The Top 15 Liver Cleansing Foods
A healthy liver is a happy liver. Discover the best top liver cleansing foods you should be incorporating into your diet, according to the latest research.
While we know how alcohol and a bad diet can harm our liver’s functionality and impact our body’s ability to survive, how about the foods that support our liver positively?
In this piece, we discuss the top liver-cleansing foods to include in your diet and explain the importance of prioritising; It is essential to living a healthy and happy life.
How can food cleanse the liver?
Food has the power to either cleanse or harm our liver. Our liver is there to convert everything we consume, so if we eat healthy and nutrient-dense foods, we automatically improve our liver health.
However, if we consume too many foods high in fat, sugar, and salt, our liver will begin to suffer and potentially develop life-threatening diseases. [Link to 50 bad foods blog]
The best 15 foods for your liver
Let’s look at the top liver-cleansing foods to include in your diet:
- Dark leafy green vegetables
Nutrient-dense leafy greens that include the likes of spinach, kale, chard, arugula, Swiss chard, collards, and Bok choy are all super sources of potassium, manganese, and magnesium.
But what they also include is chlorophyll. This pigment found in cyanobacteria and chloroplasts of these plants assists the liver by neutralising heavy metals and toxic chemicals.
Swedish scientists from the Karolinska Institute published a study showing how inorganic nitrate in green leafy veg reduces liver fat development. Liver-healing foods containing inorganic nitrate include celery, spinach, lettuce and rocket greens.
- Dandelion greens/Bitter greens
Dandelion roots are a natural diuretic, enabling our livers to remove urine and eliminate toxins. Alongside its diuretic qualities, the polysaccharides in dandelion reduce stress on the liver while supporting its bile production. Polysaccharides also help our livers filter unwanted chemicals from the food we digest.
Alongside strengthening our immune system, dandelion balances blood sugar levels and eases heartburn while soothing digestion issues. Other bitter greens that produce similar effects for bile production include rocket, radicchio, spinach, chicory, and mustard leaves.
Bile production is vital for our bodies to remove waste from our organs and blood.
- Cabbage/cruciferous vegetables
Part of the Brassicaceae family, cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, cauliflower, kale and garden cress are all rich in sulforaphane. As a stimulant of glutathione, sulforaphane helps create a crucial antioxidant that supports the liver in detoxification.
In increasing natural detoxification enzymes in the liver, cruciferous veg protects the liver and improves the blood levels of our liver enzymes.
Animal studies published by the National Library of Medicine (NLM) show Brussels sprouts support these detoxification enzymes and can potentially protect the liver from damage. Broccoli was another vegetable reported to have a similar effect on mice with fatty liver and liver cancer when studied by the Oxford Academic JN (The Journal of Nutrition).
High in omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E, avocado oil can help reduce NAFLD (Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease) by increasing our mitochondrial function before decreasing oxidative stress (OS), and inflammation.
Avocado is a top liver cleansing food for containing high glutathione-producing compounds. These liver-healing compounds help cleanse the liver. The high vitamin E concentration also found in avocados works as a powerful antioxidant that balances our free radicals.
Another study shows that increasing vitamin E intake can reduce inflammation and liver fat while improving liver cell health.
- Globe artichokes
Another example of top liver cleansing foods high in antioxidants, artichokes have an abundance of caffeoylquinic acid with powerful regeneration properties. Like cruciferous veg, artichokes help support bile production and fat-digesting enzymes.
Distinctive to artichoke, however, is the prevalence of cynarine. Cynarine is a hydroxycinnamic acid shown to improve liver function. An NLM study shows that artichokes can enhance bile excretion and boost liver bile synthesis.
Through this process, artichokes help the body remove toxins when they pass through the liver.
Packed with iron, calcium, betaine, antioxidants and B vitamins, beetroot can help the liver absorb and detoxify heavy metals. In thinning our bile, beetroot helps the liver function, while the signature purple/pink pigments securely bind electrons and hydrogen.
With a high level of betalains and other compounds, beetroot can help reduce inflammation and liver damage while protecting against OS. All while activating liver enzymes and increasing bile to support detoxification.
