One of the best ways to heal your liver is through a healthy diet. After all, your liver processes everything you eat – so it just makes sense to eat foods that nourish it!
Caring for your liver is important at every stage in life. This major organ has the big job of filtering, processing and breaking down everything that enters your body. Your liver bears the burden of removing toxins in your bloodstream as well as any chemicals or allergens in the foods you eat.
Fortunately, there are plenty of foods that can not only protect your liver but help to function at its best. Here are the top 7!
Garlic is not only a potent antifungal, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory, it has a huge variety of benefits for a poorly functioning liver.
Research has shown that eating garlic causes the liver to activate specific enzymes that stimulate detoxification, which aids your body’s process of clearing harmful toxins from the body.
Garlic also contains selenium, an important mineral and antioxidant. Selenium plays a major role in activating the liver enzymes that keep your liver functioning optimally.
Garlic may even help to speed recovery from non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), a chronic illness that is becoming more and more prevalent in Western society. Studies have shown that garlic can reduce body weight and body fat mass, which significantly reduces the load on the liver. (1)
Grapefruit, lemons and limes are great for boosting the liver’s cleansing abilities. Citrus has been found to help in the production of important detoxification enzymes, particularly the enzymes aspartate transaminase (AST) and alanine transaminase (alanine aminotransferase or ALT) in the blood.
A Chinese study on mice found that lemon juice was helpful to those with liver impairment. The mice were first given ethanol then treated with lemon juice, which was shown to raise their liver enzymes back to normal. This significantly improved the disease-related changes in their liver.
It was also found that the lemon juice reversed several other harmful effects of the ethanol, such as increased lipid peroxidation and increased liver triglyceride levels.
Researchers have suggested that other citrus fruits – including grapefruit, oranges, lemons and limes – can also help to improve liver function. This is thanks to the wide variety of nutrients such as vitamin C, essential oils, pectin and flavonoids, which are instrumental in assisting with proper detoxification.
Cruciferous veggies such as broccoli and cauliflower are rich in glucosinolate, a compound that helps the liver to produce those valuable detoxifying enzymes. The sulfur in these plants also works a treat for supporting liver health.
Leafy greens such as spinach and kale are packed with chlorophyll, a powerful antioxidant.
Chlorophyll helps to protect liver cells and other body tissues by increasing phase II biotransformation enzymes. These enzymes work to optimize liver functioning and support your body’s natural elimination of harmful toxins.
Several clinical studies on animals have found that chlorophyllin may even reduce the risk for both liver cancer and aflatoxin-induced liver damage. It’s also believed that these enzymes play a part in neutralizing heavy metals that have entered the body.
Turmeric’s liver-supportive powers means that it is often included in liver tonics. As a potent antioxidant, turmeric helps to prevent oxidative damage to the liver and ward off free radicals.
Numerous studies have shown that curcumin (the active ingredient in turmeric) is a lipid-soluble antioxidant, which means it can help to eliminate lipid radicals in the cell membrane of the liver.
In addition, curcumin has anti-inflammatory and antifibrotic properties that protect the liver against damage. It’s been found to help treat and prevent fatty liver, hepatic inflammation, alcoholic hepatitis (necrosis) and progressive alcoholic cirrhosis (fibrosis).
It appears that curcumin can help to reduce both pro-inflammatory cytokines and oxidative stress while also boosting the production of liver antioxidant enzymes and decreasing liver apoptosis (death of liver cells). (2)
Beets are rich in betaine, a compound that encourages the liver to flush out toxins. Betaine also helps defend the body’s bile ducts which are vital for assisting in healthy digestion. Bile is the substance required for the breakdown of food in the stomach and also for keeping the liver functioning properly.
By allowing bile to flow more freely, betaine supports the movement of food through the intestines and therefore assists in digestion.
Beets also help in increasing oxygen efficiency in the blood, which in turn helps the liver cleanse the blood of harmful toxins.
As a good source of vitamin C and fiber, beets can promote the natural cleansing of the digestive system and lighten the burden on the liver.
Blueberries are perhaps the most important fruit for liver health, and they’re so easy to add to your diet too.
They’re packed with powerful plant compounds called phytonutrients which can help prevent urinary tract infections.
They’re also known for their anti-inflammatory properties and high vitamin C content, which helps to keep the capillaries and blood vessels of the liver healthy. Their fiber and potassium support normal liver function too.
But most importantly, blueberries are an excellent source of anthocyanins, the particular type of antioxidants that make them blue. Anthocyanins are potent antioxidants that have been shown to inhibit the growth of cancer cells in the liver.
Salmon, sardines and mackerel are some of your best sources of omega-3 fatty acids: the healthy fats that can reduce inflammation in the body and keep cholesterol levels in balance.
Omega 3 also appears to help normalize liver enzymes, reduce inflammation and improve insulin resistance.
Eating plenty of omega-3-rich foods is important for keeping omega-6 in balance. Many of us exceed our recommended intake of omega-6 fats, which are present in plant oils and tend to promote disease-causing inflammation. Too much omega-6 in the diet is a serious risk factor for the development of liver disease, so it’s a good idea to eat at least 2-3 servings of oily fish per week.
Looking after your liver health is about more than just supplements. A healthy, balanced diet can go a long way toward minimizing the chances of liver disease.
Good examples are blueberries, oily fish, beets, turmeric and leafy greens. A diverse diet full of vegetables and whole foods will help.
If your liver needs a little more support, or if you are struggling to eat a healthy diet, check out our Liver Support supplement. It contains a group of research-backed, botanical ingredients that have been proven to support optimal liver health.