The liver is one of the hardest working organs you have. It performs a stunning 500 processes in the body, including bile production, fat metabolization, vitamin and mineral storage, and blood filtration. It is also the only organ we have that can regenerate. That’s how liver transplants can successfully take a portion of one liver from a living donor and implant it into a patient with liver disease, saving their life.
Yes, the liver is an absolutely incredible organ that needs to be protected. The most common source of damage to the liver is alcohol use, but excess fat in our diets can also damage it. Luckily, good food choices go a long way toward keeping our livers happy, and there are some foods that are especially good at cleansing it. It’s all tasty stuff, too – nothing you’ll have to force down. Let’s take a look.
Blueberries are one of those superfruits that seem to be good for everything. This is especially true when it comes to your liver. Blueberries contain antioxidants called anthocyanins that along with imparting the distinctive blue color are able to hold back the growth of cancer cells in the liver.
Multiple animal studies have shown further benefits. In rats, regular consumption of blueberry extract boosted immune cell response and the level of antioxidant enzymes, as well as slowed growth of fibroids, lesions, and scar tissue in their livers. It takes just 3-4 weeks of daily blueberry consumption to make a positive and lasting difference.
Grapefruit also contains plenty of powerful antioxidants, in this case, naringenin and naringin. These are excellent at reducing inflammation and protecting cells. Grapefruit may also reduce your risk of hepatic fibrosis, in which chronic inflammation causes extra connective tissue to build up in and around the liver, gradually choking off its ability to function.
If you plan on hoisting a few alcoholic beverages this evening, have some grapefruit before you drink. Naringin is really good at helping the liver metabolize alcohol and can even counteract some of alcohol’s damaging effects. It might not spare you the hangover entirely, but it should shorten the duration.
Avocados are great because they taste decadent while actually being very healthy. The good fat in avocados is necessary for our bodies to store energy. Good fats provide insulation against extreme temperature changes and protect our vital organs. They also serve as messengers by helping proteins to do their jobs.
Eat avocados to get lots of liver-friendly glutathione, vitamin C, vitamin E, and vitamin K. These nutrients serve an antioxidant role that protects liver cells against damage. The vitamins E and K prevent harmful inflammation. Recent studies have also shown that avocado extract may be helpful in the treatment of viral hepatitis and slow the progress of general liver damage.
4. Coffee & Tea
If you ever feel guilty about your coffee habit, you can put that aside right now. Coffee is a low calorie beverage with a host of health benefits. As long as you keep the sugar and cream to a reasonable level, coffee works wonders in the liver. In fact, studies have proven that coffee not only lowers the risk of developing cirrhosis by about 44%, it can also partially turn back the tide in people who already suffer from liver disease. More than that, coffee increases stored antioxidant levels, reduces inflammation, and lowers your lifetime risk of liver cancer.
Coffee has a distinctive flavor that not everyone likes. If this describes you, you’ll be happy to know that tea is also very good for your liver. The green variety is thought to be best, but black tea also has benefits. Both improve liver enzyme levels and reduces the effects of oxidative stress as well as harmful fatty deposits.
5. Leafy Green Veggies
Leafy green vegetables can help take some strain off of your liver by using their high clorophyll content to neutralize metals, chemicals, and pesticides that make their way into your body via food and the environment. Things like arugula, spinach, and chicory are especially good at increasing bile production and eliminating waste products.
While we’re talking about vegetables, beets are excellent for purifying the blood, and cruciferous veggies like Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and cauliflower have a ton of glucosinolate to help the liver produce enzymes that are necessary to remove toxins.
Nuts get a bad reputation because they are relatively high in fat and are often prepared with a lot of salt and sugar. But the natural fat in nuts is primarily the good, unsaturated variety and in their raw form, nuts can justifiably be classed as a superfood due to their high protein and antioxidant content.
And because nuts generally grow within a shell that is cracked and removed before eating, the nut meat is shielded from pesticides. Since the liver is responsible for neutralizing toxins in the blood stream, eating nuts is a good way to protect your liver by minimizing exposure to these environmental poisons.
And finally, studies done on people with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) have shown that daily nut and/or seed consumption improves liver enzyme levels. A nut habit may also reduce your risk of ever developing NAFLD.
Bonus: Turmeric & Garlic
While not exactly standalone foods, turmeric and garlic are two seasonings that do great things for the liver. Turmeric contains curcumin, which is a strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compound. It supports the function of your bile duct, boosting bile flow and thereby cleansing the liver. Curcumin also helps the liver detox metals and prevents alcohol and other toxins from converting into dangerous compounds. However, note that turmeric is not recommended for people with gallstones, gall bladder disease, or diabetes.
Garlic contains selenium as an antioxidant, and the B6 is a potent anti-inflammatory. Garlic also features arginine, an amino acid that relaxes blood vessels. This action can lower blood pressure within the liver. And finally, garlic helps the liver activate enzymes that are used to flush out toxins.
These tasty foods, beverages, and seasonings naturally support the health of your liver among many other bodily processes. Now that you know how hard your liver works, you’ll probably want to thank it with some of its favorite foods. Maybe go the extra mile with a handful of trail mix containing mixed nuts, washed down with a couple of glasses of iced tea flavored with real blueberry juice. Just save some room for a garlicy guacamole. These foods offer a treat for your tongue and your liver!