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20 Best Foods To Eat For A Healthy Liver

Medically reviewed by Dr. Millie Lytle, ND, MPH
by
ISSA Certified Specialist in Fitness & Nutrition
20 Best Foods To Eat For A Healthy Liver October 4, 2018

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.

Classic And Lesser Known Signs That Your Liver Is Not Functioning Properly

Signs That Your Liver Is Not Functioning Properly Pinit

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  • Inability to lose weight
  • Bloating
  • Dark urine
  • Poor appetite
  • Compromised immunity
  • Constipation
  • Headache
  • Heartburn and acid reflux
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Excessive sweating
  • Hypertension
  • Rosacea
  • Bruising
  • Yellow skin and eyes

If you identify with any of these symptoms above, you must take a look at the healthy liver foods list mentioned below.

20 Best Foods For Healthy Liver

1. Garlic

Foods For Healthy Liver - Garlic Pinit

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How It Helps

Detoxification is important to keep your liver healthy. 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). Allicin is the main bioactive compound that stimulates the liver to activate the enzymes that can flush out harmful substances. Aging garlic, or allowing it to sit for 5-10 minutes after being chopped, activates the allicin (4). However, heating destroys its qualities. You can also consume garlic in the form of capsules that are sold in pharmacies.

Garlic Dosage For 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. Broccoli

How It Helps

Broccoli is an excellent source of isothiocyanates, sulfur-containing compounds, the most notable being sulforaphane. The isothiocyanates regulate the expression of genes that are involved in flushing out carcinogens and improving metabolism. They also have anti-inflammatory properties (5). 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 (6). A study conducted by the College of Agriculture, University of Illinois, has found that consuming broccoli can help protect the liver from liver cancer (7).

Broccoli Dosage For Healthy Liver

1 cup, 2-3 times per week.

3. Ginseng

Foods For Healthy Liver - Ginseng Pinit

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How It Helps

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 (8).

Ginseng Dosage For Healthy Liver

2 cups of ginseng tea per day.

4. Beetroot

How It Helps

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 (9).

Beetroot Dosage For Healthy Liver
  • 1 glass of beetroot juice per day.
  • 1 cup of beetroot, 2-3 times a week.

5. Carrot

Foods For Healthy Liver - Carrot Pinit

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How It Helps

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 (10). Hence, carrots can protect you from nonalcoholic fatty liver and liver toxicity.

Garlic Dosage For Healthy Liver
  • 1 glass of carrot juice every 2 days.
  • 1 cup of cooked carrot every 2-3 days.

6. Leafy Greens

How It Helps

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 (11). Scientists at Auburn University have confirmed that consuming leafy greens can help protect the liver from fatty liver and CVD (12).

Garlic Dosage For Healthy Liver

1-2 cups of green leafy veggies per day.

7. Green Tea

Foods For Healthy Liver - Green Tea Pinit

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How It Helps

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 (13).

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 (14).

However, some studies have shown harmful effects of overconsumption of tea, which may be due to three main factors: (1) its caffeine content, (2) the presence of aluminum, and (3) the effects on iron bioavailability. So, green tea may not be healthful for all individuals. Talk to your doctor before consuming green tea for improving your liver health (15).

Green Tea Dosage For Healthy Liver

2-3 cups of green tea per day.

8. Turmeric

How It Helps

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 (16), (17).

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 (18).

Turmeric Dosage For 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.

Mix it with bulletproof coffee or milk and consume as cucurmin is better absorbed with fat (19).

9. Avocado

Foods For Healthy Liver - Avocado Pinit

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How It Helps

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 (20). Japanese scientists found that supplementing lab subjects with avocado could suppress liver damage (21).

Garlic Dosage For Healthy Liver

2-5 slices, 2-3 times per week.

10. Lemon

How It Helps

Lemons are a rich source of vitamin C, which is an antioxidant. Researchers have found that supplementing lab subjects with citric acid, naturally occurring in citrus fruits such as lemon, helped reduce the oxidative damage in the liver (22).

Lemon Dosage For Healthy Liver

½-1 lemon per day.

