13 Foods That Are Good For Your Liver
- 8 Mins Read
- Health Conditions
- Written by: Reshma Pathare
- Reviewed by: Blessing Maduelosi, Pharmacist
- The liver performs around 500 functions in the human body; many of them metabolic. Consuming the right types of foods can help the metabolic processes in a positive way.
- Some of the liver’s important functions include fat metabolism, protein metabolism, carbohydrate metabolism, producing blood, recycling blood, and flushing the toxins.
- Some of the foods that are good for the liver are: tea, coffee, citrusy fruits, walnuts, fatty fish, and green leafy vegetables.
- Drink a lot of water to maintain liver health.
- Avoid foods that are processed, deep-fried, and artificially-sweetened.
The liver has a major role in the digestion of the foods we eat. In turn, those foods have an equally big role in maintaining liver health. There are certain types of foods that are good for your liver; they’re the same ones that are good for the rest of your body.
Healthy liver foods are low in saturated fats, cholesterol, and preservatives, and are high in unsaturated fats, fiber, and antioxidants.
We’ve listed here some 13 foods good for the liver, including fruits good for the liver, because these are particularly effective in preventing fatty liver, inflammation of the liver, and scarring of the liver.
All of these health problems, caused by bad lifestyle choices, can leave the liver weakened, and though its cells do regenerate — that makes it a unique organ — there’s only so much stress that our hard-working liver can take.
Liver and its functions
Make no mistake, the liver is the powerhouse of the body; rather, it’s a superhero that performs around 500 functions to keep us alive and kicking.
Many of its functions are metabolic. That is to say, the liver is involved in building and breaking down several components to render the body healthy.
Hepatocytes (the primary liver cells) help to convert one type of molecules into another, help to synthesize molecules to aid in homeostasis (stabilizing processes required for survival) and help with regulating the balance of energy.
Because of all the work, it has to do, and the nature of that work, such as filtering the blood, breaking down toxins, and sending them to the kidneys to be flushed out, the liver itself needs a steady supply of nutrients.
The process of cleansing the body of toxins, e.g. the toxins from alcohol, damage the liver cells. These cells can recover quickly only if you have a steady diet of the best foods for your liver.
Important functions of the liver
Fat metabolism: The liver oxidizes triglycerides to produce energy. It converts excessive carbohydrates and proteins into triglycerides and fatty acids to be stored as reserves in adipose tissue. It synthesizes carbohydrates and lipoproteins.
Carbohydrate metabolism: The body needs to maintain a certain amount of blood sugar (glucose), a balancing task that’s performed by the liver. The hepatocytes contain various metabolic pathways, which are used by the liver to absorb the excess glucose that comes into the body via food and to release these reserves when normal blood sugar levels begin to decline. This is how the liver helps a person survive and function, to an extent, even in the absence of proper timely meals.
Protein metabolism: The liver’s work includes synthesizing non-essential amino acids, deamination and transamination of amino acids, converting the non-nitrogenous part of those molecules to lipids or glucose or lipids, removing excessive ammonia from the body so that it doesn’t turn toxic, and most importantly, synthesizing important plasma proteins (like albumin) and blood clotting factors to prevent excessive blood loss.
Producer & recycler of blood: When a fetus starts growing, the liver produces blood to help its proper growth. During a person’s lifetime, the liver becomes a recycler of blood, by breaking down old and damaged blood cells. It stores the essential nutrients and iron that are required in the bloodstream.
Detoxing the body: The liver is a filter to segregate and excrete anything that’s a waste product and may turn toxic if kept inside for long. Whatever the body consumes — food, drink, medicines, alcohol, etc — is vetted by the liver. The stomach and intestine digest the food and release the nutrients into the bloodstream. The residual matter is released with bile through urine and feces.
Therefore, for the liver to optimally carry out its metabolic and cleansing responsibilities, you need to provide it with nutrients through food. Without these nutrients, the liver suffers and your metabolism becomes sluggish.
