Your liver is kind of like a filter in your body. It's what helps your body rid itself of toxins and impurities. You need to take care of your liver if you want it to function properly. Around 100 million Americans suffer from fatty liver disease, and according to the American Liver Foundation, there is still no known cure or treatment for this condition.
The best way to combat liver disease is to stop it in its tracks before it happens, and the best way to do that is with a proper, balanced diet. Keep reading to learn which fruits, vegetables, nuts, and drinks will naturally cleanse your liver.
Eat More Turmeric
Turmeric is a bright orangey-yellow spice that's used often in Indian cooking. It has a mild and somewhat bitter taste. You might recognize it as the ingredient that makes curry yellow. It's actually a chemical called curcumin that gives turmeric its distinctive color. Curcumin has a whole bunch of health benefits. which also provides many health benefits.
According to research in Nutrients, curcumin inhibits enzymes that would otherwise damage the liver. This could guard against fatty liver disease, says Integrative Medicine Research.
Blueberries Could Be The Ultimate Superfruit
We have often heard that blueberries are a superfruit, but what does that even mean? It means that blueberries contain antioxidants that work wonders for our liver. According to research in the World Journal of Gastroenterology, blueberries may prevent and protect against hepatic fibrosis. In the same year, another study determined that blueberries can remove stress from the liver.
Blueberries may even guard against certain cancers. It's a good thing that blueberries taste so good. We could eat them all day long.
Crack Open Some Walnuts
Compared to other nuts, walnuts have a higher amount of omega-3 fatty acids. For fatty liver disease, this is a huge health benefit. Walnuts can improve cholesterol levels, and they provide antioxidants for the liver, according to the World Journal of Gastroenterology. Both may soothe symptoms of fatty liver disease.
In 2015, study participants who ate walnuts experienced better liver production, according to scientists. Plus, according to research in BMJ Open, nut-eaters have a lower risk of getting fatty liver disease. Go nuts for walnuts!
You Can't Beat Beets
Beetroot, especially beet juice, has many anti-inflammatory benefits. According to a 2018 animal study in Nutrients, beets soothe oxidative stress in mice. During an earlier study, beet supplements reduced inflammation and increased detoxifying enzymes in the liver.
Because red beets remove cell damage, they can also protect the liver from disease, says the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. Beets contain betaine, an amino acid that helps to remove fat from the liver. This may clean the liver and guard against disease, says The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Avocado Is Good In Moderation
Avocado is full of healthy fats such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. In 2000, scientists from the American Chemical Society proved that the chemicals in avocados are beneficial for your health. According to them, the chemicals in avocado lowered liver damage in rats. "Besides offering taste and nutrition, avocados seem to improve liver health," says lead researcher Dr. Hirokazu Kawagishi.
Just beware of the amount of avocado you're eating because healthy fats are still fats which can contribute to fatty liver disease when consumed in large quantities.
Drink More Green Tea
Green tea has been a staple in Chinese medicine long before it even came to America. Now that it's here, we can enjoy the benefits of this amazing beverage. Just make sure that you're consuming green tea in tea form. Stay away from green tea pills and supplements. Green tea extract can actually harm your liver.
Green tea contains powerful antioxidants called catechins. During a Japanese study, patients who drank five to ten cups of green tea per day had healthier blood markers in their liver. In 2015, a PLoS ONE study noted that green tea soothes the symptoms of fatty liver in rats.
Legumes Are A Liver's Best Friend
For those of you who may not be in the know, a legume refers to anything in the lentil family. That includes beans, peas, and even peanuts. All of these high-protein and high-fiber foods are great for your liver. In February 2019, Indian scientists discovered that eating legumes lowers one's chances of getting fatty liver disease.
Legumes are a fantastic source of protein that contain a lot less salt than most other protein sources we have access to.
Cabbage Is Fantastic
Cabbage may not have the most pleasant smell in the world, but your liver doesn't seem o mind. In fact, your liver absolutely loves cabbage. Cruciferous vegetables, such as cabbage, contain a natural compound called indole. In February 2020, researchers announced that indole might prevent fatty liver disease, and it could also null some of the disease's effects. One head of cabbage provides 1200 mg of indole.
