We’ve already uncovered the worst foods for your liver, so we thought it was time to shine a light on the best foods to give this hard-working organ the holiday it deserves. After all, we put our livers under the gun with sugar, alcohol and trans fats – here are 4 foods to tip the scale back in our favour.
Our liver plays a vital role in the health of our entire bodies – and the foods we put on our plate have a massive influence on its function. Here’s why. Our livers are responsible for breaking down alcohol, along with the fructose in sugar, and when we overwhelm it, which is easy to do with the high-sugar, ultra-processed diets many of us are living by, we end up developing visceral fat. This is the bad kind of fat that wraps around the abdominal organs, which can then lead to fatty liver disease, chronic liver inflammation and even cancer. Sugar is a major contributor to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, which is projected to become the become the leading cause of cirrhosis within the next decade. So, it’s time to reduce your intake of added sugars to protect your liver and opt instead for the following liver-protecting alternatives.
Tea is well-known for its powerful health benefits that stem from its impressive antioxidant content, posing antibacterial, antiviral and even anti-fungal properties. But did you know some teas may also provide protection for your liver too? A study found that green tea drastically improved the liver enzyme levels of those with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in just 3 months. It’s believed to be a result of reducing the fat deposits in the liver – otherwise known as the dreaded visceral fat – along with reducing oxidative stress on the body. But green tea doesn’t just reduce your risk for fatty liver disease, research shows it may also slash your chances of developing liver cancer, with those drinking 4 cups a day at the least amount of risk. Though it’s worth noting green tea will have an inhibitory effect on your body’s iron absorption, so we wouldn’t recommend downing the whole teapot! But it’s not just green tea, black tea may also provide some of these benefits with another study finding black tea combatted the consequences of a diet excessively high in fats. So, there’s another reason to enjoy your afternoon cup of tea!
Note: Take caution when trying any new foods or drinks and consider checking in with your doctor first to rule out any risks or interferences with medication. A small number of people have reported liver damage from high doses of green tea or green tea extract, so remember to enjoy these foods in moderation.
Turns out the obsession with grapefruit has some worth to it – but we’re not endorsing the grapefruit diet here, this fad diet lacks scientific backing and is potentially dangerous, but they did get one thing right; grapefruits are kind of awesome. Here’s why – this humble citrus fruit is loaded with liver-boosting antioxidants known as naringin and naringenin. These powerhouse antioxidants protect the liver from damage by fighting inflammation and strengthening our cells. While more research is needed due to the fact that much of the existing studies centre around animals, researchers have reason to believe that grapefruit’s antioxidants could slash your risk for hepatic fibrosis. This is a condition where the liver has a build-up of connective tissue, usually caused by chronic injury and inflammation – diets high in added sugars and highly-processed foods are common triggers for these inflammatory responses, along with smoking, alcohol consumption and environmental pollution. Research found that naringin was able to aid the liver in metabolising alcohol, thereby reducing the risk for chronic injury and all the issues that come with it like fatty liver disease, fibrosis and even cancer.
Blueberries are an antioxidant powerhouse with extensive health benefits – from your brain to your gut. But we’ll be looking into their promising benefits for the liver, and it’s the antioxidants known as anthocyanins in particular which are responsible for these health-boosting properties, along with giving these berries their trademark blue and purple hues. A study found that just 3 weeks of regular blueberry consumption had the power to prevent liver damage, along with boosting immunity and improving liver enzyme levels. One study also found that these antioxidants in blueberries were able to slow the process of liver fibrosis and scarring. More impressive test-tube research shows that this humble fruit may prevent the development of human cancer cells in the liver.
It turns out your humble broccoli is hiding a lot more than fibre and vitamin C – the group that this green veggie belongs to, cruciferous vegetables, are packing liver-boosting properties. Let’s take a look at some of the veggies you’ll find in this category:
- Brussels sprouts
- Broccoli sprouts
- Mustard greens
Brussels sprouts and broccoli sprouts in particular have been found to help detoxify the liver by improving enzyme levels and preventing liver damage. Researchers found these liver-protecting effects were still strong after the cooking process, unlike some nutrients and beneficial compounds which degrade when heated – so you can get creative here! If you’re put off by the smelly reputation of Brussels sprouts, we’re here to put that misconception to rest. Simply get out a bit of olive oil or ghee and a sprinkle of salt, crushed garlic and a squeeze of lemon, mix it in with your sprouts and bake them in the oven until they’re golden and crisp. Trust us – this will convert even the staunchest anti-Brussels sprout types! Broccoli is another liver-boosting cruciferous veggie, with one study finding it may reduce the risk of fatty liver disease and tumour development. Try our Broccoli Tabouli recipe to get yourself a good dose of this powerhouse of nutrition – plus, it tastes delicious too.
A few other liver-boosting foods to load up on include:
- Beetroot juice
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Coffee - yep, this stuff has been found to reduce your risk for liver disease. So, you can enjoy your cup of joe without the guilt - in moderation of course!
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