Spaghetti Squash Bolognese with Beef Liver

This is a great dish for those who have transitioned into a grain-free/gluten-free diet but miss those oh-so-satisfying spaghetti dinners.  Well fret no more you disciples of discipline, to every problem there is a solution, and in this case a very simple one!

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What you will need:

  • 1 spaghetti squash
  • 1 medium yellow onion (julienned)
  • 6 strips of bacon
  • 1 lb. of grass-fed ground beef (preferably organic)
  • 4 oz. of grass-fed beef liver
  • 1-1 ½ cup of cherry tomatoes (halved)
  • 6 basil leaves (chiffonade)

As always, before getting started with your preparation, here is an overview of the micronutrients this meal is abundant in, and let me forewarn, it is packed!  You could refer to this meal as a multivitamin because it’s so nutrient-dense, and most of these can be attributed to the beef liver.  Beef liver is one of the most nutrient dense foods in existence, arguably the most nutrient dense, which makes sense because what does the liver do?  It synthesizes, stores and distributes nutrients.  Once upon a time when humans consumed meat, they would consume the whole animal, including organ meats like brain (high in the popular omega-3 known as DHA), intestines, heart and liver.  Bones also used to get utilized to make nutrient-dense and flavorful soup stocks.  I’m not saying you have to go to your nearest Asian market and go crazy on monkey brain purchases, but if you’re aiming for nutrient-density, I highly recommend 4 oz. of beef liver be incorporated in your diet once every week or two!  Because liver is so high in certain nutrients such as the fat soluble vitamin A, I would advise not to consume liver daily or even more than once a week, because vitamin A and copper (both abundant in liver) do have achievable levels of toxicity.

Here are just some of the nutrients that this meal is highest in:

Vitamin B12:  The synthesis of DNA and RNA as well as the regeneration of the amino acid methionine from homocysteine (pro-inflammatory) is dependent on vitamin B12 (and folate).  B12 alone also maintains the sheath that surrounds and protects nerve fibers and promotes their normal growth.  Bone cell activity and metabolism also depend on vitamin B12.

It is important to have adequate stomach acid to fully absorb B12 from foods.  The cells in the stomach that produce stomach acid (known as parietal cells) are also responsible for secreting a substance known as intrinsic factor.  Without intrinsic factor, B12 will not be absorbed in the small intestine.  Because the parietal cells and stomach acid are so crucial for B12 absorption, it may be worth asking your doctor to test your B12 levels if you are on an acid-blocking medication otherwise known as a ‘proton-pump inhibitor’ (PPI).  This study on Prilosec showed that subjects treated with 20 mg per day for two weeks lowered their B12 absorption by 72% and those who took 40 mg per day for two weeks reduced their absorption by 88%.  (1) An article that was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) recently showed that 3,120 patients that were diagnosed with B12 deficiency were on a PPI for two or more years, and 1,087 patients diagnosed with B12 deficiency were on an H2RA for two or more years.  (2)

Vitamin Ahelps maintain the integrity of mucous membranes (including gut lining), is important for protein synthesis, cell differentiation, vision, supports reproduction and growth as well as aids in skin health.  Vitamin A also protects from vitamin D toxicity.

A study published in 1941 examined the synergy between vitamins A and D together as treatments for the common cold versus individually.  The researchers found that vitamins A and D together were effective at preventing colds, but either individually had no effect.  They also found that toxicity was common when either was given individually: four of seven vitamin A-only recipients experienced toxicity, as well as two of seven vitamin D-only recipients.  Interesting enough, none of the forty persons receiving both the vitamin A and vitamin D together experienced any toxicity.  (3)

Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)Plays an important role in ATP production (energy metabolism) as well as converting homocysteine (pro-inflammatory) to methionine.

There also appears to be accumulating evidence regarding riboflavin’s efficacy in treating migraines.  (4) , (5)

CopperCopper is involved in hemoglobin synthesis, and also works with zinc to defend against free radicals, helps manufacture collagen, inactivates histamine and degrades serotonin.  There is some evidence suggesting that copper may be involved in the prevention of heart disease as well:

In a trial where copper was reduced from 1.38 milligrams per day to 1 milligram per day, four of the twenty-three participants experienced heart trouble-including one heart attack.  (6)

This is fairly disturbing considering that according to the National Human Exposure Assessment Survey in Maryland, the median American copper intake is only about 0.759 milligrams per day. (7) If 1 milligram per day correlated with increase instances in heart issues, perhaps it would be wise to consume more foods rich in this trace mineral.

IronEnzymes involved in making amino acids, collagen, hormones, neurotransmitters, and ATP (our body’s main source of energy) all require iron.  Iron helps accept, carry and release oxygen.

Some dietary factors bind with nonheme iron (the iron found in plant foods), and inhibit iron absorption.  These include phytates found in legumes and grains, the vegetable proteins in soybeans, nuts, the calcium in milk and dairy products as well as the polyphenols (such as tannins) found in tea and coffee.  The most absorbable form of iron is through heme iron sources such as clams, beef or lamb liver, or ground beef.  According to the National Institutes of Health, vegetarians need to consume 1.8 times more iron to make up for the low bioavailability of iron from plant foods.  (8)  Good vegetarian/vegan sources of iron include parsley, mushrooms, dried fruit and blackstrap molasses.

ZincZinc supports the work of numerous proteins in the body, including metalloenzymes which are involved in a variety of metabolic processes, including regulating gene expression.  Zinc also strengthens cell membranes to defend against free radicals, assists in immune function, growth and development, wound healing, thyroid hormone production, regulation of insulin, sperm production, taste perception and more!

