Eating liver will raise your cholesterol levels, at least temporarily, but the important point is this: You don't need that boost. Cholesterol fills such vital roles that your body produces all it needs. While the cholesterol you eat can fill essential jobs if necessary, the amount you'll get from liver may contribute cholesterol your body won't use. The long-term impact of consuming too much cholesterol depends on each person's health and metabolism.
Cholesterol in Liver
Chicken and veal liver contain more cholesterol than beef or pork liver. Chicken liver has the most, with 479 milligrams of cholesterol in a 3-ounce serving, while veal liver contains 434 milligrams. If you normally eat beef liver, you’ll get 337 milligrams from a 3-ounce portion. Pork liver has the smallest amount, yet it’s still high in cholesterol because a 3-ounce serving supplies 302 milligrams.
Recommended Cholesterol Intake
If you’re healthy, the American Heart Association recommends limiting your total daily intake of cholesterol to 300 milligrams or less 4. For people diagnosed with high cholesterol or cardiovascular disease, the recommended daily intake drops to 200 milligrams or less. No matter which type of liver you eat, you’ll consume at least an entire day’s cholesterol if you eat 3 ounces. When you indulge in liver, try to offset its high cholesterol by limiting the amount of cholesterol you get from other foods you eat the same day.
Impact on Blood Levels
For several hours after you eat liver, the levels of fats in your bloodstream remain higher than usual, until the fats are transported into cells or eliminated from your body. For most people, dietary cholesterol has a small impact on long-term levels of cholesterol in the bloodstream, reports the Harvard School of Public Health 1. However, a subgroup of people are more sensitive and their blood levels of cholesterol respond significantly in response to the amount they eat. Hyper-responders and anyone with Type 2 diabetes or a genetic predisposition to high cholesterol should avoid high-cholesterol foods such as liver.
Saturated and Trans Fats
In contrast to its high cholesterol, liver has a moderate amount of total and saturated fat. The total fat in 3 ounces of liver ranges from 3.7 grams in pork liver to 5.5 grams in chicken liver. For comparison, low-fat foods contain 3 grams or less of total fat. Pork liver also has the smallest amount of saturated fat -- 1.2 grams -- while beef liver has the most, with 2.5 grams of saturated fat. Twenty-five to 35 percent of your total daily calories should come from fats, but your saturated fat intake should be limited to 7 percent or less of your calories.
- Harvard School of Public Health: Fats and Cholesterol: Out With the Bad, In With the Good
- Harvard Medical School: Understanding Cholesterol: The Good, the Bad, and the Necessary
- Colorado State University Extension: Understanding the Food Label
- American Heart Association: Know Your Fats
- Advances in Nutrition: Exploring the Factors That Affect Blood Cholesterol and Heart Disease Risk: Is Dietary Cholesterol as Bad for You as History Leads Us to Believe?
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Beef, Variety Meats and By-Products, Liver, Cooked, Braised
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Chicken, Liver, All Classes, Cooked, Simmered
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Veal, Variety Meats and By-Products, Liver, Cooked, Braised
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Pork, Fresh, Variety Meats and By-Products, Liver, Cooked, Braised
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