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How Can Good Nutrition Help You Love Your Liver Naturally?

You may not think about your liver a lot but it works around the clock doing amazing things for you. It's time to learn how to show it some love!

How Can Good Nutrition Help You Love Your Liver Naturally?

From fighting infections, removing toxins, controlling cholesterol, regulating blood sugar, and supporting digestion and elimination, your liver is involved in daily functions that keep you alive and well so you can see why you would want to show your liver some love!

When you give your liver what it needs on a regular basis, it generally doesn’t require harsh detoxing or fancy juicing programs.

Unfortunately, most of us don't consume nearly enough vegetables, fruits, beans, or whole grains and instead choose foods–and habits–that can contribute to problems for this essential organ and then feel compelled to address liver health sporadically, aggressively, and expensively.

It’s ok to show your liver extra love when you’re recovering from an illness, when you’re feeling sluggish–maybe even constipated, or even after drinking alcohol. And giving your liver a rest from food through gentle fasting or juicing can be a good thing, but loving your liver through daily good nutrition is still one of the best ways to provide proactive support every day.

How can good nutrition help you love your liver naturally?

Eating a well-balanced, low-fat, high-fiber, plant-based diet is the first place to start. A plant-based diet rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes ensures that not only does your liver have what it needs, but that it doesn’t have to work any harder than it needs to.

For example, let’s think about how diet and cholesterol affect your liver. Your body produces cholesterol for essential functions–and it makes what it needs. Eating foods that add more cholesterol to your system through meat, chicken, seafood/fish, dairy, and eggs, means your liver has to work harder to support healthy cholesterol levels.

How Can Good Nutrition Help You Love Your Liver Naturally?

Plant-based foods are friends with benefits! They have no cholesterol and are the only foods that contain fiber, which your body needs and your liver loves. When you make room on your plate for more plant-based, fiber-rich foods, it benefits the liver by preventing the need to process extra cholesterol in the body and helping to flush waste. Another good reason for keeping plants front and center is that these high-fiber foods tend to be lower in fat which can minimize inflammation and fight disease in general.

What should you cut back on?

The flip side of what to include in your diet and lifestyle is what to avoid or reduce. Smoking, alcohol consumption, and a diet high in processed foods or fat (even “healthy” fat), salt, and sugar can lead to more serious problems for your liver. One way to cut back on foods that aren’t serving you well is to crowd them out. What does that mean? Plan your meals around plant-based foods first–more veggies, more grains, more beans, and more fruit! You’ll have less room for those processed foods or foods that come with cholesterol. Maintaining a healthy weight, getting regular exercise, and drinking lots of water are also good habits for a healthy liver.

What foods does your liver love?

So now we know that an overall eating pattern of whole, plant-based foods supports a healthy liver, but here are some foods that may be particularly helpful:

How Can Good Nutrition Help You Love Your Liver Naturally?

Apples: Studies have shown that fruits high in fiber, like apples, can help detoxify the liver. Apples also have pectin and malic acid that support the removal of toxins and carcinogens. And of course, we love apples because they, like other fruits and veggies, have anti-inflammatory properties that help protect us. Make sure you wash your apples well then leave the skin on–that's where most of the fiber is!

Beans are part of a healthy diet and are a trusted source of fiber and protein. Animal sources of protein add extra cholesterol to your body, which doesn’t support liver health, and provide no fiber. Beans are versatile and there are lots of ways to incorporate them into your diet. Use them to make meatless meatballs and meatloaf, soups, stews, and salads. Want to learn how to turn them into brownies, cookies, and even vegan Alfredo sauce? Just ask me!

Beets are high in antioxidants and help to cleanse the blood. They also promote healthy liver function by helping to break down toxins. Beets can activate liver enzymes and increase bile production which helps with elimination.

Berries: Dark berries — including blueberries, raspberries, and cranberries — contain powerful antioxidants that may help protect the liver from damage. Blueberries may help to manage age-related liver disease and dysfunction. Add berries to cereal, oatmeal, salads, and smoothies. In season, buy fresh cranberries and freeze them to use in your smoothies.

Broccoli, a cruciferous vegetable, like cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, and mustard greens, is good for your liver. Cruciferous vegetables are a source of fiber, which we know supports liver health, and the antioxidants and phytochemicals (plant chemicals) they have may help prevent liver cancer.

