The liver is arguably one of the most important organs in our body. It performs an array of functions ranging from bile production to the metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. One of its most important functions is detoxification-breaking down toxic substances and eliminating them from the body. We put a lot of wear and tear on our liver, so it’s important to give this organ a little TLC by providing it with foods that work together for optimal health. Here we have compiled a list of some of my favorite foods that may aid in liver function.
Coffee is said to be one of the best beverages you can drink to promote liver health. It contains beneficial compounds called antioxidants that may protect your liver from disease and help it repair the damage.
Drinking one or more cups of caffeinated coffee per day may reduce your risk of developing hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), the most common type of liver cancer. Daily consumption of coffee was associated with a lower risk of this type of cancer in one study. Researchers believe that caffeine may be the protective factor (3).
Several epidemiological studies have linked regular consumption of coffee to a lower risk for chronic liver disease and cirrhosis, both in alcoholic and nonalcoholic patients (3).
Studies also suggest that coffee consumption may help reduce the accumulation of fat in the liver, which is a common problem among people with diabetes and obesity (3).
Drinking coffee daily for 6 weeks has been shown to improve blood sugar regulation in people who are at high risk for type 2 diabetes, reducing their need to take medication (3).
Customarily associated with liver cleansing and health, tea made from the leaves of Camellia sinensis contains polyphenols that may help protect your liver from inflammation and disease (16).
A meta-analysis of observational studies from around the world found that green tea intake was associated with a lower risk of liver disease in general (16)
One Japanese study found that drinking 10 cups of green tea per day was associated with improved blood markers of liver health (16).
Another study found that people with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease who drank green tea for 12 weeks experienced a significant reduction in body weight, LDL cholesterol levels, and liver enzymes compared to those who drank a placebo beverage (16).
Finally, green tea is a rich source of catechins, compounds that have been shown to protect against cancer and cardiovascular disease (16).
Read More: Dark Tea Facts, Health Benefits And Side Effects
Foods For Liver Detox: Wheatgrass
This juice is a great way to give your liver a boost!
Wheatgrass is an incredibly healthy plant loaded with vitamins and minerals. In fact, it’s one of the most nutritionally dense foods on the planet. It is packed with antioxidants and phytonutrients, which together might help protect your liver from free radical damage (6).
One study in rats found that wheatgrass may have a protective effect on the liver against damage from alcohol and other sources (6).
Grapefruit contains two main antioxidants: naringenin and naringin. Both of these antioxidants along with other nutrients in grapefruit might help protect your liver from disease and damage (17).
Grapefruit has also been shown to be effective against chronic hepatitis. Researchers believe that this is due to its phytonutrients potential to lower inflammation by inhibiting the production of several factors involved in inflammatory reactions (17).
One small pilot study in patients with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) found that an artichoke leaf extract had beneficial effects on the liver and on blood parameters of liver function (8).
Artichokes are an excellent source of antioxidants and fiber , both of which might help reduce inflammation and protect your liver from injury.
Foods For Liver Detox: Watercress
This leafy green vegetable is a rich source of antioxidants, vitamin C, beta-carotene, calcium, phosphorus and iron all of which fight oxidative stress on the cells and keep the cells healthy.
Watercress is also a source of glucosinolates, organic substances that have been shown to have anticancer properties. One study in rats demonstrated potent anti-inflammatory activity of watercress extract (13).
Blueberries And Cranberries
Blueberries are an amazing food for your liver. This tasty fruit is low in calories but high in fiber, vitamin C, manganese and other antioxidants that help protect the cells of your body from damage (14).
Cranberries and other berries contain similar antioxidant properties to blueberries (14).
Grapes are loaded with antioxidants, polyphenols and other phytonutrients that may help protect liver cells from damage (9).
Grapes contain a compound – called resveratrol – that can stimulate the production of detoxifying enzymes in your body, making them an excellent choice to help prevent liver disease. One small study found that grape seed extract may have helped improve liver function in patients with NAFLD (9).
Foods For Liver Detox: Prickly Pear
Prickly pear cactus is another great food that can help support liver detoxification. It contains several phytonutrients that can activate liver enzymes, clear toxins and reduce inflammation (1).
One of the main plant compounds in prickly pear is called betalain which has been shown to protect liver cells against oxidative damage, stimulate regeneration of liver tissue and increase antioxidant levels in the body (1).
Beetroot juice is an excellent source of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds which can protect against oxidative damage and may reduce inflammation in the liver (19).
Most studies done on the liver-protecting properties of liver juice are on mice. More human studies are needed to confirm its benefits, but it still might not hurt to include this juice in your diet.
Try mixing the juice with some lemon and ginger for added flavor. You can also try incorporating beetroot into your salads or simply eat them raw for the added fiber.
These vegetables contain high levels of antioxidants, vitamin C and fiber which are known for helping protect your liver from damage (4). Cruciferous vegetables include brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale and collard greens.
The sulfur compounds found in these vegetables are also known for reducing cancer risk (4).
If you’re looking for a natural source of high-quality amino acids, vitamins and minerals , then look no further than animal liver. It’s one of the most nutrient -dense foods on the planet containing high concentrations of many of the nutrients your body needs.
