The Best Foods to Promote Liver Health
Often described as the body’s ‘factory’, your liver is one powerhouse of an organ. Beyond being the only tissue capable of regenerating large areas of itself, it also plays a central role in producing cholesterol, bile, and proteins, and storing minerals, vitamins, and carbohydrates. It’s famous for breaking down medications and alcohol, too. All things considered, a healthy liver lays much of the groundwork for your overall wellbeing. And that’s why the importance of optimising your diet can’t be overstated. If you truly want to support your liver, it’s time to add the following foods to your nutritional arsenal.
Chock-full of antioxidants and nitrates, beetroot has earned its stripes as a potent weapon for heart health, blood pressure, cognition, and inflammation. But when it comes to liver health, this resplendently red root also serves as a natural blood cleanser, purging your body of toxins and heavy metals. You see, beetroot is rich in glutathiones – a compound found in the phytonutrients betalains – which shines in detoxifying the liver. As far as reaping the liver-loving benefits go, the best way to get your beetroot fix is in a raw purple juice. Store bought or freshly juiced, beetroot juice will serve up a mighty hit of liver loving goodness. If you’re not big on guzzling straight-up beet juice, why not add ginger, apple or carrot to the mix?
Celebrated for its distinctly sweet yet sharply zesty taste, grapefruit is teeming with nourishment for your liver. The powerful antioxidants, naringin and naringenin, are responsible for giving grapefruit its far-reaching health credentials. In one study published by the European Journal of Nutrition, researchers discovered that naringenin may support liver health thanks to it activating the chemical needed for fatty acid oxidationi. Though more empirical data is needed to corroborate these findings, it certainly sounds promising for this tasty beauty. Perhaps it’s time to give this under-appreciated citrus fruit a little more space in your culinary creations? Think beyond the serrated grapefruit spoon; add a couple of hearty slices to salads, cakes, and beverages, too.
Java lovers rejoice: it turns out your morning cup of joe is one of the best beverages for liver health. The benefits of this energy-enhancing drink appear to stem from its capacity to prevent the build-up of collagen and fat – two primary factors in poor liver healthii. Coffee is also thought to decrease inflammation and reinforce levels of the antioxidant, glutathione, which works to neutralise destructive free radicals in the bodyiii. Though your liver, in particular, will appreciate that hot cup of java, it won’t thank you for copious amounts of cream, sugar, and syrups. Be sure to leave these condiments out of your morning brew.
Every avid tea fan will be familiar with that unmistakable ‘nice cup of tea feeling’. Besides giving you a warm hug in a mug, evidence suggests that green tea may offer myriad benefits for the liver, too. In one large Japanese study, scientists found that participants who drank 5-10 cups of green tea each day saw significant improvements in the blood markers of liver healthiv. Researchers found that drinking green tea over a 12-week period enhanced liver enzyme levels and reduced fat deposits in the liverv. If you want to jumpstart your liver health, aim to drink three to five cups of green tea each day. Liver aside, your skin, waistline, and noggin will also benefit from sipping on this herbal wonder.
Pungent and aromatic, garlic packs a punch to any dish. In addition to being a store cupboard staple, garlic is lauded for its liver-enhancing credentials. You see, this humble bulb contains a number of important compounds that jumpstarts your liver health: selenium, allicin, and arginine. While selenium delivers a ton of detoxifying properties, allicin serves as a natural anti-bacterial and antioxidant agent. Added to this nourishing mix is arginine – an amino acid that works to relax your blood vessels. Together, these powerful nutrients are a dream team for your liver, helping to reduce the build-up of fat and toxicity. But before you start frying this fragrant bulb, know this: heat deactivates the active compounds in garlic. So, if you want to tap into its host of health benefits, best eat it raw. And yes, it’s worth the bad breath.
This golden spice is really having its moment of late, and for good reason. Celebrated for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, this powerhouse has shown great promise in supporting countless aspects of wellbeing. And research now suggests turmeric has a place in liver health, too. It’s the active ingredient in turmeric, curcumin, that deserves all the praise. The scientific community has proposed curcumin may improve liver function by increasing its detoxification abilityvi. Cramming more turmeric into your diet is one thing but knowing what to partner it with is another. To get the most from this beautifully golden spice, why not read our guide on how to incorporate it into your diet easily. Munching on neat turmeric won’t unlock its liver-loving credentials (plus it will likely taste foul!). Turmeric is fat-soluble, so to access into its therapeutic magic, you should consume it with fat-containing foods (think oily fish, avocados and nuts). This should be fairly easy if you use it during meal times. Time to invest in this oh-so-nourishing spice, don’t you agree?
A canvas for berries, seeds, and nut butter, porridge truly is the breakfast of champs. This hearty bowl of oaty goodness is probably best known for its brilliant fibre content, which aids with digestive health and energy levels. But how can a humble serving of porridge support live health? Well, oats are perfectly equipped to fight unhealthy LDL cholesterol in the body, proving especially helpful for your liver. By reducing the amount of cholesterol that accumulates in the liver, your morning bowl of porridge can slow down the absorption of cholesterol into the blood. Impressive, right? We think this is just another reason to prioritise breakfast (it is the most important meal of the day, after all). Skipping breakfast can lead to lagging energy levels, poor concentration and low blood sugar, so why not understand what foods can fuel your day.
The nutritional significance of oily fish has won wide acceptance by the wellness community. Beyond nourishing your heart, cognition, eyes, and much more, oily fish also excels in liver health. A growing raft of evidence suggests the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish can benefit the liver in a number of ways: they prevent fat from building up, fight inflammation, improve insulin resistance, and keep enzyme levels healthyvii. To get your dose of liver goodness, aim for two to three portions of oily fish every week. Herring, salmon, sardines, pilchards, trout, and mackerel are delicious additions to your liver health arsenal.
Cho. K., Kim. Y., Andrade. J., Burgess. J. & Kim. Y. (2010). Dietary naringenin increases hepatic peroxisome proliferators–activated receptor α protein expression and decreases plasma triglyceride and adiposity in rats. European Journal of Nutrition. ;50(2), 81-88.
Morisco. F., Lembo. V., Mazzone. G., Camera. S. & Caporaso. N. (2014). Coffee and Liver Health. Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology. ;48, S87-S908.
Morisco. Coffee and Liver Health. S87-S908.
Imai. K. & Nakachi. K. (1995). Cross sectional study of effects of drinking green tea on cardiovascular and liver diseasesh. BMJ. ;310(6981), 693-6968.
Sakata. R., Nakamura. T., Torimura. T., Ueno. T. & Sata. M. (2013). Green tea with high-density catechins improves liver function and fat infiltration in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) patients: A double-blind placebo-controlled study. International Journal of Molecular Medicine. ;32(5), 989-994.
Farzaei. M.H., Zobeiri. M., Parvizi. F., El-Senduny. F.F., Marmouzi. I., Coy-Barrera. E. & Abdollahi. M. (2018). Curcumin in Liver Diseases: A Systematic Review of the Cellular Mechanisms of Oxidative Stress and Clinical Perspective. Nutrients. ;10(7), 85.
Gupta. V. (2015). Oily fish, coffee and walnuts: Dietary treatment for nonalcoholic fatty liver diseasee. World Journal of Gastroenterology. ;21(37), 10621.
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Keri Filtness has worked in the Nutrition Industry for 19 years. She is regularly called upon for her professional comments on health and nutrition related news. Her opinions have been featured by BBC3, Prima, Vitality, The Mirror, Woman’s Own and Cycling Weekly, amongst others. She has also worked one to one with journalists, analysing their diets and health concerns and recommending changes and additions, where appropriate.