Canned Cod Liver: Foie Gras For The Frugal Man

The World Health Organization states that a healthy diet includes 400 grams of fruits and vegetables per day. They also place strict restrictions on sugar intake, so most of those 400 grams are coming from vegetables rather than sugar-rich fruits.

In American terms that’s 2-3 boxes of salad greens. In volumetric terms that’s more than 6 inches by 8 inches by 5 inches of straight cruciferous vegetables every day for your entire adult life. Equivalent to 1.039 gallons of spinach, kale, chard, green leaf lettuce, and similar.

I am not a doctor but I’m going to go ahead and dubunk the WHO anyway. My stomach cannot fit that much vegetable matter. And even if it could, I cannot survive on 105 calories per day. Like most Americans I need my nutrient-dense foods to be, well, dense. A salad or expensive green-colored shake is not good enough.

Icelandic Canned Cod Liver Taste And Texture

Thus my quest for cost-effective and realistic nutrient-dense food brought me to canned cod liver. It’s packed in little flat tins just like sardines, and has an impressive portfolio of nutrients.

Icelandic Canned Cod Liver on Baguette
Icelandic Canned Cod Liver on Baguette with Kroger Cheddar

I struggle to come up with a description of canned cod liver that sounds as good as it tastes. It really is sort of like foie gras but not as rich and a tiny bit fishy. But not super fishy. Less fishy than tuna fish.

The texture is firm enough to eat whole but smooth and soft enough to spread.

Some people have had bad experiences with cod liver oil or other types of fish oils. I’d like to point out that Icelandic canned cod liver is nothing like old style fermented cod liver oil or Thai fish sauce. It’s mild. I’ve had olive oil that’s stronger than this stuff.

Where To Buy Canned Cod Liver

I have never seen canned cod liver for sale in any store around me. I just buy it on Amazon. You can buy just a few to try it out, or buy in bulk and save.

iCan Icelandic Canned Cod Liver Nutrition

People say that Americans often have surprisingly poor nutrition. I know that I’ve analyzed the labels on countless food products and have been repeatedly disappointed. Icelandic canned cod liver is a major exception.

Canned Cod Liver Nutrition Facts
Canned Cod Liver Nutrition Facts

Here are some micro-nutrients of interest:

  • Vitamin A 450% — Real vitamin A in the form of retinol, not beta carotene!
  • Vitamin D 420% — In its natural form, D3.
  • Not on label: B vitamins, copper, iron, choline, omega 3 essential fatty acids

Essential Fatty Acids: Omega 3 In Canned Cod Liver

Essential fatty acids, or EFAs, come in several different forms. The most important are the omega 3 and omega 6 forms. The human body expects to get omega 3 and omega 6 in approximately equal amounts. But when you eat something like a Red Baron Deep Dish Singles Pizza, you’re getting a load of omega 6 and pretty much zero omega 3.

Cod liver and it’s oil are rich in omega 3 EFAs. A great way to help balance your diet!

Vitamin A In Canned Cod Liver (Don’t Eat It Every Day!)

Vitamin A is essential for eye health, but it doesn’t stop there. Cod liver contains a potent form of vitamin A called retinol. Retinol is especially beneficial for your endocrine system.

Be careful: Retinol is so powerful that it’s possible to overdose on it. With 450% of your recommended daily intake, icelandic canned cod liver is a strong source of vitamin A but shouldn’t be eaten every day.

Retinol is classified as an fat-soluble vitamin. This means that the body can store a lot of it, but cannot quickly git rid of any excess. Too much retinol, especially when taken over a long period of time, causes a dangerous condition called Hypervitaminosis A. For this reason, I try not to eat more than one or two cans of cod liver per week.

Icelandic canned cod liver is low in heavy metals and other pollutants

Oceanic fish are subject to all kinds of dangerous pollutants. Depending on their eating habits, different fish species may accumulate different amounts of toxic chemicals. Fortunately, a 2009 study found that cod liver and cod liver oil is safe to eat.

How to eat canned cod liver

  • Smear it on crackers.
  • Put it on a baguette with some store brand cheddar cheese.
  • Mix some into ground beef (good for picky kids).
  • Some people drink the oil straight. I am not one of those people.
  • Spread some on a cheeseburger. Delicious.
  • Dice it and throw some on top of your scrambled eggs.