Best foods for your liver
The healthy foods for your liver include some of the obvious, such as vegetables, fruits, and nuts, and some less obvious ones, such as tea and coffee.
- This beverage is known to have several health benefits, including fighting skin problems, improving bone health, and boosting mental health.
- Tea has anti-inflammatory properties that help in reducing obesity, controlling diabetes, and lessening the risks of cancer.
- Antioxidant-rich green tea is seen to cut down the fat deposits and oxidative stress in the liver, as well as increase the enzyme levels in the liver.
- Black tea helps curb the impact of fatty liver disease and enhances overall liver health by improving blood markers.
Different types of teas are considered go-to foods to detox the liver, especially for those who burden the liver with alcohol, sugary foods, and other unhealthy foods.
These include chamomile tea (with anti-inflammatory properties), ginger & lemon tea (rich in Vitamin C and antioxidants, and thus helpful for flushing toxins), peppermint tea (which helps in curing food stagnation that can disturb sleep patterns and burden the liver), and turmeric tea (rich in enzymes to remove toxins and antioxidants that repair damaged liver cells).
- Drinking 1-3 cups of coffee a day is very beneficial for liver health. It is seen to reduce the risk of liver cancer, control inflammation, and lower the possibility of death via chronic liver disease by controlling the build-up of collagen and fat.
- Coffee also increases the levels of the antioxidant glutathione, which helps neutralize the free radicals that cause cell damage (in the liver).
- Caffeine in coffee, when digested, makes paraxanthine — this is a chemical that controls the growth of scar tissues in fibrosis and thus helps fight against liver cirrhosis (caused by alcohol), Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD), hepatitis, and liver cancer. Cafestol and kahweol are two chemicals in coffee that, when consumed without sugar, can prove beneficial against hepatocellular carcinoma.
Acids in coffee can help fight hepatitis infections.
- Cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, kale, turnip, Brussels sprouts, etc. are considered good liver cleansing foods, thanks mostly to the compound indole found in them, which can reduce the impact of NAFLD.
- Additionally, their high fiber content, other plant compounds, and detoxification enzymes can help flush the toxins (built up due to alcohol and unhealthy food) that exert stress on the liver. This liver cleansing reduces the risk of liver cirrhosis and inflammation-induced liver diseases.
- Garlic contains selenium (a non-organic compound) and other antibacterial agents, which help detoxify the liver.
- Garlic activates the liver’s detoxifying enzymes, which flush out the toxins that would otherwise build up in the liver and cause ailments.
- Consumption of raw garlic, especially, has been seen to reduce the risks and severity of liver cancer. A major cause of liver diseases is oxidative stress. Garlic has strong anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and immunoregulatory properties that protect you from NAFLD, alcoholic fatty liver disease, liver cancer, and autoimmune liver disorders.
- Curcumin, a fat-soluble ingredient in turmeric, has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which protect the liver from oxidative stress and related problems.
- Turmeric also helps in making the flow of the bile duct smooth and unhindered, thus allowing unencumbered flushing of toxins. The bile ducts carry bile from the liver for digestion, and they also remove waste from the liver.
- Furthermore, for a person who burdens one’s liver with unhealthy foods and alcohol, turmeric can prevent those substances from turning into toxic compounds. For these reasons, turmeric is an effective food for the management of hepatic fibrosis, hepatotoxicity, cholestasis (obstructed bile flow), and liver cancer.
- Nuts like walnuts and almonds are considered healthy liver foods.
- Walnuts, especially help in intra-hepatic fat loss, thus reducing the inflammatory stress on the liver. They contain high levels of polyphenol antioxidants and Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids. These help in the natural cleansing of the liver by removing toxins.
- Almonds are rich in unsaturated fats and Vitamin E; they help the liver fight fatty liver diseases (both, alcoholic and non-alcoholic).
- Oatmeal is rich in dietary fiber, which helps in overall smooth digestion and contains some fibers that are particularly helpful for the liver.