Despite already being mentioned in the cruciferous veg section, we had to leave a special place for sprouts as a genuine top liver cleansing food.
Yet another source of high antioxidants to add to the good foods for your liver list, Brussels sprouts boasts 150% RDA (recommended daily allowance) of vitamin C and 200% RDA of vitamin K. Vitamin K deficiency is known as a common cause of liver problems, as vitamin C protects the liver from free radical damage.
Garlic comes packed with various sulphur compounds that help activate liver enzymes to flush out toxins. Rich in allicin and selenium, two compounds are known for their liver-cleansing qualities.
However, to gain these benefits, you must eat it raw, chopped or crushed, as the enzyme deactivates when cooked too long.
A study published by the NLM shows other compounds like allicin, alliin, and ajoene found in garlic also help support the liver with hepatoprotective effects against ethanol-induced liver injury.
Another quality of garlic is its high selenium concentration. Selenium is a natural detoxifying mineral that eases the liver after increased antioxidant exposure. This remedy provides a reminder and helpful note if you plan on advancing your antioxidant intake with these various good foods for your liver.
Turmeric helps our bodies digest and restores a healthy blood sugar balance before supporting healthy liver tissue and metabolism. Powerful anti-inflammatory qualities, alongside antioxidant and anticancer properties, make turmeric one of the best foods for the liver.
An extensive NLM study reveals that turmeric (curcumin) helps protect the liver and can treat liver diseases alongside altering cellular pathways.
Promoting liver enzyme function, encouraging bile production, and working as an excellent source of antioxidants and vitamin C, enter one of the top liver cleansing foods – lemon.
Antioxidants in lemons help protect against OS found in alcohol liver injuries induced in mice. Plus, combined with ginger reaps even more liver healing effects, helping to protect against chronic liver damage.
- St Mary’s Thistle
St Mary’s Thistle, known formerly as “Silybum marianum” and goes by common names of “milk thistle”, “Marian thistle”, and “the flower of Scotland”, is a superb source of the antioxidant flavonoid called silymarin that includes several compounds known as flavonolignans.
These flavonolignans inside silymarin can heal and regenerate our bodies with hepatoprotective effects. The antioxidants found within St Mary’s Thistle are clinically proven to lower specific liver enzymes that indicate liver damage.
Other medical properties of milk thistle include reducing cholesterol, balancing blood glucose and treating fatty liver disease and damage from alcohol/drugs.
- Fatty Fish
Known for being rich in omega-3 fatty acids, fish contains the good fat we use to reduce inflammation. Despite the associated name, these fats found in fish help the liver by preventing excess fat building while maintaining enzyme levels.
NLM published an article that presents fish oils found in fatty fish as a potential treatment for NAFLD and other liver issues.
We add grapefruit to the list of the best food for our liver because it contains two vital antioxidants, naringenin and naringin. Another comprehensive study from the NLM found hepatoprotective qualities in both natural compounds with antioxidant properties and endogenous antioxidant defence systems.
Grapefruit has further protective properties in reducing inflammation and protecting liver cells. The antioxidants found in grapefruit can reduce hepatic fibrosis because of chronic inflammation.
When it comes to the list of top liver-cleansing foods, walnuts are one of the best for having high antioxidant and fatty acid content. Walnuts also contain omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids alongside polyphenol antioxidants.
Completing this array of benefits is the glutathione content within walnuts that improves our lipid profiles, hepatic steatosis, and inflammation.
- Tea (Green/Black)
What more fitting way to end our list of top liver-cleansing foods than with a nice cup of tea? Yes. Green and black tea both report liver-healing qualities. Black tea was shown (in mice) to reduce negative high-fat diet effects on the liver while people who drink green tea report the lowest risk of developing liver cancer.
Foods you should avoid for the liver
The foods we should avoid for the liver include everything from excess fruit (fructose) and simple carbohydrates to salts, hydrogenated vegetable oils and processed/red meats. [Link to 50 bad foods blog]
Keeping our liver healthy with the food we eat relies on eating a mixed and balanced diet, rich in whole foods, minerals and vitamins. Even eating excessive amounts of fruit can develop too much fructose and sugar for our liver to manage.
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