Cabbage has also been found to reduce inflammation in the liver.
Garlic Could Prevent Liver Disease
Like green tea, garlic has also ben used for its medicinal purposes in ancient and modern China. Garlic grows easily in China and it's a main ingredient in a lot of Chinese dishes. In Jiangsu, China, residents have low chances of liver disease. Researchers believe that they have garlic to thank for that statistic.
During a 2011 study, people who ate two or more servings of raw garlic had a lower chance of developing fatty liver disease. Garlic can also reduce fat mass, according to Advanced Biomedical Research.
Carrots Are For More Than Just Your Eyesight
You may have heard that vitamin A in carrots can help you improve your eyesight, but did you know that carrots are great for liver function too? In a 2016 study in Preventive Nutrition and Food Science, carrots supported liver function in rats. Vitamin A can also protect your liver, according to the European Journal of Immunology. One medium carrot contains 203% of your daily recommended vitamin A.
Beta carotene, which gives carrots their orange color, helps to remove waste from the body.
Enjoy A Spinach Salad
Spinach contains a lot of vitamin E, which is essential for liver health. In 2013, researchers found that vitamin E could reduce the amount of harmful fat in the liver. Fat in the liver is what contributes to fatty liver disease, so if you eat more spinach, you'll lower your chances of developing the disease.
In April 2019, research in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences also found that spinach decreased the weight of the liver in rats by lowering cholesterol and metabolizing fat.
Opt For Olive Oil
In 2017, Chilean researchers discovered that olive oil might reduce the amount of fat in the body. This is good news for the liver. Hydroxytyrosol, a compound in olive oil, stabilizes the enzymes that would otherwise cause fatty liver disease. The obese rats that took hydroxytyrosol had the same liver enzyme markers as normal rats.
Olive oil may also protect the liver, says 2018 research. The chemicals in oil stop harmful chemicals and release antioxidants, which lowers the inflammation in the liver. That said, too much olive oil may increase your risk, so you should watch your portion sizes.
Juice A Lemon
Adding lemon to your water isn't just tasty; it can benefit your body. In mice, lemon juice can alleviate injuries in the liver, according to BioMed Research International. Researchers say that lemon has "numerous beneficial bioactive compositions," including vitamin C, pectin, calcium, and B vitamins.
Although some health websites encourage a lemon detox for the liver, there is no scientific evidence that these detoxes work. Lemon has promising antioxidants that can lower inflammation, says the Frontiers in Physiology. You can sprinkle some lemon juice into salads or drinks, but don't overdo it.
Enjoy A Bunch Of Grapes
For improved liver function, eat some grapes. During a 2010 study, participants with fatty liver disease ate grape seed extract for three months, and they experienced better organ function. Grapes supply resveratrol, an antioxidant that does wonders for the liver.
In 2011, researchers at the University of Queensland found that grapes may remove some of the burden your liver is taking on. According to scientists, grapes may ease disease symptoms and delay the progression of liver failure. For more anti-inflammatory powers, buy red or purple grapes.
Switch To Whole Grains
If you haven't switched from white pasta and bread to whole wheat, you may want to do so for your liver. According to a 2019 study in JAMA Oncology, whole grains can lower your chance of liver cancer by 37%. The nutrients in whole grains stabilize inflammation and insulin, which are both markers of liver cancer, says epidemiologist Xuehong Zhang.
Whole grains can also reduce your risk of fatty liver disease, says the International Journal of Endocrinology. Oats, rye, barley, brown rice, and wheat pasta may significantly improve your chances of avoiding liver disease.
Have A Cup Of Joe
According to research, coffee supplies antioxidants that may protect your internal organs. Scientists reviewed 20 years' worth of studies in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology, and they determined that coffee could slow the development in cirrhosis. It also lowers inflammation in those with chronic liver disease.
After performing a 2016 study, researchers saw a lower mortality rate among coffee-drinkers. When patients with fatty liver disease drank at least three cups of coffee per day, they were less likely to acquire cirrhosis. Not bad for your morning cup of joe.
