Your liver is one of the most crucial glands and the second largest organ in your body (1). It functions non-stop – this 1.4 kg organ helps in detoxification, carb metabolism, protein synthesis, production of biochemicals required for digestion, glycogen storage, bile production, hormone secretion, and red blood cell decomposition (2).
Given our lifestyle choices, such as consuming too much alcohol, not eating healthy, and not keeping fit, the liver is overworked, and this might lead to many complications such as cirrhosis, ascites, hepatitis, liver failure, etc. Of course, you can avoid these or reduce the symptoms by eating foods that heal and cleanse the liver. Below is the list of 20 foods for a healthy liver that you don’t want to miss. But first, let’s see what the symptoms of an unhealthy liver are that need immediate attention.
If you identify with any of these symptoms above, you must take a look at the healthy liver foods list mentioned below.
To keep your liver healthy, detoxification is important. And the best food that can help you do that is garlic. Garlic is rich in allicin, an antioxidant that protects the body from oxidative damage (3). It stimulates the liver to activate the enzymes that can flush out harmful substances. However, heating destroys its qualities. If you cannot eat it raw, you can purchase it in the form of capsules from a pharmacy.
Broccoli is an excellent source of isothiocyanates, sulfur-containing compounds. The isothiocyanates regulate the expression of genes that are involved in flushing out carcinogens and improving metabolism. They also have anti-inflammatory properties (4). A scientific study conducted by the scientists at the University of Illinois has confirmed that consuming broccoli can help reduce the risk of developing nonalcoholic fatty liver (5). A study conducted by the College of Agriculture, University of Illinois, has found that consuming broccoli can help protect the liver from liver cancer (6).
1 cup, 2-3 times per week.
Ginseng is a medicinal herb found in the roots of the plant Panax ginseng. It contains compounds known as ginsenosides that are thought to be responsible for its medicinal properties. There are about 40 ginsenosides present in ginseng. It has been found to protect against liver injury, liver toxicity, cirrhosis, and fatty liver (7).
2 cups of ginseng tea per day.
Beetroots contain antioxidants known as betalains. The researchers from the Department of Pharmaceutical Biochemistry, University of Medical Sciences, Poland have confirmed that long term feeding of beetroot juice can help reduce DNA damage and liver injury induced by carcinogens (8).
Carrots are rich in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber. Scientists from the National Institute of Nutrition, Jamia Osmania, Hyderabad, India, conducted a study by supplementing rats with carrot juice for eight weeks. They found that carrot juice significantly reduced the DHA, triglyceride, and MUFA (Mono Unsaturated Fatty Acids) levels in the liver (9). Hence, carrots can protect you from nonalcoholic fatty liver and liver toxicity.
Leafy green veggies can also protect your liver from oxidative damage and other diseases. Veggies such as collard greens, spinach, lettuce, radish greens, mustard greens, sweet potato greens, rocket spinach, etc. contain a good amount of vitamins A, C, and K, calcium, and antioxidants and have anti-inflammatory properties (10). Scientists at Auburn University have confirmed that consuming leafy greens can help protect the liver from fatty liver and CVD (11).
1-2 cups of green leafy veggies per day.
It’s a known fact that green tea is an antioxidant and has many health benefits. The main polyphenols responsible for all the goodness of green tea are catechins. Chinese scientists confirmed that green tea drinkers showed a significant reduction in the risk of liver cancer, liver disease, liver steatosis, liver cirrhosis, and hepatitis (12).
Moreover, researchers from the Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, Iran, conducted a double-blind, placebo- controlled, randomized clinical trial in nonalcoholic fatty liver patients. They received either green tea extract or green tea extract supplement for 12 weeks. After the 12th week, it was found that the green tea extract significantly reduced the liver enzymes associated with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (13).
2-3 cups of green tea per day.
Turmeric is a yellow pigmented root that is used in cooking. Curcumin is the bioactive compound that is responsible for its varied medicinal properties. It has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antifungal, antiviral, and antibacterial properties. Curcumin helps to protect the liver from liver diseases and injury by reducing inflammation, minimizing oxidative stress, and improving lipid metabolism and insulin sensitivity (14), (15).
Scientists from the Tel-Aviv Sourasky Medical Center, Israel, conducted an experiment on rats with induced liver cirrhosis. They were supplemented with turmeric for 12 weeks and by the end of the 12th week, the scientists found that turmeric’s anti-inflammatory property inhibited the development of liver cirrhosis in the rats (16).
