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Top Health Benefits of Eating Tripe

Written by Dr. Joseph Mercola Fact Checked

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Story at-a-glance -

  • Tripe, one of the most common organ meats from cows, ducks, pigs or goats, requires a slow cooking method for optimal tenderness, but some caution that the chewy texture is an acquired taste
  • When it comes from a cow, tripe is usually from one of the first three of the cow’s four stomachs, each one producing four very different types of tripe
  • Protein, selenium, zinc, phosphorus, iron and several B vitamins make tripe a very nutritious food, with benefits ranging from optimal thyroid function to DNA production, and hemoglobin production to the formation of many enzymes
  • Tripe may be a viable option for a trimmer profile, as it lowers insulin levels, causes the body to burn stored fat for energy and may ultimately help you slim down
  • Beef tripe provides choline, which produces compounds essential for tissue function, while lipids containing choline aid in cell communication and play an important role in healthy brain function

When farm animals are used for meats, people often think of flank steaks, rib roasts, T-bones or sirloin. But when the stomach lining is removed to cook dinner, the product is called tripe. It’s comparable to other organ meats such as liver, heart and kidneys, which also offer valuable nutrients.

It’s true that most tripe, which is actually a muscle meat, is derived from cows, but it can also come from sheep, lambs, goats, ducks, chickens or pigs, which is sometimes called “paunch,” which explains another term: offal, not to be confused with the word used synonymously with waste or excrement.

Eaten all over the world, tripe is one of the most common organ meats and requires a slow cooking method for optimal tenderness, but, as The Daily Meal observes, “even then, the chewy texture is an acquired taste.”1 When it comes from a cow, it’s usually from one of the first three of the cow’s four stomachs, each one serving a different function and four “very different” types of tripe:

“Chamber one is called the rumen, and its tripe is called blanket or flat tripe. Chamber two is called the reticulum, and its tripe, honeycomb tripe, is the most common. Chamber three is the omasum, and its tripe is called book tripe; chamber four, the abomasum, gives us the least-commonly used tripe: reed tripe.”2

Famous dishes from around the world feature tripe, such as andouille, a coarsely-ground smoked pork sausage popular in Louisiana’s Cajun population. In France, it’s a gray-colored dish made with tripe and pig intestines. Traditional cuisine in Florence, Italy, includes a slowly-braised Florentine dipping sandwich known as a lampredotto, aka tripe sandwich.

There are several versions of an authentic and somewhat labor-intensive Mexican dish called menudo, aka spicy tripe soup. One features pig’s feet or hominy or both, according to The Spruce Eats.3 A red-colored version is made using dried chilies. It’s also served with tostadas or tortillas to make bolillos.

Menudo soup has the distinction of being served following late-night celebrations such as weddings or holidays as a “cure” for a hangover. According to Pittsburgh’s Post-Gazette, Turkey’s version of menudo is known as iskembe corbasi, made with garlic, lemon and spices.4

Similar soups made from tripe around the world are called chakna in India, dobrada in Portugal, paklay in the Philippines and flaczki in Poland. What all these cultures and countries have in common is that tripe, for many, is a deliciously savory and often nostalgic comfort food.

The Unique Nutrition Profile of Tripe

A 3-ounce serving of tripe contains over 10 micrograms of selenium (15 percent of the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI)), which your cells rely on (along with zinc) for optimal thyroid function, enzyme activity and DNA production. The National Institutes of Health (NIH)5 identifies selenium as an antioxidant that protects against disease-causing free radicals. Livestrong also notes:

“Zinc is a mineral that’s also important for healthy skin, healing of wounds and growth. It's found all over your body — in bones, teeth, hair, skin, liver, muscle and white blood cells …

Another trace mineral in tripe is iron … needed by your body for the production of hemoglobin, the component of red blood cells that carries oxygen to your body’s tissues. Iron is also a vital component in muscle cells and necessary for the formation of many enzymes in your body.”6

Phosphorus is another essential mineral in tripe that works with zinc to nourish your cell membranes. More specifically, phosphorus helps make up phospholipids or fats in these cell membranes. Meanwhile, zinc is part of the makeup of the proteins in your cell membranes. Both zinc and phosphorus support healthy cell communication and have singular jobs as well: Phosphorus nourishes your bones and teeth, while zinc supports immune function.7

You’ll also find several B vitamins in tripe, such as niacin, folate and B12 (aka cobalamin), significant in converting homocysteine to methionine, largely responsible for producing new proteins in your body. The American Journal of Preventive Medicine8 notes that too much homocysteine in your bloodstream could increase your risk for developing cardiovascular disease.

Inadequate B12 intake could cause pernicious anemia, which can cause numbness or tingling in your hands and feet, a smooth and tender tongue, weight loss and weakness.

