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Beef intestines, also known as tripe, are not common in mainstream American cooking, but they are a dietary staple in other cultures, including Latin America and China. Often served braised, stewed or in a soup, tripe is an inexpensive source of protein. A serving of beef intestines can help you meet the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s recommended daily intake for protein, which for adults is between 5 and 6 1/2 ounces.
A Good Source of Low-Fat Protein
A 4-ounce serving of tripe contains 96 calories, 14 grams of protein, and a little over 4 grams of total fat, only 1.5 grams of which are saturated. The daily recommended limit of saturated fat is 30 grams for a man and 20 grams for a woman. The same size serving of tripe also has 138 milligrams of cholesterol, which is between 46 and 69 percent of the daily limit for cholesterol recommended by the American Heart Association.
Rich in Vitamin B-12
A 4-ounce serving of beef intestines has 1.57 milligrams of vitamin B-12. This is almost 65 percent of the recommended dietary allowance, or RDA, for adults, a little over 60 percent of the RDA for pregnant women, and 56 percent of the RDA for women who are breast-feeding. Vitamin B-12 helps keep your skin, hair, eyes and liver healthy, and it also supports your immune system. In addition, vitamin B-12 helps your body deal better with stress, and it assists with producing DNA and preventing anemia.
A Good Source of Phosphorus
You can find phosphorus in every cell in your body, although the majority of it is in your bones and teeth because this mineral is essential to the production of healthy bones and teeth. Phosphorus also helps your body break down fats and carbohydrates, and it assists in producing protein and repairing cells and tissues. The recommended dietary intake, or RDI, of phosphorus is 700 milligrams for adults, including women who are pregnant or breast-feeding. A 4-ounce serving of tripe has 72 milligrams of phosphorus, providing a little over 10 percent of the RDI for this mineral.
A Good Source of Zinc
A trace mineral in your body, zinc is almost as important to maintaining health and bodily functions as iron is. Zinc is required for a healthy immune system, and it is vital for cell division and growth. In addition, your body uses zinc to heal wounds and process carbohydrates into usable energy. You also need it to help you smell and taste. A 4-ounce serving of beef intestines contains 1.6 milligrams of zinc. The RDA for zinc is 11 milligrams per day for men and 8 milligrams for women. A single serving of tripe provides 15 percent of the RDA for men and 20 percent of the RDA for women.
Nutrition in Calves’ Livers
As a rich source of protein, vitamins and minerals, meat is an important component of a healthy diet. Organ meats can make an interesting change of pace in your menu plan, and calf’s liver is one of the most flavorful and nutrient-packed choices in this group, rich in protein and many important vitamins and minerals.
Protein and Fat
Calf’s liver, also called veal liver, comes from a young animal and is therefore more tender and potentially more flavorful than beef liver. A moderately high-calorie food, calf’s liver provides about 120 calories per 3-ounce serving and is also quite high in protein, with 17 grams per serving. Calf’s liver is a complete protein source, containing all the essential amino acids your body needs. It also contains 17 grams total fat per 3 ounces, with about 7 grams saturated fat, 1.5 grams cholesterol and the remainder as mono- and poly-unsaturated fats. Finally, calf’s liver provides a small amount of carbohydrate — about 2.5 grams per 3-ounce serving.
Calf’s liver is an especially good source of vitamin A, with almost 10,000 micrograms in a 3-ounce serving. In addition, the vitamin A in calf’s liver is called preformed vitamin A because it is in the form of retinol, which is immediately available for your body to use once it is absorbed from your intestinal tract. The recommended dietary allowance, or RDA, for vitamin A is 700 and 900 micrograms for women and men, respectively, so consuming a single serving of calf’s liver fulfills this requirement. Your eyes need vitamin A as part of a pigment in light-sensitive cells in your retina. It also supports general growth of your cells and is important for normal function of your heart, lungs, kidneys and other organs.
Calf’s liver also provides several other vitamins. It contains six of the eight B vitamins; a 3 ounce-serving provides over 2 milligrams of thiamin, almost 9 milligrams of niacin, 100 micrograms of folate, 50 micrograms of vitamin B-12 and small amounts of vitamin B-6 and riboflavin. These vitamins play important roles in helping you derive energy from the foods you consume and are also vital for production of new red blood cells. Folate is especially important for development of new cells in growing children and during pregnancy for fetal growth. A serving of calf’s liver also contains small amounts of vitamins E and K — 0.3 milligrams and 0.8 micrograms, respectively.
Dietary minerals are important for many basic biochemical processes in your cells, and calf’s liver provides several of the most essential, including iron. The RDA for iron is 8 milligrams for men and 18 milligrams for women, and a 3-ounce serving of calf’s liver provides over 5 milligrams. Iron is part of hemoglobin in your red blood cells and essential for transport of oxygen to your tissues. A similar-sized serving of calf’s liver also provides about 10 milligrams of zinc, the approximate equivalent of its RDA for an adult. Zinc is needed for many enzyme reactions in your body and is also crucial for wound healing, immune function and manufacture of DNA. Calf’s liver also provides about 300 milligrams of phosphorus and 260 milligrams of potassium per serving.
Oysters contain the most zinc out of any food, but many other foods, including whole grains, nuts, beans, seafood, dairy products, fortified cereals and lean meats also provide zinc. Women need at least 8 milligrams per day of this essential mineral, while men need 11 milligrams each day. Not getting enough zinc could cause symptoms including diarrhea, hair loss, impaired immune function and loss of appetite. Zinc plays a number of important roles in the body.
Zinc plays a role in immune function, helping to regulate the natural killer cells, T lymphocytes, interleukin-2 and CD4 cells that are responsible for keeping your body free from infection. It also may be able to kill some viruses. Taking zinc daily for at least 5 months may make you less likely to get a cold, and starting zinc supplementation right away when you do get a cold may help shorten the duration of the cold and make the symptoms less severe, according to MedlinePlus.
Cell Division, DNA Formation and Repair
You need zinc for forming DNA, which is part of most cells, making zinc important in cell division, cell formation and growth. Zinc also acts as an antioxidant to help prevent damage to cells from free radicals and helps repair damaged DNA cells, potentially lowering your risk for cancer, according to an article published in “The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry” in October 2004.