- They’re also enriched with compounds called beta-glucans, which boost immunity, control inflammation, and rein in obesity and diabetes, two very important causative factors for liver ailments.
- It’s better to consume whole oats instead of artificially-sweetened ready-to-eat oatmeal, for the added sugar content could hinder the benefits of the oats.
- Beetroot juice (or a whole beetroot) has nitrates and antioxidants called betalains, which have anti-inflammatory and antioxidative properties.
- Thus, beetroot juice helps reduce the inflammatory and oxidative stress on the liver.
- It’s a traditionally used liver cleansing agent because it can activate liver enzymes and increase the production of bile.
- Fish like mackerel, trout, tuna, and sardines are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, which prevent fat build-up, maintain the enzyme balance of the liver, and reduce inflammation.
- They’re particularly helpful in lowering the liver fat and triglycerides that build up in people with NAFLD. Additionally, they’re rich in protein, which is required for repairing damaged tissues.
- Consuming a small quantity (half a tablespoon) of roasted sunflower seeds every day can mitigate fatty liver problems. They’re a good source of nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, apart from monounsaturated fats, which contribute to reducing inflammation and preventing insulin resistance, thus keeping the liver healthy.
- Sunflower seeds are rich in proteins and amino acids like tryptophan. They contain polyphenol compounds like caffeic acid, quinic acid, and chlorogenic acid, which are natural antioxidants.
- Sunflower seeds can increase liver enzyme levels, thus boosting liver health. However, one must be careful to roast the seeds and eat only the recommended quantity, because sometimes they can be contaminated with aflatoxins (produced by mold in food items), which increase the risk of liver cancer.
- There are certain fruits good for the liver, and these are mostly juicy fruits like grapes, grapefruit, berries, pear, apple, and avocado.
- Grapes (especially red and purple ones) have Vitamin c, manganese, and plant compounds like resveratrol, which help prevent tissue damage, reduce inflammation, and increase antioxidant levels.
- The high content of Vitamin C in grapefruit helps in flushing out toxins from the liver. It also helps easy bowel movement due to its fiber content.
- Berries like blueberry and cranberry have antioxidants like anthocyanin and others that improve overall immunity, heighten the liver enzyme response, control tissue damage, and slow down the development of lesions and scars on the liver.
- Prickly pears are known to reduce cholesterol levels (thus preventing obesity-induced inflammation) and soften the impact of alcohol on the liver in terms of oxidative damage and scarring.
- Apples are rich in pectin, which helps in the easy removal of heavy metals from the body that can otherwise cause stress on the liver.
- Avocados are rich in fiber, which prevents weight gain and cuts the risk of weight-related inflammation, and it has a compound called glutathione that flushes out the toxins smoothly.
Olive Oil and Flaxseed Oil
- Apart from its benefits for the heart and metabolic health, olive oil is also helpful for liver health, because it can increase the levels of a protein that promotes positive metabolic effects.
- Olive oil is also very effective, more so than most other oils, in preventing fatty liver disease. Its consumption leads to high levels of liver enzymes in the bloodstream and better insulin sensitivity.
- Flaxseed oil is a good source of Omega-3 fatty acids, alpha-linolenic acids, and unsaturated fats. The long-chain n-3 fatty acids in this oil can regulate lipid metabolism and control the accumulation of fatty deposits in the liver, thus protecting it from NAFLD. It also has some positive recuperative effects on people with hepatic fibrosis and alcoholic fatty liver disease.
Leafy green vegetables
- Leafy green vegetables like spinach, kale, and fenugreek are rich in fiber and antioxidants.
- The antioxidants eradicate the free radicals that cause cellular damage, including the liver cells, whereas the fiber helps in smooth bowel movement, flushing out toxins, and reducing the stress on the liver.