This buttery and nutty fruit has many health benefits, and protecting the liver is one of them. Avocados are rich in healthy fats that have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Since nonalcoholic fatty liver is caused due to bad lifestyle choices, the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of avocado are highly beneficial in preventing it (17). Japanese scientists found that supplementing lab subjects with avocado could suppress liver damage (18).
2-5 slices, 2-3 times per week.
Lemons are a rich source of vitamin C, which is an antioxidant. Researchers have found that supplementing lab subjects with citric acid helped reduce the oxidative damage in the liver (19).
½-1 lemon per day.
Scientists studied the effect of dehydrated apple products on liver and serum lipid levels. After three months, it was found that apple products successfully reduced the serum and liver lipid levels (20). Chinese researchers also confirmed that apple polyphenols play a major role in downregulating the inflammatory signaling pathway, therefore protecting the liver from various liver diseases like hepatic steatosis (21), (22).
1 apple a day.
The most common liver problem is nonalcoholic fatty liver disease that stems from unhealthy lifestyle choices. Scientists have found that people who consume olive oil are less prone to liver diseases. Olive oil helps to lower bad cholesterol and serum triglyceride levels and increase insulin sensitivity and lipid oxidation (23). Hence, you must use olive oil for cooking to keep your liver healthy.
5-10 tablespoons per day.
Asparagus is a great source of vitamins A, C, E, K, folate, choline, and minerals like calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and dietary fiber (24). Scientists from Jeju National University, Korea, conducted an experiment with the young shoots and leaves of asparagus and found that they can help suppress the hepatoma cell growth and reduce reactive oxygen species (ROS) and other cell toxins, such as hydrogen peroxide, ethanol, etc. This confirms that asparagus leaves and shoots have liver protective properties (25).
16-32 mg/kg weight of your body per day.
Walnuts are rich in healthy fats that have anti-inflammatory properties. American scientists have found that when high-fat diet induced fatty liver rodents were supplemented with walnut, it helped reduce hepatic triglycerides, lowered the levels of enzymes involved in liver homeostasis, and suppressed the genes involved in hepatic inflammation (26).
7 walnuts per day
Red cabbage contains a host of antioxidants and anthocyanins. Scientists fed rats a high cholesterol diet and then 250-500 mg/kg body weight red cabbage. They found that it helped reduce the inflammation triggered by the cholesterol-rich diet and protected the liver against toxicity (27).
1 cup of cabbage once a day, 2-3 times per week.
Grapefruit is a rich source of antioxidants and has been found to boost immunity. Japanese scientists carried out an experiment where they fed lab rats with grapefruit juice, oroblanco juice, and sugar mix. After one week, the rats were injected with a procarcinogen. The rats that were fed grapefruit juice were found to have quicker and more active expression of liver enzymes that helped in hepatic detoxification (28).
½ -1 grapefruit juice (freshly pressed and no added sugar or artificial sweetener) per day.
Whole grains, such as amaranth, rye, barley, brown rice, quinoa, etc., are rich in dietary fiber, which helps to shed fat. Now, this is good news because whole grains can also help protect against nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (29), (30).
2-3 servings of whole grain per day.
The juicy red tomatoes are also good for your liver. They contain a good amount of antioxidants that help reduce liver inflammation and injury and protect against liver cancer. Researchers injected lab rats with carcinogens and a high-fat diet. Then, they fed the test group with tomato extract for six weeks. The rats that were fed tomato extract showed more resistance towards liver damage and had lower lipid and cholesterol levels, thereby confirming that tomato should be consumed to reduce the risk of liver damage (31).
Dandelion is an herb that has antirheumatic and diuretic properties. Scientists have found that when dandelion was fed to rabbits on a high cholesterol diet, the plasma antioxidant activity improved and the lipid levels decreased (32).Therefore, this herb can be used to treat liver problems (33).
Talk to your doctor to determine the dose.
Brussels sprouts are rich in vitamins A, K, C, and folate and minerals like calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and potassium (34). Researchers have found that the oral administration of Brussels sprouts can induce the expression of phase II metabolizing enzymes and reduce oxidative stress (35).
½-1 cup, 2-3 times per week.
These are the 20 foods that will help keep your liver healthy, free of any diseases, and also help in liver detoxification. Include them in your daily diet to see improvement in your health sooner than you anticipate. Take care!