The liver is one of the largest and hardest working organs in the body. It’s responsible for removing toxins and plays a key role in many metabolic processes.
Weighing around 3 pounds, the liver converts fat into energy and helps stabilize blood sugar levels. As the liver also converts the nutrients we eat into substances the body can use, some foods can cause problems for the organ.
For your liver to function properly, it is important to eat a healthy and balanced diet. Eating foods that help improve liver function is an easy way to improve your overall health.
To help you make the right food choices, this article will look at nine of the best liver cleansing foods. We’ll also let you know what foods to avoid and discuss if a liver cleanse is right for you.
Why Is the Liver So Important?
The liver is a critical organ that’s responsible for a number of different functions, including:
- Removing toxins
- Regulating nutrients and aiding digestion
- Keeping blood sugars balanced
- Regulating hormones
The liver produces bile which helps digest fat. It protects against infection by removing bacteria and other potentially toxic substances from the blood. The liver also stores and regulates sugars, vitamins, and minerals and releases them into the body when required.
Best Liver Cleansing Foods
With easy access to junk food and take-out, you could be doing your liver some damage. To restore optimal liver function, try incorporating more of the below foods into your diet.
Garlic is rich in vitamin C, vitamin B6, and selenium, all of which help protect the liver and assist with detoxification. Used medicinally for centuries, garlic activates enzymes that help with digestion and flushing toxins from the body.
2. Green Tea
Drinking green tea has a host of health benefits. Green tea includes naturally occurring antioxidants called catechins, which studies have shown help improve liver function.
While a few cups of green tea a day can be beneficial, green tea extract may cause damage for people with liver disease. Studies have found the extract causes a decrease in liver enzymes and reduces its function. To avoid damaging your liver, stick to the tea. Don’t take the extract without consulting your doctor first.
High in amino acids and omega-3 fatty acids, walnuts are one of the best liver cleansing foods you can eat. The process of converting nutrients to energy produces ammonia which is highly toxic to the body. The amino acid arginine that is found in walnuts helps break down and convert this toxic substance into urea which the body can then safely absorb.
Beets have high levels of pectin, a form of soluble fiber that helps cleanse the liver. Rich in antioxidants and nutrients like folate, beets stimulate bile flow, flushing toxins from the liver through the digestive tract. A great addition to any meal, beet juice has also been found to benefit heart health and reduce inflammation throughout the body.
5. Lemons and Limes
The juice from lemons and limes can also help flush toxins from the liver. High in vitamin C and the antioxidant glutathione, citrus fruits can help improve energy levels while detoxing the liver and boosting the metabolism.
For a great way to start the day, mix the juice from half a lemon into a glass of warm water and sweeten with honey if required. This will also aid digestion if taken before a meal.
6. Cruciferous Vegetables
Research has found that the benefits of eating cruciferous vegetables can last for weeks. Vegetables including broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower are a great source of glucosinolates which help the liver produce enzymes that protect it from damage.
Studies have found that eating broccoli may also help fight the development of liver disease and cancer. Roasted or steamed, cruciferous vegetables can be easily incorporated into any meal.
Like beets, apples have high concentrations of pectin which cleans toxins from the digestive tract. This soluble fiber aids with digestion and helps remove toxins from the body. To get the most benefit, leave the skin on as it has the highest amount of fiber.
8. Olive Oil
Often considered a healthy fat, olive oil is loaded with antioxidants which may reduce the risk of cancer. Olive oil can help reduce fat in the liver and regulate glucose levels, which improves liver function. A year-long study found that consuming one teaspoon of olive oil a day can improve enzyme levels and reduce inflammation.
Turmeric helps repair liver cells and boost production of enzymes that break down toxins. Something of a wonder spice, turmeric boosts bile production, which helps free the liver of fat-soluble toxins. Try adding turmeric to your favorite dishes or pick up a supplement for an additional boost.
Foods to Avoid
As the liver is such an important organ, try to avoid the following foods to keep your liver functioning properly:
- Sugar: To keep your liver free of excess fat, reduce the amount of sugar you consume. Many processed foods include high levels of added sugar. To avoid the extra calories and protect your liver, be sure to check the sugar content when buying anything processed.
- Alcohol: Excessive consumption of alcohol is the leading cause of liver cancer and disease. In fact, drinking more than a moderate amount of alcohol can cause damage throughout the body. A recent study found that even one or two drinks four times a week can increase the risk of premature death by 20%.
- Processed food: As well as added sugar, processed foods typically have limited nutritional value. Protect your health by eating fresh fruits and vegetables, and cook at home rather than eating fast food.
- Red meat: Often high in fat, red meat should be avoided if you’re trying to cleanse your liver. The saturated fat in red and processed meat makes it harder for the liver to function.
If you find it difficult to completely cut out any of the above foods, you can still help your liver by limiting the amount you consume.
Should You Cleanse Your Liver?
If you’re asking yourself whether or not you need to cleanse your liver, the answer is probably yes. As most people consume more than the recommended amount of alcohol and processed foods, there’s a good chance your liver could do with a boost.
Now that you know what the best liver cleansing foods can do for your health, start incorporating them into your diet. Small changes can yield big results.
Start your day with a glass of lemon water or green tea. Throw some broccoli, beets, and walnuts into a salad dressed with olive oil for lunch. By slowly adding these foods to your diet, you can ensure your liver stays healthy and functions properly.