Not Your Average Breakfast
Eating brains might seem like a giant stride off the beaten path, and it is, but only in the context of the last few decades. Before the fears began over prions and mad cow disease jumping species, brains were seen as delicacies. Roll the timeline back another few thousand years, and they were among the first cuts eaten after a successful hunt. Prized not just for their unique cloudy texture, but also for their status as a nutritional powerhouse. And really, there’s no reason why they can’t continue to be tasty diversions from the usual matchup of steak and eggs.
You just have to get past the fact that brain on the cutting board is going to much like…brain. When meat is nicely sliced up, packed, and frozen, it’s easy to ignore the reality that what you’re about to eat was once an animal. There are no fancy pretences when organ meats are involved.
Back when exploring unmapped landmasses was still a thing, Vilhjalmur Stefansson camped for a few years with roaming Inuit tribes who still practised the ancient hunter-gatherer lifestyle. They lived entirely on fresh meat for many months of the year, and it wasn’t done on lean chicken breast. It was nothing like the ‘meat-based’ diets that people follow today. The fats were plenty, as were the organs.
In particular, the Inuits sought out the liver, tongue, and the brains of fresh kills. Stefansson noticed to his surprise that they looked incredibly healthy for folks lacking their five-a-day quota, or whatever dieticians advised in the 1920s. We have similar accounts made by people who’ve tracked down and lived amongst the other nomadic tribes that have lingered in remote regions of the planet. Organ meats are always on the menu, with the brain taking a prestigious spot.
Why Eat Brains?
If you were to take the theory posed by traditional Chinese medicine, that you eat the organ to treat the matching one that’s nestled away in your body, then the brain might seem like a great way to score a few extra IQ points. While that’s a stretch, with neuroplasticity being pretty hard to force past childhood, there’s no reason the extra Omega 3 won’t get put towards maintaining the optimal function in the brain.
Omega 3 converts to DHA, which is an essential part of the brain’s structure. As in, the body doesn’t have the means to make it without dietary intervention. Animal sources are the standout, as plant Omega 3s just don’t convert very well into the end product. And while people will jump to fatty fish and fish oil capsules to get the job done, those forms come with hitches. Oily fish are susceptible to contain dangerous levels of metals, and the capsules are extremely susceptible to turning rancid.
The thing is, there’s no evidence to suggest we need to be jacking up our Omega 3 to sky-high levels. There is the balance of inflammatory Omega 6 and anti-inflammatory Omega 3s to contend with, but that’s best solved by simply eliminating seed oils from the diet. With the Omega 6 sources dealt with, you can take your pick from grass-fed steak and brain to get your DHA count.
Beyond the Omega 3 hype, brain meat also packs of extra fats to provide your body with clean energy. But there’s more to nutrition than simply checking off macros, and there are also generous helpings of micronutrients that go a long way towards your RDA requirements.
In an 80g serving
B3 – 2.9mg (18%) – Niacin helps turn food into energy, while supporting the function of the nervous system, digestion, and skin.
B5 – 1.0mg (19%) – Pantothenic acid helps make new blood cells, as well as being a vital figure in fat metabolism.
B12 – 8.1μg (336%) – Cobalamin is used in red blood cell formation, cell metabolism, nerve function, and the production of DNA. B12 deficiency happens to be one of the leading issues of the carb-heavy western diet.
C – 8.4mg (9%) – Ascorbic acid protects cells and maintains healthy skin, blood vessels, bones and cartilage.
E – 1.3mg (8%) – Pivotal player in immune function
Copper – 0.2mg (20%) – Helps make red blood cells, supports the immune and nervous system. Also plays a role in collagen production.
Iron – 1.8mg (23%) – Heme iron is by far the most bioavailable form of iron, comprising 95% of the iron in the human body.
Phosphorous – 268.0mg (38%) – Present in every cell, helping both carb and fat metabolism. Also need for cell growth, maintenance, and repair.
Selenium – 17.4μg (31%) – An important antioxidant, making it pivotal for healthy immune function.
All that in a measly portion size. Then there are a few extra chemicals that were once manufactured as brain-boosting supplements, before cow brains got their bad publicity.
Phosphatidylcholine – Treating hepatitis, eczema, gallbladder disease, circulation problems, high cholesterol, and premenstrual syndrome (PMS); for boosting the immune system; and for preventing ageing.
Phosphatidylserine – Alzheimer’s disease, age-related decline in mental function, improving thinking skills in young people, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression, preventing exercise-induced stress, and improving athletic performance.
Why Are People Scared Of Trying Brain?
With that incredibly dense concentration of nutrition, it would look like this is a bullet worth biting. But what’s the catch? That would be the mad cow disease and the fear of prions jumping species to reach humans. Certainly it was enough of a worry to all but erase brains from the British cuisine, and discontinue a host of supplements that were sourced from this tainted product.
However, it does seem to be overblown. The evidence of the risk in eating brains, is incredibly scant. And if the brain of a cow were to be infected with prions, then so would the rest of the meat. I’d recommend doing your own research before diving in, and there’s always lamb brains to turn to if you’re feeling apprehensive.
You might have a hard time actually finding the brains you need for this culinary expedition, and even the local butchers are likely to be out of stock. They are available online however, and by that, I don’t mean the dark web.
It’s perfectly legal to eat brains in the UK – Just as long as they’re from veal and lambs. The sale of cow and sheep brains, these animals being over 12 months old, is banned.
Now For The Actual Show
So how do you go about cooking brain? The soft texture makes it incredibly flexible, and the high-fat content lends the end product a ton of flavour. That’s part of the appeal of a high fat diet, you don’t need an armada of crazy sauces to make your food palatable. The ingredients are already there.
There is the option to simply flash fry the brain after soaking it in saltwater, but I had to jump on the pancake idea. It’s just as easy to make, except it doesn’t look like an autopsy anymore. So if you like food by visuals, then this is the recipe that will get you into the niche of brain-eating.
Make sure you give the brain a soak first, preferably for a couple of hours in salty water. Then peel off the membrane, remove any dark nerves, then you’re free to start the cooking from there.
All you’ll need is a few eggs, a blender, a pan, and a pinch of glycine. Or as I like to call it, carnivore sugar. Glycine deserves an article on its own. It’s incredibly cheap, has a moderately sweet taste, while being exclusively protein, and one that is pivotal in producing collagen.
Going even deeper into the weeds, that glycine can help balance out the excess methionine coming through from muscle meat. It’s effectively an anti-inflammatory supplement that supports tissue repair, while adding some extra flavour to your baking adventures. All without knocking you out of ketosis.
Carnivore Brain Pancakes
- Frying Pan
- 80 g Veal Brain You can also use lamb brains
- 3 large Eggs Find the organic ones if possible
- 8 g Glycine
- Sink the brains in a bowl of brine and leave it to soak for a couple of hours
- Remove the large nerves in the middle of the brain, take out any skull fragments, then blend it alongside the eggs and glycine.
- Divide the mixture into 4 pancakes, frying for a couple of minutes on each side, until the bubbles begin to pop.
It’s a flexible recipe, and you’re more than welcome to add a dash of butter and cream cheese to give it a bit more fluff. In truth, I was just taking a short butter break, and this pancake idea came at the wrong time.
The recipe is an offshoot from my comprehensive introduction to organ meats, which you can check out below. The benefits of nose-to-tail eating are vast, and brains only take up a single slot. If you’re on the quest to become stronger, smarter, and stress-free, then there are a few more organs to tackle yet.
You can check out my full collection of carnivore recipes here.