How Can Good Nutrition Help You Love Your Liver Naturally?

Carrots are a good source of carotenoids called beta-carotene which help keep the liver healthy. Carotenoids stimulate bile to flow which is used to eliminate wastes.

Celery is full of essential nutrients, including vitamin C, beta-carotene, and flavonoids. These antioxidants help protect your liver from oxidative damage (free radicals) and other invaders that may cause harm. Studies show that celery can help reduce fat buildup in the liver.

Coffee: A 2021 study suggests a link between coffee and lower risks of chronic liver disease and its complications. Another study associates coffee with lower liver stiffness. Regular, long-term coffee consumption may also have a protective effect on liver enzyme levels in people with and without liver disease and people with chronic alcohol consumption. Just leave out the dairy-based milk and cream...and cut back or eliminate the sugar. Black is best, but if you aren't ready for that, opt for plant-based milk or creamers.

Garlic: Many studies point to garlic as a supportive food in reducing the risk of liver cancer, in addition to supporting overall immune health. Garlic helps detoxify the body and is rich in allicin, an antioxidant that protects the liver from oxidative damage. It helps the liver activate enzymes that can flush out harmful substances and in one study, scientists show that even garlic powder significantly improved fat build-ups in people with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), a dangerous condition that is becoming more prevalent today in large part due to lifestyle choices. One way to enjoy more garlic is to roast the whole head and then squeeze out the cloves and use instead of butter on bread!

Grapefruit: Grapefruit contains two primary antioxidants: naringin and naringenin. These may help protect the liver from injury by reducing inflammation and protecting the liver cells. (Note that some medications can interact with grapefruit, so people should check with a doctor before adding grapefruit or grapefruit juice to their diet.)

How Can Good Nutrition Help You Love Your Liver Naturally?

Grapes: A compound in grape skin and seeds called resveratrol can support liver health by reducing inflammation and oxidative stress. Red wine is often promoted as a way to add this compound to your diet but eating whole, seeded grapes is a simple, alcohol-free way to add these compounds to the diet. Alcohol is not liver-friendly so eat grapes instead!

Green tea is reported to be an excellent supporter of liver function because it contains high levels of natural polyphenols. Polyphenols have been shown to support the body's detoxification and elimination processes which are mostly handled by the liver and the kidneys. Studies show a relationship between moderate green tea consumption and lower levels of two important liver enzymes (ALT and AST). Steep tea bags in a pitcher of water for a simple way to add green tea to your diet when you’re thirsty.

Leafy green vegetables like arugula, spinach, kale, collards, dandelion, and others are packed with fiber and full of antioxidants which protect us from free radicals. Free radicals are substances that damage cells and cause problems, including liver disease.

Oats: Fiber is an important tool for digestion, and the specific fibers in oats may be especially helpful for the liver. Oats are high in compounds called beta-glucans which may help reduce the amount of fat in the liver. Look for old-fashioned/whole oats or steel-cut oats rather than flavored instant oatmeal which often contains fillers, sodium, and sugar. Try this recipe for Blueberry Baked Oats for a real treat and hefty dose of liver-loving oats!

Shiitake mushrooms have fat-reducing effects which reduce stress on your liver, thanks to beta-glucan, a soluble dietary fiber that’s also found in barley, rye, and oats. Studies have reported that beta-glucan can increase satiety which means you’ll feel fuller longer, too, since overeating can also be a source of stress for your liver.

Turmeric (fresh or ground spice vs. supplements) aids bile production, which supports the liver detoxification process and prevents fat build-up in the body while restoring liver function. The antioxidant/anti-inflammatory effect of turmeric appears to reduce liver damage from toxins from things like medications. Add turmeric to all kinds of stews, soups, and tofu scrambles, and also include 1/4 teaspoon in your morning smoothie!

Walnuts, like carrots, help the liver flush fat-soluble wastes. They’re a valuable source of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids and have antioxidants and fiber.

The best thing you can do to promote liver health is to promote overall health through positive lifestyle choices, starting with vibrant and delicious plant-based foods! Need help getting more of these foods into your regular diet? Reach out to me!

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