Michelle Fitzpatrick, author of the blog Happy Paleo Kids, has worked with special needs children and their families for over 13 years to promote development and mental health. She adopted a “Paleo Diet” to lose weight after baby number 3, and quickly saw that the benefits of eating nutrient-rich, plant-and-animal-based foods would benefit her entire family. After applying the Paleo Philosophy to her family, she felt compelled to find a way to bring the science behind the impact of food on child development to the masses. Follow her blog, Happy Paleo Kids, or keep up to date on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
About 95% of the times I mention “offal” (aka organ meat) I get the “wrinkled nose” response. Liver, kidney, heart and other organ meats aren’t my favorite foods, but I make a point of serving them at least once a week. Organ meats are nutritional powerhouses with numerous benefits for kids’ growing brains and bodies. They tend to be less expensive than other cuts, which means you can increase your weekly nutrient profile and decrease your budget at the same time. Bonus!
Here are just a few reasons your child should eat organ meat 1-2 times per week:
1. B vitamins. Organ meat contains an abundance of B vitamins, a family of nutrients that have been shown to play an important role in child behavior and development. A recent Australian study found that adolescents with lower intakes of vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, and folate were more likely to demonstrate aggressive and antisocial behaviors, and those with low B6 and folate intake were more likely to demonstrate symptoms of depression. Deficiencies in B vitamins have been found to contribute to impulsivity, irritability, aggression, hyperactivity, anxiety, fatigue, depression, temper tantrums, and poor concentration.
2. Protein. Protein is an important macronutrient that most kids’ diets are seriously lacking. It is a building block for the entire body and the amino acids that comprise protein play roles in hormone regulation, enzyme reactions, and nutrient transportation. Research has found that children with diets low in protein are more likely to have aggression, hyperactivity, and conduct problems. Chronic protein deficiency also contributes to poor academic performance, poor memory, and cognitive deficiencies in children.  Organ meat is an excellent source of high-quality protein to meet your growing child’s needs.
3. Vitamin D. Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin that plays an important role in the body. It regulates calcium in the blood, promotes bone health, assists in the production of serotonin (an important neurotransmitter), protects against depression, improves muscle tone, contributes to insulin regulation, and more. Children with ADHD, autism, and depression have been found to have lower blood levels of vitamin D than their typically developing peers. Studies on rats have found that developmental deprivation of vitamin D leads to impaired attention and impulsivity.
4. Omega-3 Fatty Acids. Organ meat is the best source of DHA and EPA (the types of omega-3 fatty acids from animals) aside from seafood. DHA is one of the primary cells found in the human brain, so consuming it (obviously) has beneficial impacts on brain function and development. One study demonstrated that children who take a DHA supplement have increased brain activity in areas of the brain necessary to attend to tasks. Children who consume higher levels of DHA demonstrate better short-term memory, increased ability to attend to tasks, better academic skills, and fewer problem behaviors. They have fewer respiratory illnesses (who doesn’t want that), decreased risk for type 1 diabetes, and fewer incidents of eczema and asthma.
5. Vitamin A. Organ meat is the best source retinol (vitamin A derived from animal), without a doubt. (Liver holds the title for the organ meat with the most vitamin A). Vitamin A contributes to hormone production, thyroid function, digestion, vision, bone development, and healthy blood. Carrots and other orange veggies are a great source of carotene (pre-form vitamin A), which has great antioxidant properties. However, the body does not efficiently convert carotene in to retinol, meaning that eating meat is necessary in order to provide the body with sufficient vitamin A.
Other nutrients found in organ meat include: minerals (such as iron, zinc, selenium), coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), vitamin E, purines, vitamin C (and I used to think that only came from plants!), vitamin K, and amino acids. Check out some good organ meat recipes to start with here and make a commitment to serve it one time per week!
… What’s your favorite offal recipe?
 Herbison, C.E., Hickling, S., et al. (2012). Low intake of B-vitamins is associated with poor adolescent mental health and behavior. Preventive Medicine. 55(6).
 Lui, J. & Raine, A. (2006). The effect of childhood malnutrition on externalizing behavior. Current Opinion in Pediatrics. 18(5).
 Kar, B.R.., Rao, S.L., & Chandramouli, B.A. (2008). Cognitive development in children with chronic protein energy malnourishment. Behavioral Brain Function: 4(31).
 Kamal, M. , Bener, A. & Ehlayel, M.L. (2014) Is high prevalence of vitamin D deficiency a correlate of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder? Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: 6(2)
 Turner, et al. (2013). Cognitive performance and response inhibition in developmentally vitamin D deficient rats. Behavioral Brain Research. 242