skewers or add them to gravy and sauces.
Gizzard Nutritional Value
This may come as a surprise, but gizzards are some of the healthiest and most nutritious organ meats. They're chock-full of protein and low in fat, which makes them ideal for dieters. Their nutritional value, though, depends on how you cook them. A 3.5-ounce serving of chicken gizzards provides:
- 94 calories
- 17.7 grams of protein
- 2.1 grams of fat
- 18 percent of the DV (daily value) of zinc
- 14 percent of the DV of iron
- 36 percent of the DV of selenium
- 15 percent of the DV of phosphorus
- 7 percent of the DV of potassium
- 20 percent of the DV of vitamin B12
- 18 percent of the DV of niacin
Gizzards are also a good source of vitamin C, riboflavin, magnesium, copper and manganese. Plus, they're carb free and have less than 100 calories per serving. The same amount of simmered gizzards boasts 154 calories, 30 grams of protein, 2.7 grams of fat and larger doses of selenium, zinc, iron and calcium. If you cook them with oil or butter, the calories will add up.
Read more: 15 of the Best Lean Animal Proteins
Chicken liver, by comparison, is slighter higher in fat but packs more nutrients. A 3.5-ounce serving (cooked) has 167 calories, 6.5 grams of fat and 24.5 grams of protein. It boasts a whopping 267 percent of the daily recommended amount of vitamin A, almost half of the daily recommended amount of vitamin C and large amounts of selenium, copper and iron. Plus, it provides 281 percent of the daily recommended intake of vitamin B12.
Are Gizzards Really Healthy?
Rich in protein and minerals, gizzards can be a healthy addition to most diets. Selenium, for example, may protect against breast, bladder, lung, prostate and skin cancer, according to a 2016 meta-analysis published in Scientific Reports. This mineral aids in the production of thyroid hormones, protects against oxidative stress and supports reproductive health.
If you're trying to lose weight, look no further. Due to their high protein content, gizzards curb hunger and help you burn more calories throughout the day. In 2016, the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics published the results of five studies showing that high-protein diets increase fullness. This nutrient may also help prevent obesity and reduce visceral fat.
Read more: 15 Foods That Help You Peel Off the Pounds
Gizzards also contain vitamin B12, which plays a key role in brain function and supports the production of red blood cells. As the National Institutes of Health points out, vitamin B12 deficiency is more common in vegans, seniors and people with anemia or gastrointestinal disorders. If left unaddressed, it may lead to memory problems, dementia, depression and fatigue. Organ meats are particularly high in this nutrient.
Get Leaner and Build Mass
Most people associate protein with chicken and turkey breast, lean beef, dairy and eggs. Organ meats are often overlooked. A single serving of cooked gizzards delivers 61 percent of the daily recommended protein intake, making it easier to stay lean. According to a 2018 review featured in the journal Nutrients, athletes can achieve better satiety and reduce muscle loss by increasing their protein intake.
However, you don't have to be an athlete to reap the benefits. Protein is made up of amino acids needed for muscle growth and repair. Leucine, valine, arginine, glycine, alanine and isoleucine are just a few examples. It also helps preserve lean mass while on a diet, which in turn, helps keep your metabolism up.
Read more: 20 Best Muscle Building Foods
In a 2017 study published in Nutrition Express, dieters who doubled their protein intake while in a caloric deficit experienced greater fat loss and muscle growth than those on a moderate protein diet. Both groups engaged in high-intensity training six days per week, but the high-protein group got better results.
Boost Your Energy Naturally
If you're feeling tired and worn out, iron deficiency might be the culprit. This mineral supports cellular health, boosts immune function and helps deliver oxygen to your muscles. A diet low in iron may lead to anemia, which causes weakness and fatigue, brittle nails, headaches, arrhythmia, poor mental focus, chest pain and irregular heartbeat, among other symptoms.
One serving of gizzards provides 18 percent of the daily recommended iron intake, making it easier to get this mineral in your diet. It also boasts large doses of zinc, magnesium, B-complex vitamins and other nutrients that keep your body functioning optimally. Low vitamin B12 levels, for example, may cause anemia and fatigue. Consider eating organ meats more often to prevent nutrient deficiencies and restore your energy.
Are There Any Risks?
Few studies have been conducted on gizzards in particular. As Medical News Today notes, some organ meats are high in saturated fat. If your cholesterol levels are above normal, enjoy these foods in moderation. Gizzards, though, have less than one gram of saturated fat per serving, so they're unlikely to affect blood cholesterol levels or cardiovascular health.
Read more: How to Raise Good Cholesterol Numbers
If you think you're eating too much chicken, including gizzards, consider switching to organic brands. Farmers often use antibiotics to prevent disease in chickens. A diet rich in poultry may promote the development of drug-resistant bacteria, which claim more than 700,000 lives worldwide each year, according to The Guardian. The only way to mitigate these risks is to go organic.
- Encyclopaedia Britannica: Gizzard
- SELFNutritionData: Raw Chicken Gizzard
- SELFNutritionData: Cooked/Simmered Gizzard
- Nature.com: Selenium Exposure and Cancer Risk: An Updated Meta-Analysis and Meta-Regression
- NIH: Selenium
- Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: The Effects of Increased Protein Intake on Fullness
- Nutrition & Metabolism: Long-Term High-Protein Diet Intake Reverts Weight Gain and Attenuates Metabolic Dysfunction on High-Sucrose-Fed Adult Rats
- NIH: Vitamin B12
- MDPI: Recent Perspectives Regarding the Role of Dietary Protein for the Promotion of Muscle Hypertrophy With Resistance Exercise Training
- Medical News Today: Protein
- Nutrition Express: Doubling Protein Intake Increases Muscle Gains During Caloric Restriction and Reduces Body Fat
- Mayo Clinic: Iron Deficiency Anemia
- University Health News: Vitamin B12 Deficiency Symptoms Can Range Far Beyond Fatigue
- Medical News Today: Are Organ Meats Good for You?
- Arthritis.org: Gout Diet: Dos and Don’ts
- The Guardian: Read This and You May Never Eat Chicken Again
- SELFNutritionData: Cooked Chicken Liver