The liver is a vital organ in the body that is responsible for breaking down carbohydrates, primarily glucose, and detoxing the body. It works to clean the blood of potential toxins and harmful pathogens, synthesize proteins, process hemoglobin, and aid with digestion. It also helps to store energy, create bile, and break down byproducts of metabolism. Needless to say, if the liver doesn’t function optimally, your overall health suffers.
The liver may be one of the hardest working organs in the body. It’s easy to make the liver’s duties more difficult by eating unhealthy foods and maintaining poor lifestyle habits. Too many processed foods, animal proteins, refined sugars, alcoholic beverages, and saturated fats can harm the liver. Additionally, lack of exercise or regular exposure to pesticides and airborne pollutants can detract from optimal liver health.
Fortunately, there are many foods that can encourage a healthier liver. Some of the best ones are detailed below.
Grapefruit contains a plethora of beneficial plant compounds, but the two antioxidants that benefit the liver are naringenin and naringin. These protective compounds may work to lower inflammation and keep cells healthy. Several studies found that these antioxidants may help reduce the development of hepatic fibrosis, which causes connective tissue build-up in the liver. More animal studies found that naringenin increased the amount of enzymes necessary for fat burning. This helped to ward off fat accumulation in the liver.
Carrots are commonly associated with with eye health, but it turns out that these tasty root vegetables are great for your liver. The plant flavonoids and beta-carotene in carrots work to stimulate overall liver function and performance. The liver converts the beta-carotene into vitamin A, which may decrease the risk of liver disease.
Prickly pear is an edible fruit that grows on a popular type of cactus. The fruit and juice are commonly consumed to help reduce fatigue, liver disease, and ulcers. An animal study observed mice that consumed prickly pear extract along with a pesticide that is harmful to the liver. The prickly pear extract worked to normalize enzyme and cholesterol levels in this study and similar studies. A different human study monitored 55 people who consumed prickly pear extract after a hangover. The extract helped to reduce nausea, dry mouth, and lessened other symptoms of the hangover.
It’s always a good idea to include more leafy greens in your diet. In addition to packing a diverse mix of antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins, leafy greens contain a lot of chlorophyll. This works to reduce the toxic load on the liver by counteracting the toxins during the digestive process. If you consume bitter greens like arugula, kale, dandelion greens, or endives, you’ll help the liver produce more bile.
Apples offer fiber, they are low calories, and high levels of pectin, which is a chemical compound that works to aid the body’s natural cleansing process. Pectin helps the the body release toxins from the digestive tract, which has a positive effect on the liver. Apples may also help manage the amount of toxins that the liver has to filter.
Just like apples, oats contain a lot of beneficial fiber that helps move waste through the digestive tract. Oats contain beta-glucans, which are specific fiber compounds that benefit the liver. According to a 2017 study, beta-glucans have a lot of biological activity in the body. They may help to fight against obesity, diabetes, and inflammation, all the while aiding immune function. One animal study concluded that beta-glucans from oats helped decrease the amount of fat on mice livers. More human research is necessary, though.
Avocados are known for their monounsaturated fats, specifically the omega-3 fatty acids. The healthy fats and other micronutrients in avocados work to encourage glutathione production. Glutathione actually helps the liver remove environmental pollutants, toxins produced by stress, and heavy metals from the body.
Are you familiar with oxidative stress? This is the imbalance of free radicals and antioxidants in the body. It’s your job to consume antioxidant-rich foods to fight oxidative stress, which can increase the risk of cancer and inflammation. Beets are naturally rich in antioxidants like beta-carotene that work to enhance liver production and fight oxidative stress. They also contain betaine, which helps liver cells release toxins.