Soy Is Good For Your Liver
Tofu and soy milk have many benefits other than being a lean protein. In 2012, researchers at the University of Illinois discovered that soy could reduce fat in the liver. Assistant professor Hong Chen said that soy might alleviate symptoms of fatty liver disease, such as lessening triglycerides by 20%.
In 2019, a scientific review in Nutrients explored over 130 studies. According to the researchers, soy can improve insulin, lower lipid levels, and improve liver function. You don't have to go vegetarian to enjoy the benefits of soy.
Have Some Broccoli
Among the many health benefits that broccoli offers, you can add "liver support" to the list. Eating broccoli can reduce the chance of liver cancer in mice, according to the Journal of Nutrition. Elizabeth Jeffery, a professor at the University of Illinois, recommends eating broccoli with your meal if you can.
Science has established that cruciferous vegetables, including broccoli, may prevent fatty liver disease. During a 2015 animal study, broccoli extract quickened the healing of a liver injury. There's no reason not to eat more broccoli.
Get More Grapefruit
Grapefruit really can work wonders for your liver. This delicious citrus fruit contains two antioxidants; naringin, and naringenin, both of which can guard the liver against the development of fatty liver disease. During a 2011 animal study in the European Journal of Nutrition, scientists saw that grapefruit blocks certain chemicals in the body. In particular, it stops chemicals that oxidize in the liver, which prevents damage over time.
Make sure that you check with your doctor before you eat grapefruit If you're currently taking medications. Some medications are rendered less effective by grapefruit.
Try A Cranberry Cleanse
In animal studies, cranberries have noticeable effects on the liver. Research in The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry stated that cranberries soothe inflammation in the liver. During another animal study, cranberries prevented toxicity and injury in the liver.
Cranberry juice can also cleanse the liver, according to the Journal of Medicinal Food. The berries raise triglyceride levels, which could build up fats over time and cause atherosclerosis. With a high amount of vitamin C, cranberries can also prevent excessive fat in the liver.
Watch Out For Green Tea Extract
Dietary supplements aren't hard to get, but they can harm your liver over time. In 2017, the National Institute of Health conducted a study linking liver damage to dietary supplements. According to the research, weight loss and bodybuilding supplements pose the most risk.
But those weren’t all. Some supplements made for depression, sexual performance, and digestive issues were also flagged. Of all the ingredients, the two most dangerous were anabolic steroids and, oddly enough, green tea extract. Check with your doctor if you’re concerned about your current supplements.
Even Herbal Supplements Can Be Harmful
Yes, some organic herbal supplements can damage your liver. "All-natural" does not mean non-toxic. In a 2017 study in Hepatology, researchers reported that herbal supplements caused 16% of liver disease cases in the past eight years. And more supplements are sold every year.
Which supplements pose the biggest threat? WebMD lists the main culprits: aloe vera, comfrey, cascara, chaparral, black cohosh, ephedra, and kava. Before you begin taking herbal supplements, talk to your doctor. Many of them can negatively interact with medications, as well.
Drink More Water
The liver processes your body's waste, and it needs water to flush the toxins through. As a result, dehydration can war out the liver. "As the liver loses hydration, it also loses its organ reserve, or what it uses to take care of the rest of the body," explains osteopathic physician Michele Neil-Sherwood.
Not only does water help liver function, but it also sweeps away toxic tissues, essentially cleaning the organ. According to liversupport.com, the best times to drink water are after waking up, before meals, and before and after exercise. These will nourish your liver when you're likely to be dehydrated.
Drink Coffee In Moderation
Believe it or not, research has shown that drinking coffee may prevent liver disease. In 2016, the British Liver Trust examined several studies and concluded that coffee might protect against fatty liver disease, cirrhosis, and liver cancer. In one study, drinking two or more cups of coffee a day reduced the risk of cirrhosis by 66%.
That's not to say that you should over-caffeinate. Researchers agree that a moderate coffee intake is all you need, which the European Food Safety Authority defines as three to five cups a day. Just make sure your coffee isn't loaded with sugar!