Now that you know all about the foods good for your liver, be sure to consume foods that are rich in Vitamin C, Vitamin E, fiber, and certain plant compounds. They reduce oxidative damage, control inflammation, reduce scars and lesions, and prevent the liver from getting excessively stressed.
Apart from eating these foods, drink at least 1.5-2 liters of water every day. Water helps flush out toxins from the body, especially the liver, thus preventing many hepatic ailments. One can add a few drops of lemon to the first glass of water in the morning, to make the flushing even better.
Avoid consuming processed, deep-fried, artificially sweetened foods and drinks. They only end up burdening the liver with oxidative stress, and add to visceral fat, leading to liver inflammation. Follow these good liver health tips to keep your body’s tiny superhero in top shape for long.
- Osawaye, T., Fasanmade, O. A., Lesi, A. & Adeyomoye, A. A. Non alcoholic fatty liver disease in a Nigerian population with type II diabetes mellitus. Pan African Medical Journal. 2016, May 06. doi:10.11604/pamj.2016.24.20.8181
- Wisely, R. What Does the Liver Do, and How Do I Keep Mine Healthy? Michigan Health. 2017, November 06. https://healthblog.uofmhealth.org/what-does-the-liver-do
- Metabolic Functions of the Liver. Vivo Pathophysiology http://www.vivo.colostate.edu/hbooks/pathphys/digestion/liver/metabolic.html#:~:text=The%20liv
- 4 Best Teas For Liver Detox & Repair Liver Functions. Vahdam India. 2021, July 13. https://www.vahdamteas.com/blogs/tea-us/4-best-teas-for-liver-detox-repair-liver-functions
- Steven, B. & Khatri, M. Can Coffee Help Your Liver? WebMD. 2022, January 27. https://www.webmd.com/hepatitis/coffee-help-liver#:~:text=If%20you’re%20a%20big,day%20lowered%20them%20by%2065%25
- Gupta, A. Eat your greens! Compounds in cruciferous vegetables can reduce risk of fatty liver disease. Times Now News. 2020, February 09. https://www.timesnownews.com/health/article/eat-your-greens-compounds-in-cruciferous-vegetables-can-reduce-risk-of-fatty-liver-disease/551361
- Liu X, Baecker A, Wu M, Zhou JY, Yang J, Han RQ, Wang PH, Liu AM, Gu X, Zhang XF, Wang XS, Su M, Hu X, Sun Z, Li G, Jin ZY, Jung SY, Mu L, He N, Lu QY, Li L, Zhao JK, Zhang ZF. Raw Garlic Consumption and Risk of Liver Cancer: A Population-Based Case-Control Study in Eastern China. Nutrients. 2019 Aug 31;11(9):2038. doi: 10.3390/nu11092038.
- Liangliang Zou, Rui Zhang, Hao Gao, Jia Xiao, George L. Tipoe. Chapter 28 – Garlic and Liver Diseases. Editor(s): Vinood B. Patel, Rajkumar Rajendram, Victor R. Preedy. The Liver. Academic Press. 2018. Pages 337-347. ISBN 9780128039519. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-803951-9.00028-8.
- Lee, B. S., Bhatia, T., Chaya, C. T., Wen, R., Taira, M. T. & Lim, B. S. Autoimmune Hepatitis Associated With Turmeric Consumption. ACG Case Reports Journal. 2020, March. doi: 10.14309/crj.0000000000000320
- World Liver Day: 5 Foods That Can Detoxify The Liver. NDTV – https://sites.ndtv.com/healthmatters/album-detail/world-liver-day-5-foods-that-can-detoxify-the-liver-24232/
- Top foods and drinks for liver health. Healthline Media. 2021, June 13. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323915#12-best-foods
- Cheenam, B. & Leena, P. Effects of sunflower seeds on LFT levels of patients with fatty liver (grade 1). Journal of Innovations in Pharmaceutical and Biological Sciences (JIPBS). 2017. http://www.jipbs.com/VolumeArticles/FullTextPDF/324_JIPBSV4I402.pdf