16 thoughts on “Canned Cod Liver: Foie Gras For The Frugal Man

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  • December 7, 2021 at 7:45 am
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    Thank you for the advice: I ate a whole can for lunch yesterday, and the day before, and the day before, and I wondered whether I could go on eating one can a day.. Now I know, and I shall eat something else today (mackerel fillets on Wasa crackers, or perhaps scrambled eggs).

    Reply
    • Hi Francoise — glad to hear the article was helpful! Yes it’s important to avoid too much retinol per day, especially over a long period of time. Personally I try not to eat a can of cod liver more than once or twice per week. I’ll update the article to include some more details on this.

      Reply
    • February 13, 2022 at 9:55 am
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      This is so helpful! Thank you

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  • December 20, 2021 at 8:37 pm
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    Thank you for that information. I bought some on Amazon and find it delicious but as it is so rich, I only eat it maybe once a week, just as you suggest. I tossed it in a salad today but with only a small amount of the oil. What to do with the rest?

    Reply
    • I have the exact same problem. I don’t know what to do with the extra cod liver oil! There’s no way I could eat the entire can of liver and also consume the oil in one sitting. My grandfather told me how they used to take a bit of cod liver oil every day to stave off rickets and vitamin A deficiency. Personally I tend to discard the extra oil. I think you could keep it in the refrigerator but I’m not sure how long it would last. You’d want to keep in in a well-sealed glass jar to help keep it fresh.

      Reply
      • January 16, 2022 at 2:33 pm
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        Idea for what to do with the left over oil. This is something I do with the oil from tuna cans. I use it to make salad dressing – usually enough for 1 – 2 servings, which is all I make anyway. It would take a lot of the oil to make a real Caesar dressing, but try making a couple of servings of French. Lots of dressing variations online – I like the one with honey.

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      • January 17, 2022 at 6:39 am
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        Wife and I split a can of cod livers after draining off the oil into a small bottle. Bottle goes into fridge and we take a tablespoon each day before breakfast until oil is finished, usually 2 – 3 days. Wife loves the livers; oil, not so much. I enjoy both.

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      • January 17, 2022 at 1:13 pm
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        I give the oil to my dog , she loves it !

        Reply
  • January 6, 2022 at 4:42 am
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    I have been experimenting with these for some time. Like others, I could not finish one can all at once, so I placed the leftovers in a sealed container in the fridge – when I took it out later in the day or next day, I was concerned to note that the leftovers were already somewhat oxidized – smell and change in color were the give aways. I know how fragile this type of oil is, so I decided to find a way to finish it sooner.

    Now, I place a can of the livers with all the oil in a blender, add some lemon juice and spices, a bit of whipped cream cheese and blend it well. It turns into a dip. I make an entire meal of the dip using crackers and fresh veggies. It leaves me very full of course…. I am still trying to calculate how much omega 3s we are getting per serving (not to mention the other good nutrition in it)

    Reply
  • February 18, 2022 at 12:59 pm
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    i usually eat a can,,,, a week,,,,, some kind of cracker you like,,, small piece of hardtack….. and a dab of horseradish,,, or sliver of onion,,,,, piece of pickled vegetable,,, or just straight out of can with saltines,,, as you prefer,,,,, i will usually just drink the oil also,,,,,, with all the synthetic type of vitamins that flood the market,,, as long as it is sustainable,,, i’m gonna enjoy all i can!………bon apetit

    Reply
  • February 19, 2022 at 11:05 am
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    Thanks for your post about cod livers. I buy the same brand. Any idea of how much EPA and DHA in a can? Thanks.

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  • March 18, 2022 at 5:21 pm
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    I use a lemon-soy sauce dip for my cod liver and eat it with rice. With the dip, there is no fishy taste at all.

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  • April 7, 2022 at 8:50 pm
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    I like to use saurkraut, cutting it in small pieces and top it with the cod liver and oil.
    What a great find the cod liver was.
    As was mentioned above, the synthetic vitamins are suspect.

    Reply
  • April 25, 2022 at 7:57 pm
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    Just started eating this and love it. I split a can with my daughter once a week and simply pair it with freshly cooked quinoa, as it helps absorb all that good oil. So tasty!

    Reply

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