2013 will be the year of the liver.
That's David Grotto's prediction, anyways.
The Chicago dietitian stumbled upon the detoxifying organ while researching his forthcoming The Best Things You Can Eat: For Everything From Aches to Zzzz, the Definitive Guide to the Nutrition-Packed Foods That Energize, Heal, and Help You Look Great (out January 8).
"Beans, spinach, salmon and kefir always pop up on the 'Best of' food lists, but the more I researched, the more I saw liver coming up over and over," he says. It's got B-vitamins for energy, vitamin A for immune functioning and vision, "and there's no better iron-rich food." That's good news for his clients -- more and more of whom are showing up exhausted by iron-deficiency anemia. The organ meat is so packed-to-the-hilt with the energy-producer that some* say it stands poised to replace Red Bull as the nightclub pick-me-up of choice.
Put off by this organ meat's gamey taste? "The liver gurus I've talked to recommend soaking it overnight in milk to break down some of the fibrous and protein tissues and take away that 'off' flavor," Grotto suggests. "Maybe dredge it in cornmeal or flour and lightly pan-fry it, then pair it with grilled onions." (Just don't go crazy, because liver is high in cholesterol.)
Ok, let's be honest: No one is going to start eating liver, unless you're 80+ and have been consuming it since you were a young boy living in early 19th-century Eastern Europe.
Fortunately, you can still nab iron from spinach, edamame (soybeans), white beans, lentils and kidney beans. Or, as a last resort, swallow a multivitamin with up to 18mg of iron in it.
I asked Grotto: What are some other, more mainstream must-eat foods that should be on everyone's shiny new grocery list for 2013? Here are his top picks:
The musical fruit soaks up cholesterol, keeps blood sugar levels stable, promotes heart health and "helps the train leave the station." (i.e., promotes regularity.) Insoluble fiber also produces a short-chain fatty acid that may help fight off colon cancer, a leading cancer killer. Your 2013 goal: a half-cup. "I am convinced that if everyone ate a half-cup of beans everyday, we'd have less obesity, heart disease, diabetes and cancer," Grotto says. Prevent gassiness by rinsing canned beans to eliminate the indigestible carbs that leak into the fluid. Then, try Grotto's slow-and-steady introduction technique: Add one tablespoon of beans to your favorite dish (omelets, salads, pasta, rice) every day for a week; the next week, up it to two spoons, eventually making your way to a half-cup -- or eight tablespoons -- a day. "Or just get a bunch of friends together to eat them because then, who cares if you're gassy?"
"A lot of people think the reason we get sleepy after a big Thanksgiving Day meal is because of the tryptophan," Grotto says, "but it's more about food and calorie overload." Then, as many of us recently experienced late last month after T-Day dinner, gorging late at night wrecks your sleep, as a bursting stomach reduces restful REM sleep. A smarter option for those looking to nab some peaceful zzzs? Chicken has more melatonin -- a hormone that helps set your body clock -- per ounce than turkey, making it the sleepier white meat. (Other melatonin-rich foods include dried cherries, fish, lettuce, milk, pumpkin seeds and walnuts.) Grotto advises combining any of these with carbs, which produce the feel-food chemical serotonin that helps make you feel drowsy. If you're fresh out of chicken, try a bowl of cereal with skim milk topped with dried cherries and walnuts an hour before bedtime.
New research shows that your morning cuppa may help boost memory. (The caffeine is thought to be at play, which means green tea and espresso may also help you remember where you put your keys.) Decaf coffee may also help manage diabetes, lower your risk of depression and ward off skin cancer. Hold on to your receipt for your $7 Starbucks Costa Rica Finca Palmilera and submit it to your health insurance company for possible reimbursement.
Pop these juicy morsels for little bursts of memory- and cognition-enhancing power. Just like wine, grape skins contain heart-healthy polyphenols like resveratrol which may help reduce inflammation, which is tied to arthritis, heart disease, memory loss, obesity and more. You can enjoy your nightly glass of wine or just steal some of your kid's Welch's.
*In this case, "some" refers to the NLLA, the National Liver Lovers Association.
Follow Dave on Twitter: @DavidGrotto
 Grotto, Dave. The Best Things You Can Eat: For Everything from Aches to Zzzz, the Definitive Guide to the Nutrition-Packed Foods That Energize, Heal, and Help You Look Great. Cambridge, Mass.: Da Capo Lifelong Books. 2013. [Link]
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