Your liver is one of the most crucial glands and the second largest organ in your body (1). It functions non-stop – it 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).
Any kind of liver disorders can hamper metabolic functions. But the good news is that you can heal them and minimize the symptoms by consuming healthy and nutritious foods. In this article, we will cover 21 best foods that protect your liver and keep it healthy.
Table Of Contents
21 Best Foods For A Healthy Liver
Detoxification is important to keep your liver healthy. Garlic is rich in allicin, an antioxidant that protects the body from oxidative damage (3). It also exhibits hepatoprotective (liver protection) effects, which stimulate the liver to activate the enzymes that can flush out harmful substances (4).
A study published in Advanced Biomedical Research stated that 400 mg garlic powder could reduce body weight and fat mass among subjects with Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disorder (NAFLD) without disturbing lean body mass (5).
Garlic Dosage For A Healthy Liver
- 1 clove of raw garlic in the morning every day.
- 1-2 teaspoons of minced/chopped/pasted garlic in cooked food per day.
2. Green Tea
Green tea is rich in antioxidants and has many health benefits. The main polyphenols responsible for all the goodness of green tea are the 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 (6).
Researchers from Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, Iran, conducted a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized clinical trial on 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 green tea extract significantly reduced the liver enzymes associated with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (7).
However, some studies have shown the harmful effects of overconsumption of tea, which may be due to three main factors: (i) its caffeine content, (ii) the presence of aluminum, and (iii) the effects on iron bioavailability.
Hence, green tea may not be healthful for all individuals. Talk to your doctor before consuming green tea for improving your liver health (8).
Green Tea Dosage For Healthy Liver
2-3 cups of green tea per day.
Coffee is one of the most loved beverages. In addition to its stimulating effects, coffee also has a hepatoprotective role (9). A study on middle-aged Japanese men showed that coffee might offer protective effects against liver dysfunction (10).
Another study published in the Journal of Hepatology showed an inverse relationship between coffee intake and the incidence of chronic liver disease. Participants who drink 3 cups of coffee per day showed lower rates of disease progression than those who drank less than 1 cup/day (11).
Coffee Dosage For A Healthy Liver
2-3 cups of coffee per day.
Curcumin in turmeric is the main bioactive agent that has a hepatoprotective effect. It helps to protect the liver from liver diseases and injury by reducing inflammation, minimizing oxidative stress, and improving lipid metabolism and insulin sensitivity (12), (13).
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. Turmeric’s anti-inflammatory property inhibited the development of liver cirrhosis in rats (14).
Turmeric Dosage For A Healthy Liver
- 1-3 g of turmeric powder/paste per day.
- 5-3 g of turmeric root per day.
- 400-600 mg of turmeric supplement, 2-3 per day.
- Tincture (1:2) – 15-30 drops, 3-4 times per day.
- Fluid extract (1:1) – 30-90 drops per day.
You can mix it with bulletproof coffee or milk and consume it for better results.
Grapefruit is a rich source of antioxidants and has been found to boost immunity. Japanese scientists carried out an experiment in which 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 a quicker and more active expression of liver enzymes that helped in detoxification (15).
Grapefruit Dosage For A Healthy Liver
½ -1 grapefruit juice (freshly pressed and no added sugar or artificial sweetener) per day.
Beetroot contains antioxidants called betalains that exhibit potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects to reduce oxidative stress (16). A rat study showed that long-term feeding of beetroot juice could help reduce DNA damage and liver injury induced by oxidative stress (17).
Beetroot Dosage For A Healthy Liver
- 1 glass of beetroot juice per day.
- 1 cup of beetroot, 2-3 times a week.
Broccoli is an excellent source of isothiocyanates, sulfur-containing compounds, the most notable of which is sulforaphane. The isothiocyanates regulate the expression of genes that are involved in flushing out carcinogens and improving metabolism. They also have anti-inflammatory properties (18).
A study conducted by scientists at the University of Illinois confirmed that consuming broccoli could help reduce the risk of developing nonalcoholic fatty liver (19). Another study conducted by the College of Agriculture, University of Illinois, stated that consuming broccoli could help protect the liver from liver cancer (20).
Broccoli Dosage For A Healthy Liver
1 cup, 2-3 times per week.
Ginseng is a medicinal herb found in the roots of the plant Panax ginseng (not to be confused with American or Siberian 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 (21).
Ginseng Dosage For A Healthy Liver
2 cups of ginseng tea per day.
Carrots can reduce the risk of nonalcoholic fatty liver and liver toxicity. 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 (22).
Carrot Dosage For A Healthy Liver
- 1 glass of carrot juice every 2 days.
- 1 cup of cooked carrot every 2-3 days.
10. Leafy Greens
Leafy green veggies can 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 good amounts of vitamins A, C, and K, calcium, and antioxidants and have anti-inflammatory properties (23).
Consuming leafy greens could help protect the liver from developing fatty liver in rat studies (24).
Leafy Greens Dosage For A Healthy Liver
1-2 cups of green leafy veggies per day.
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 the nonalcoholic fatty liver is caused due to bad lifestyle choices, the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of avocado can help in reducing the risk (25). Japanese scientists found that supplementing lab subjects with avocado could suppress liver damage (26).
Avocado Dosage For A Healthy Liver
2-5 slices, 2-3 times per week.
The hepatoprotective effects of lemon juice are due to its vitamin (especially vitamin C) and mineral content. A mice study published in Biomedical Research states that intake of lemon juice can help reduce alcohol-induced liver injury and decrease the levels of liver enzymes for overall liver protection (27).
Lemon Dosage For A Healthy Liver
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 (28).