11. Apple

Foods For Healthy Liver - Apple Pinit

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How It Helps

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 (23). 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 (24), (25).

Garlic Dosage For Healthy Liver

1 apple a day.

12. Olive Oil

How It Helps

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 (26). Hence, you must use olive oil in food preparation to keep your liver healthy.

Olive Oil Dosage For Healthy Liver

3 – 5 tablespoons per day or more than 10 g/day (27), (28).

13. Asparagus

Foods For Healthy Liver - Asparagus Pinit

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How It Helps

Asparagus is a great source of vitamins A, C, E, K, folate, choline, and minerals like calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and dietary fiber (29). Asparagus is historically regarded as an alcohol hangover cure. 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 (30).

Asparagus Dosage For Healthy Liver

Talk to your doctor to determine how much asparagus you can consume per week.

14. Walnut

How It Helps

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 (31).

Walnut Dosage For Healthy Liver

7 walnuts per day

15. Red Cabbage

Foods For Healthy Liver - Red Cabbage Pinit

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How It Helps

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 (31).

Red Cabbage Dosage For Healthy Liver

1 cup of cabbage once a day, 2-3 times per week.

16. Grapefruit

How It Helps

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).

Grapefruit Dosage For Healthy Liver

½ -1 grapefruit juice (freshly pressed and no added sugar or artificial sweetener) per day.

17. Whole Grains

Foods For Healthy Liver - Whole Grains Pinit

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How It Helps

Whole grains, such as amaranth, rye, barley, brown rice, quinoa, etc., are rich in dietary fiber, which helps to shed fat and excess cholesterol. Now, this is good news because whole grains can also help protect against nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (34), (35).

Whole Grains Dosage For Healthy Liver

2-3 servings of whole grain per day.

18. Tomatoes

How It Helps

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 (36).

Tomato Dosage For Healthy Liver
  • 1 glass of tomato juice per day.
  • 2-3 tomatoes per day.

19. Dandelion

Foods For Healthy Liver - Dandelion Pinit

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How It Helps

Dandelion is an herb that has antirheumatic and diuretic properties. Although it has a bitter flavor, it can be consumed as a salad green or cooked like spinach. The dried herb or root can also be taken in tea, tincture, or capsule form.

Scientists found that when dandelion was fed to rabbits on a high cholesterol diet, the plasma antioxidant activity improved, and the lipid levels decreased (37). Therefore, this herb can be used to treat liver problems (38).

Dandelion Dosage For Healthy Liver

Talk to your doctor to determine the dose of this herbal medicine or simply eat the greens a couple of times per week.

20. Brussels Sprouts

How It Helps

Like many green vegetables, Brussels sprouts are rich in vitamins A, K, C, and folate and minerals like calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and potassium (39). Researchers have found that the oral administration of Brussels sprouts can induce the expression of phase II metabolizing enzymes and reduce oxidative stress (40).

Brussels Sprouts Dosage For Healthy Liver

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!