Liver is a good source of protein and contains high levels of vitamin A, folate, copper, selenium and iron – all critical nutrients that can help liver function at its best (19).
Animal liver is also a good source of coenzyme Q10, a powerful antioxidant that fights oxidative stress on cells, which can damage the liver over time (18).
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Nuts are packed with vitamin E, magnesium, and high amounts of healthy fats that can help promote liver health.
Nuts are also a rich source of fiber that can help you stay feeling full and satisfied after meals . Fiber is known for regulating blood sugar levels, preventing insulin resistance, lowering cholesterol levels and reducing inflammation in various parts of the body including the liver (11).
While it’s best to eat nuts raw, you can also enjoy them roasted or sauteed. Try adding them into salads or try this tasty snack that combines almonds with chopped vegetables like cucumbers, carrots and bell peppers.
Olive oil is made from pressing olives and contains high levels of antioxidants called polyphenols.
These polyphenols can help inhibit oxidative stress on cells, which can potentially damage the liver over time (21).
Foods For Liver Detox: Dark Leafy Greens
Just one cup of kale contains more than 50% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin K, which is required for the production of blood clotting factors, which happens in the liver (5).
Read More: Benefits Of Turnip Greens: Reasons You Should Be Eating These Healthy Vegetables
What Else Can You Do To Boost Liver Function?
Other than eating nutritious foods, you can boost your liver function by:
Toxins can be stored in your liver and continued exposure to them can lead to severe damage. This means that you should avoid drugs, tobacco and alcohol in order to keep your liver healthy.
Ditch Sugary Foods
Excess sugar is known for causing inflammation in the body, including your liver. The excess energy from sugar is also stored in the liver as fat. This can lead to a disease called non-alcoholic fatty liver disease which can impair your liver’s ability to function properly (20).
Regular exercise may help reduce muscle damage and scarring in your liver that occurs with various types of hepatitis. It can also help reduce blood sugar levels, inflammation, insulin resistance and your cholesterol levels (10).
Drink Plenty Of Water
Your liver needs plenty of fluids in order to function properly. This means that it’s important for you to drink at least eight glasses of water each day. If you’re not a fan of drinking plain water, you can also choose unsweetened drinks such as herbal teas and green tea.
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Getting a good night’s sleep can help keep your liver healthy by recharging its energy levels. If you’re not getting enough sleep, it could lead to fatigue which can slow down your metabolic rate and impair liver function (7).
When trying to get a good night’s rest, avoid caffeinated drinks such as coffee or tea as well as alcohol and other drugs that have been known to interfere with sleep.
When our bodies are stressed, it can trigger a response in order to help us fight or flight. This means that your body will release stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline which can lead to chronic inflammation.
Studies have shown that liver damage can result from prolonged levels of stress in the body (15).
When you’re feeling stressed, try to engage in relaxation techniques like yoga or meditation in order to keep your mind and body calm. Taking time each day for activities that help reduce stress can also be helpful when it comes to improving liver function.
The Bottom Line
The liver plays a critical role in maintaining good health by removing toxins from the body . Eating foods rich in nutrients that can protect or improve liver function will go a long way toward improving your overall health.
When it comes to supporting the liver, there are many things you can do to help it along including eating nutritious foods, avoiding toxic chemicals in your environment and drinking plenty of water to help flush out toxins.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Antioxidant and Anticlastogenic Capacity of Prickly Pear Juice (2013, nih.gov)
- Antioxidant content and activity of the seaweed Saccharina latissima: a seasonal perspective (2018, springer.com)
- Coffee Consumption and Risk of Liver Cancer: A Meta Analysis (2007, gastrojournal.com)
- Cruciferous Vegetables and Cancer Prevention (2012, cancer.gov)
- Dark Green Leafy Vegetables (2016, usda.gov)
- Effect of wheatgrass on membrane fatty acid composition during hepatotoxicity induced by alcohol and heated PUFA (2014, pubmed.gov)
- Effects of sleep deprivation on performance: a meta-analysis (1996, pubmed.gov)
- Efficacy of artichoke leaf extract in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease: A pilot double-blind randomized controlled trial (2018, pubmed.gov)
- Grape seed extract to improve liver function in patients with nonalcoholic fatty liver damage (2010, pubmed.gov)
- Health Benefits of Exercise (2018, nih.gov)
- Health Benefits of Nut Consumption (2010, nih.gov)
- Heavy metals linked with autoimmune liver disease (2019, mdedge.com)
- In vivo anti-inflammatory properties of aerial parts of Nasturtium officinale (2014, pubmed.gov)
- Potential Health Benefits of Berries (2005, researchgate.net)
- Psychosocial stress and liver disease status (2009, nih.gov)
- The effect of green tea intake on risk of liver disease: a meta analysis (2015, nih.gov)
- The effects of daily consumption of grapefruit on body weight, lipids, and blood pressure in healthy, overweight adults (2012, metabolismjournal.com)
- The many health benefits of consuming organ meats (2014, naturalnews.com)
- The Potential Benefits of Red Beetroot Supplementation in Health Disease (2015, nih.gov)
- The sweet danger of sugar (2022, harvard.edu)
- Virgin Olive Oil and Health: Summary of the III International Conference on Virgin Olive Oil and Health Consensus, JAEN (Spain) 2018 (2019,nih.gov)