Chinese researchers also confirmed that apple polyphenols play a major role in protecting against concanavalin (a lectin from the legume family) induced immunological liver injury in mice (29).
Apple Dosage For A Healthy Liver
1 apple per day.
14. Olive Oil
The most common liver problem is a 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 (30). Hence, you can use olive oil in food preparations to keep your liver healthy.
Olive Oil Dosage For Healthy Liver
3-5 tablespoons per day or more than 10 g/day (31).
Asparagus is an excellent source of vitamins A, C, E, K, folate, choline, and minerals like calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and dietary fiber (32).
Scientists from Jeju National University, Korea, conducted found that the young shoots and leaves of asparagus could help suppress the hepatoma cell growth (cancerous liver cells) and reduce oxidative stress to protect liver cells (33).
Asparagus Dosage For A Healthy Liver
Talk to your doctor to determine how much asparagus you can consume per week.
Walnuts are rich in healthy fats that have anti-inflammatory properties. In a study, high-fat diet-induced fatty liver mice were supplemented with walnut. It helped reduce triglyceride levels in the liver, lowered the levels of enzymes involved in liver homeostasis, and suppressed the genes involved in liver inflammation (34).
Walnut Dosage For A Healthy Liver
7 walnuts per day
17. Red Cabbage
Red cabbage in salads can help protect your liver. A study on rats showed that red cabbage extract reduced liver injury due to oxidative stress (35).
Red Cabbage Dosage For A Healthy Liver
1 cup of cabbage once a day, 2-3 times per week.
18. Whole Grains
Whole grains, such as amaranth, rye, barley, brown rice, quinoa, etc., are rich in dietary fiber, which helps to shed fat and reduce cholesterol. This is good news because whole grains can also help protect against nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (36), (37).
Whole Grains Dosage For A Healthy Liver
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. A study on rats showed that tomato extract supplementation could help reduce the risk of liver damage (38).
Tomato Dosage For A Healthy Liver
- 1 glass of tomato juice per day.
- 2-3 tomatoes per day.
A study published in the Journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology showed that dandelion roots were protective against alcohol-induced liver damage due to their antioxidative property (39).
Dandelion Dosage For A Healthy Liver
Talk to your doctor to determine the dose of this herbal medicine or eat the greens a couple of times per week.
21. Brussel Sprouts
Brussels sprouts are rich in vitamins A, K, C, and folate and minerals like calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and potassium (40). Researchers have found that the oral administration of Brussels sprouts can induce the production of phase II metabolizing enzymes and reduce oxidative stress (41).
Brussels Sprouts Dosage For A Healthy Liver
½-1 cup, 2-3 times per week.
Classic And Lesser-Known Signs That Your Liver Is Not Functioning Properly
If you identify with any of the symptoms listed below, talk to the doctor to check for other underlying problems:
- Inability to lose weight
- Dark urine
- Poor appetite
- Compromised immunity
- Heartburn and acid reflux
- Chronic fatigue
- Excessive sweating
- Yellow skin and eyes
The liver is an important organ that carries out many functions. Hence, it is essential to protect it from damage. Consume the foods mentioned above to keep your liver functioning at its optimum best. Make sure you check with your doctor if you are experiencing any other clinical symptoms and talk to a nutritionist to understand which of these foods you can incorporate into your diet and how.
Expert’s Answers for Readers Questions
What foods are hard on the liver?
Fast foods, canned foods, sugary foods, red meat, alcohol, and soda can increase the load on the liver and affect its functioning. Therefore, avoid them.
Is drinking water good for your liver?
Drinking water can help flush out toxins from the body. Drink more water to keep your liver healthy.
Is coconut water good for the liver?
Coconut water is a good electrolyte to rehydrate your body. You need to drink more electrolytes to nourish your body and liver.
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- Effects of coffee consumption against the development of liver dysfunction: a 4-year follow-up study of middle-aged Japanese male office workers, Industrial Health, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
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- The potential benefits of red beetroot supplementation in health and disease, Nutrients, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Beetroot juice protects against N-nitrosodiethylamine-induced liver injury in rats, Food and Chemical Toxicology, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Isothiocyanates, Linus Pauling Institute, Oregon State University.
- Dietary Broccoli Lessens Development of Fatty Liver and Liver Cancer in Mice Given Diethylnitrosamine and Fed a Western or Control Diet, The Journal of Nutrition, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
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- Pharmacological Effects of Ginseng on Liver Functions and Diseases: A Minireview, Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Carrot Juice Administration Decreases Liver Stearoyl-CoA Desaturase 1 and Improves Docosahexaenoic Acid Levels, but Not Steatosis in High Fructose Diet-Fed Weanling Wistar Rats, Preventive Nutrition and Food Science, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Dark Green Leafy Vegetables, Agriculture Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture.
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- Protective Effects of Lemon Juice on Alcohol-Induced Liver Injury in Mice, BioMed Research International, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Effect of dehydrated apple products on the serum and liver lipids in Syrian hamsters, Nahrung, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Hepatoprotective effect of apple polyphenols against concanavalin A-induced immunological liver injury in mice, Chemico-biological Interactions, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
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- Effects of Asparagus officinalis extracts on liver cell toxicity and ethanol metabolism, Journal of Food Science, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Dietary walnut reduces hepatic triglyceride content in high-fat-fed mice via modulation of hepatic fatty acid metabolism and adipose tissue inflammation, The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
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- Nutritive Value of Brussel sprouts, raw, U.S. Department of Agriculture.
- Effects of a Brussels sprouts extract on oxidative DNA damage and metabolising enzymes in rat liver, Food and Chemical Toxicology, Elsevier, Science Direct.
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