Limit Sugar And Stay Away From Corn Syrup
You've probably heard the health advice "don't eat too much sugar" before. But you may not have known that over-indulging in sugar could result in trouble. The biggest danger is high fructose corn syrup, another word for 55% fruit sugar and 45% glucose. According to Harvard Health Publishing, this chemical results in many liver complications.
The liver is the only organ that can process high fructose corn syrup. As a result, it builds up in the liver quickly. Through a process called lipogenesis, the liver cells create a fat, which can eventually add up to cause fatty liver disease.
Go To The Dentist
Skipping a dental checkup may have more dire consequences than a cavity. Research suggests that there's a connection between tooth health and liver disease. In 2015, scientists examined thirteen studies and reported that oral disease was found in over 70% of patients with cirrhosis.
More research is needed to clarify the link between liver disease and oral health. Although researchers don't understand the connection, inflammation in the gums and teeth seems to affect the liver. Prioritize your dentist visits because those will help your liver, too.
Don't Lean On Over-The-Counter Painkillers
For years, researchers have warned people that taking too many over-the-counter painkillers can cause liver damage. The culprit is acetaminophen, which is found in drugs like Tylenol and Aspirin. When acetaminophen breaks down, it produces the compound NAPQI, which is harmless until it interacts with a compound in the liver.
The FDA recommends staying under 325 mg per dose. The daily maximum is 4,000 mg, the same amount as one Extra Strength Tylenol pill. To be safe, follow the dosage recommendations. "Even a small amount more than directed can cause liver damage," the FDA announced.
Cut Back On Salt
The recommended daily amount of salt is between 2,000 and 2,400 mg. Unfortunately, most people eat more than that. Kristen Roberts, a clinical professor of Internal Medicine at Ohio State University, says that most Americans consume over 5,000 mg of salt per day.
How does this affect the liver? An over-salted diet creates water retention, which overworks and inflames the liver. People with pre-existing liver conditions have to adhere to a low-sodium diet. To prevent this, watch out for processed foods that often use salt as a preservative.
Don't Eat High Glycemic Foods At Night
High glycemic foods are those which contain a high amount of carbohydrates, including white bread and potatoes. Their makeup can put the liver into overdrive, but especially at night. According to Dr. George Kosmides, the liver mainly works at night, and sleeping after eating these foods forces it to work harder.
Foods that contain vegetable oils--such as margarine and shortening--can also produce this effect. Instead of snacking on late-night cereal, opt for fruits, vegetables, or dairy, says Dr. Kosmides. In particular, beets and carrots can help the liver rebuild overnight.
Exercise Every Week
Exercise isn't just for dieting. It also helps your body detoxify, which improves your liver. During a 2015 study in Biomolecules, rats who ran frequently ran had fewer fatty deposits and inflammation in their liver. The exercise even prevented fatty liver disease from chronic drinking.
More research is needed to determine how much exercise is needed. The study focused on aerobic exercise, also called "cardio," which includes running, walking, and swimming. In general, try to work out at least two to three times per week.
Get Enough Sleep
Everyone has a sleepless night once in a while. But if you're consistently getting under seven hours of sleep, your liver may suffer the consequences. Researchers from the Baylor College of Medicine explain that chronic sleeplessness creates its own set of genes. These genes interrupt acids that promote healthy liver function.
The study, published in Cancer Cell, concludes that abnormal liver function may prompt the development of tumor cells. Concerningly, 80% of Americans have their sleep disrupted regularly. Remember that your liver works mostly at night, so make those seven to nine hours of sleep a priority.
Cut Out Sugary Drinks
Yes, sugary drinks are yummy. But the more you drink, the more you could potentially damage your liver. During a 2015 study, researchers linked the consumption of sugary drinks to a higher risk of fatty liver disease. Diet sodas did not have this effect, states the research in The Journal of Hepatology.
How much is too much? According to research in Pediatric Obesity, drinking two sweetened beverages a day is dangerous for your liver. Replace your sweet iced tea with unsweetened tea, and your juice with herb-infused water.