Symptoms of zinc deficiency include delayed sexual maturation, skin rashes, hair loss, diarrhea, behavioral disturbances, dwarfism, night blindness, depression and cognitive issues, and more.  Mild zinc deficiencies can also impair immune function.  (9)

Dietary factors can affect the absorption of zinc, such as foods high in phytates.  These include grains, legumes and some nuts and seeds.  These phytates bind to zinc and limits its ability to absorb properly (10), so as far as bioavailability is concerned, the foods highest in zinc are oysters, crab, beef, pumpkin seeds and fermented dairy products.

Selenium:  Selenium is used by the body as a crucial antioxidant and is a pre-cursor to glutathione (which is crucial for detoxification).  It is also a cofactor (used by enzymes) that converts thyroid hormone into its activated form.  In fact, many people experience improved thyroid function upon supplementation of selenium.  In French women, the size of the thyroid is inversely proportional to selenium intake.  (11)

One of the richest food sources of selenium is Brazil nuts. brazil-nut-638972__180 In this randomized, placebo-controlled trial published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, consuming just 2 Brazil nuts per day was as effective at increasing selenium status and glutathione activity as supplementing 100 ug of selenium per day!  (12) 

Phosphorus:  Phosphorus is found in bones, teeth and cells and acts as a buffer system.  Phosphorus also assists in energy metabolism; many enzymes and B-vitamins only become active when a phosphate group is attached.  The high-energy compound ATP uses three phosphate groups to carry out its function.  Remember: ATP is adenosine triphosphate.  Tri referring to three phosphate groups.

CystineCystine is an amino acid that can bind with other amino acids to make glutathione (our master antioxidant and detoxification molecule). It protects against copper toxicity, and can assist in the supply of insulin in the pancreas which is needed for utilization of blood sugar.

PhenylalanineThis is an essential amino acid (meaning we must obtain it from dietary sources because our bodies do not make it).  It is important for making dopamine (after first being converted into tyrosine), epinephrine (aka adrenaline), norepinephrine and thyroid hormones.  It can also help with pain relief.

TryptophanTryptophan is an important precursor to the amino acid, 5-HTP which can cross the blood brain barrier with ease and convert to serotonin, which can help improve mood, social behavior, sleep, memory, and sexual desire.  Tryptophan can also increase our melatonin levels, which is why it is also becoming more popular as a sleep aid.

 

Wait…where am I??  Oh yeah…this was supposed to be a recipe.  *Whoops.* Well I’m sure by now you’ve worked up quite an appetite after reading through that lengthy introduction, so let’s get to cooking stuff!

 

Instructions:

  • Preheat oven to 375F
  • Slice the spaghetti squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds and the inner stringy ‘goopy’ stuff (lol) and then sprinkle with some sea salt and black pepper if you wish.
  • Place both halves face down on a baking sheet and roast for 35-45 minutes or until the flesh of the squash becomes softer and just slightly ‘browned’.
  • Take out of the oven and set aside to cool down.
  • While the squash is cooling, take your six strips of bacon and place them on your skillet and start to cook at medium heat.
  • As the bacon starts to cook, take your 4 oz. beef liver and throw it in a blender or food processor with about ½ cup of water and a little bit of squeezed lemon juice (the lemon juice helps eliminate the strong tartness of the liver oddly enough). Blend until it is a puree.
  • Once the bacon is cooked (slightly crispy) add your chopped onion to the skillet. Stir the contents until the onions are sautéed in the bacon grease.
  • Add the liver puree and ground beef to the skillet. The liver will mix with the ground beef quite nicely, and the savory bacon taste will completely eliminate any hint of liver at all!
  • Once the meat is about fully cooked, add the tomato halves and the sliced fresh basil. Bring to low heat and continue to periodically stir the contents.
  • By this point your spaghetti squash should be cooled. This is the fun part! Take a fork to the inside of the spaghetti squash and apply a scraping motion over a bowl. What you will see is little spaghetti-like “noodles” fall into the bowl. Continue scooping your “noodles” from each squash into the bowl (feel free to add a few tablespoons of ghee or coconut oil as well). Now mix in the contents from your skillet on top and “voila!” You have your whole-food, spaghetti alternative! No cans of tomato sauce, no boxed spaghetti noodles, no MSG, no artificial anything. Just real food and real flavor (and surprisingly lots of it, considering there are minimal spices in this recipe). I like to throw my serving onto a bed of greens to incorporate some more nutrient-density J

Try it out and see what you think!  This recipe is one of my personal favorites, plus I have left-overs for lunch the following day as well, which is always a plus.  Feel free to add a diced celery stalk and a finely chopped garlic clove for extra flavor!

Spaghetti squash is fun, simple and satiating.  Do you have any spaghetti squash recipes that you adore?  Share them in the comments below!

Until next time, be well friends.

To your health and wellness,

Derek

References:

(1) www.annals.org/mobile/article.aspx?articleid=707082

(2)  www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/24327038/

(3)  www.archotol.jamanetwork.com/Mobile/article.aspx?articleid=568658

(4)  www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/15257686/

(5)  www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/9484373/

(6)  www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/4025196/

(7)  www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/11481413/

(8)  www.ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Iron-HealthProfessional/

(9)  www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=10026&page=442

(10)  www.m.ajcn.nutrition.org/content/87/5/1336.full

(11)  www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/12611611/

(12)  www.m.ajcn.nutrition.org/content/87/2/379.full

2 thoughts on “Spaghetti Squash Bolognese with Beef Liver

  1. This looks delicious! I have been making a similar recipe, without the liver. Your recipe has inspired me to start eating liver. And all the info was great to read. Thanks, Derek!

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