References

  1. Liver Anatomy” The Surgical clinics of North America, US National Library of Medicine
  2. How does the liver work?” PubMed Health, US National Library of Medicine
  3. The antioxidant properties of garlic compounds: allyl cysteine, alliin, allicin, and allyl disulfide.” Journal of Medicinal Food, US National Library of Medicine
  4. Garlic: a review of potential therapeutic effects” Avicenna journal of phytomedicine, US National Library of Medicine
  5. Isothiocyanates” Oregon State University
  6. 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
  7. Broccoli may offer protection against liver cancer, study shows” ScienceDaily.
  8. Pharmacological Effects of Ginseng on Liver Functions and Diseases: A Minireview” Evid Based Complement Alternat Med, US National Library of Medicine
  9. Beetroot juice protects against N-nitrosodiethylamine-induced liver injury in rats.” Food Chem Toxicol, US National Library of Medicine
  10. 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” Prev Nutr Food Sci, US National Library of Medicine
  11. Dark Green Leafy Vegetables” United States Department of Agriculture.
  12. Diets containing traditional and novel green leafy vegetables improve liver fatty acid profiles of spontaneously hypertensive rats.” Lipids Health Dis, US National Library of Medicine
  13. The effect of green tea intake on risk of liver disease: a meta analysis” Int J Clin Exp Med, US National Library of Medicine
  14. The Effect of Green Tea Extract Supplementation on Liver Enzymes in Patients with Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease” Int J Prev Med, US National Library of Medicine
  15. Beneficial effects of green tea: A literature review” Chin Med, US National Library of Medicine
  16. Pharmacological actions of curcumin in liver diseases or damage.” Liver Int, US National Library of Medicine
  17. Recent advances in curcumin and its derivatives for treatment of liver diseases” Yao Xue Xue Bao, US National Library of Medicine
  18. Prevention of liver cirrhosis in rats by curcumin.” Liver Int, US National Library of Medicine
  19. Recent Developments in Delivery, Bioavailability, Absorption and Metabolism of Curcumin: the Golden Pigment from Golden Spice” Cancer Res Treat, US National Library of Medicine
  20. Avocado as a Major Dietary Source of Antioxidants and Its Preventive Role in Neurodegenerative Diseases.” Adv Neurobiol, US National Library of Medicine
  21. Liver injury suppressing compounds from avocado (Persea americana).” J Agric Food Chem, US National Library of Medicine
  22. Citric Acid Effects on Brain and Liver Oxidative Stress in Lipopolysaccharide-Treated Mice” J Med Food, US National Library of Medicine
  23. Effect of dehydrated apple products on the serum and liver lipids in Syrian hamsters.” Nahrung, US National Library of Medicine
  24. Apple Polyphenols Decrease Atherosclerosis and Hepatic Steatosis in ApoE-/- Mice through the ROS/MAPK/NF-κB Pathway.” Nutrients, US National Library of Medicine
  25. Hepatoprotective effect of apple polyphenols against concanavalin A-induced immunological liver injury in mice.” Chem Biol Interact, US National Library of Medicine
  26. Olive oil consumption and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease” World J Gastroenterol, US National Library of Medicine
  27. Olive oil in the prevention and management of type 2 diabetes mellitus: a systematic review and meta-analysis of cohort studies and intervention trials” Nutr Diabetes, US National Library of Medicine
  28. Olive oil intake and risk of cardiovascular disease and mortality in the PREDIMED Study” BMC Med, US National Library of Medicine
  29. Asparagus, raw” SELFNutritionData
  30. Effects of Asparagus officinalis extracts on liver cell toxicity and ethanol metabolism.” J Food Sci, US National Library of Medicine
  31. Dietary walnut reduces hepatic triglyceride content in high-fat-fed mice via modulation of hepatic fatty acid metabolism and adipose tissue inflammation.” J Nutr Biochem, US National Library of Medicine
  32. Red cabbage (Brassica oleracea L.) mediates redox-sensitive amelioration of dyslipidemia and hepatic injury induced by exogenous cholesterol administration.” Am J Chin Med, US National Library of Medicine
  33. Grapefruit and oroblanco enhance hepatic detoxification enzymes in rats: possible role in protection against chemical carcinogenesis.” J Agric Food Chem, US National Library of Medicine
  34. Increasing whole grain intake as part of prevention and treatment of nonalcoholic Fatty liver disease.” Int J Endocrinol, US National Library of Medicine
  35. Dietary habits and behaviors associated with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease” World J Gastroenterol, US National Library of Medicine
  36. Effect of tomato extract supplementation against high-fat diet-induced hepatic lesions” Hepatobiliary Surg Nutr, US National Library of Medicine
  37. Hypolipidemic and Antioxidant Effects of Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) Root and Leaf on Cholesterol-Fed Rabbits” Int J Mol Sci, US National Library of Medicine
  38. The Efficacy of Dandelion Root Extract in Inducing Apoptosis in Drug-Resistant Human Melanoma Cells” Evid Based Complement Alternat Med, US National Library of Medicine
  39. Brussels sprouts, cooked, boiled, drained, without salt” SELFNutritionData
  40. Effects of a Brussels sprouts extract on oxidative DNA damage and metabolising enzymes in rat liver.” Food Chem Toxicol, US National Library of Medicine
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