Eat More Fruits And Vegetables
For the sake of your liver, you'll want to eat a fruit and vegetable during every meal. Produce contains high amounts of antioxidants, which are essential for liver health. In 2015, scientists connected oxidative stress with a higher risk of liver disease. It also restocks the liver's natural antioxidants that it uses to detoxify chemicals.
High-antioxidant foods include blueberries, strawberries, spinach, green beans, artichokes, beets, and kale. The research, published in the World Journal of Gastrointestinal Pharmacology and Therapeutics, also recommended turmeric and green tea as a source of high antioxidants.
Trans Fats Aren't Good For Your Liver
Artificial trans fats are unsaturated fats found in hydrogenated oils (as opposed to naturally-occurring trans fats in animal and dairy products). Although trans fats are in a lot of processed foods, they're not healthy for your liver. During a 2010 study by the Cincinnati Children's Hospital, researchers recorded that trans fats scar your liver.
In particular, combining trans fats with fructose and sucrose--which many processed foods do--increased the risk of fatty liver disease in mice. According to BMC Nutrition and Metabolism, trans fats create oxidative stress in the liver, which inflames it. That's another reason to limit trans fats in your diet.
Monitor Your Weight
Although many people see weight as a self-esteem reflection, doctors view it as a health predictor. An often-overlooked consequence of obesity is developing fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Remember that an "unhealthy" weight varies from person to person.
Weight-based fatty liver disease is distinguished from that caused by drinking. But according to doctors, it causes the same amount of liver damage, even in patients who have never had a drink. Eating well and maintaining exercise will prevent this illness. Talk to your doctor about your range of healthy weight.
Tackle Chronic Stress
The mind and body are so intertwined that prolonged stress can cause disease, including liver disease. In 2015, researchers from the University of Edinburgh discovered that those who suffered from psychological distress were more likely to get fatty liver disease. "Psychological distress" includes anxiety and depression.
Earlier findings back up this conclusion. According to the World Journal of Gastroenterology, stress increases inflammation that may lead to cirrhosis. While stress isn't a daily habit per se, not seeking a cure could injure your liver over time.
Make Sure You're Getting Enough Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 is essential for healthy liver function. It helps the flow of bile in the liver and decreases the likelihood of liver disease and hepatitis. The recommended daily dose of vitamin B12 is 2.4 mcg. Many people get this amount through foods like eggs, tuna, beef, cheese, chicken, and pork.
If you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, however, you're at risk of a vitamin B12 deficiency. Some breakfast cereals and brown rice are fortified with vitamin B12. If you're under 50, you may not need a supplement, but talk to your doctor if you're worried.
Beware Of Heavy Drinking
Chronic drinking remains the biggest cause of fatty liver disease. According to the American Liver Foundation, 15% of heavy drinkers develop liver scarring, a precursor to liver disease and cancer. Once you have an illness like cirrhosis, your only remedy is to limit your drinking.
"However much is 'too much' for you can result in ongoing [liver] inflammation and overwork," says gastroenterologist Dr. John Iskander. If you're a legal adult, it's safe to drink in moderation. But beware of binging and overdoing it during your nights out.
Lighting up doesn't just harm your lungs; it also hurts your liver. According to a 2018 research in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, smoke increases the risk of fatty liver disease by up to 46%. The more dominant the habit, the higher the risk becomes.
Like other liver-damaging habits, smoke raises oxidative stress. As the liver works to break down the toxins, these dangerous chemicals kill off healthy liver cells. If you're at risk of liver disease, you'll want to make a change soon.
Pay Attention To Your Cholesterol
Unfortunately, many Western diets include high cholesterol. If you're ignoring how much you're eating, you might be at risk for liver disease. Specifically, LDL is "bad" cholesterol that leaves fats around the liver, while HDL is the healthy type. Too much LDL could produce liver disease, which, in turn, creates more LDL.
Although the liver normally processes cholesterol, too much of it can build up to create the harmful compound NAFLD. As your liver struggles to process cholesterol, it produces more cholesterol. If you already have high cholesterol, you'll want to monitor it, as you have a greater risk of liver disease.