As a source of choline, beef tripe provides 220 milligrams (mg) in a 4-ounce serving, which is 52 percent of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) for women and 40 percent for men. Choline produces compounds essential for tissue function; in fact, lipids containing choline comprise your cell membranes while aiding in cell communication,9 while acetylcholine made from choline stimulates healthy brain function.

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Tripe for Weight Loss?

There may even be benefits of eating tripe for people looking to lose weight. With its modicum of carbohydrates, it provides a viable option for your weight-loss plan, as “a low-carb diet lowers insulin levels, which causes the body to burn stored fat for energy and ultimately leads to weight loss,” according to the Mayo Clinic.10 Three ounces of tripe contain 80 calories and just 1.7 grams of carbs.

The Public Health Collaboration11 conducted a randomized, controlled clinical trial during which low-carb diets were compared with low-fat diets, and participants on the low-carb diets lost significantly more weight. In addition, the choline content in tripe helps your body metabolize fats, preventing an accumulation of fat in your liver.

Tripe is an economical source of protein, delivering 10 grams — more than 20 percent of the DRI — in each 3-ounce serving. Tripe also has far less fat compared with the same amount of beef steak, which has 14.5 grams instead of the 3.4 grams from tripe, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.12 Livestrong also notes:

“Protein is a filling nutrient because it slows down the emptying of food from your stomach after you eat, so that you may feel less hungry for the next meal. This may help explain why some high-protein diets appear more effective for weight loss than low-protein diets.”13

Further, a large European study published in the New England Journal of Medicine14 notes that even a modest increase in lean protein combined with a modest reduction in your glycemic index was found to be a healthy way to help with weight loss and maintain a healthy weight.

Healthy Ways to Prepare Tripe

How could tripe be included in a healthy meal plan? Like nearly any other food, tripe can be healthy or harmful depending entirely on how it’s prepared and what it’s served with. Instead of frying it, try healthier preparations such as pressure cooking or poaching. Many people boil it, especially in soups, to make a filling meal that vegetables and herbs can be added to. Pickling it in vinegar is another popular way of preparing tripe.

The best tripe “cuts” are described as dense with a chewy texture, but not as rubbery as stewed calamari. The flavor is mild, and one reason it’s a popular addition to so many dishes is that the meat and the broth that accompanies it absorb the essence of the vegetables, spices and herbs it’s cooked with.

If you’re used to preparing tripe using the boiling method, which requires cooking slowly for long periods, or if you have no idea what to do with it, one way to slow-cook beef tripe is in a pressure cooker. In the featured video, professional chef Cristian Feher explains that of the four stomachs in beef, honeycomb tripe is considered “choice” or premium.

One thing to keep in mind is that once you cook tripe, it shrinks by around 50 to 60 percent. Feher adds 4 cups of water to 3 or 4 pounds of tripe, fresh ground black pepper and a generous amount of sea salt or Himalayan salt. “It tastes absolutely amazing,” Feher says. He adds that you should drain the tripe, as the water it’s cooked in will contain the impurities.

“From here, you can go in all sorts of directions,” he says, recommending a recipe known as mondongo, a Dominican-style tripe stew made with beef tripe, onion, garlic, peppers, carrots, potatoes, tomato sauce and cilantro, per the instructions on Smart Little Cookie.15 Here’s another tasty possibility inspired by The Spruce Eats.16

Caribbean Beef Tripe Soup

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup yellow split peas (soaked overnight)
  • 2 teaspoons grass fed butter or ghee
  • 1 cup diced onions
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme (divided)
  • 2 pounds grass fed cow tripe, cut into pieces
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 6 cups water (plus more to create soup)
  • 1 pound pumpkin or calabaza squash, cut into large chunks
  • 2 pounds green plantains, peeled and cut into 1-inch rounds
  • 6 to 8 okra

Instructions

  1. To prepare, soak 1/2 cup of yellow split peas overnight.
  2. Rinse the tripe well. Heat the oil in a pressure cooker or stock pot, add the onions and sauté until they're translucent (two to three minutes). Add 3 sprigs of thyme and sauté for 1 minute.
  3. Add the tripe, salt and pepper and sauté for four minutes, then add 6 cups water and stir.
  4. Cover the pressure cooker and cook for 45 to 50 minutes. (Time begins from the first whistle.) If using a stockpot, cover it and cook for two to three hours.
  5. Release pressure cooker valve to let out steam and open the pressure cooker. Add the pumpkin, plantains and the remaining thyme, and cook until the plantains are almost melting, with the lid open.
  6. Add the okra, cover and cook for six to eight minutes.
  7. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary. Stir and serve.

Like most other dishes, tripe soup can be tweaked with favorite ingredients to make the finished product your own, whether it’s spicy or more of a broth than a stew. As The Spruce Eats notes, “Some cooks add carrots, green olives or raisins, while others prefer garlic.”17

One more thing: Use organic, grass fed meat whenever possible, and that includes tripe. Remember that it’s not the whole stomach you’re eating when you serve tripe, but just the lining of the stomach.