The liver is an accessory digestive gland that produces bile, an alkaline compound which helps the breakdown of fat. “The liver has many important functions that keeps a person healthy. It removes harmful material from the bloodstream and helps digest food,” says holistic nutritionist Hermeet Suri from Mississauga, Ontario, Canada. A functioning liver works as our bodies’ fat-burning organ: It converts nutrients from the food we eat into essential blood components, storing vitamins and minerals and producing proteins and enzymes to maintain hormone balances in our bodies, writes Suri.
“Although the immune system protects our body from many dangers, it is the liver that protects the immune system from becoming overloaded,” he says.
Here are the best and worst foods for your liver, one of the hardest working organs in your body.
You should add lots of veggies to your diet if you want to keep your liver healthy. Broccoli can be part of this strategy. Some studies suggest this crunchy food can help protect you from nonalcoholic fatty disease. If steamed broccoli sounds a little too blah, shred it into a slaw and toss it with sliced almonds, dried cranberries, and a tangy vinaigrette. It’s also delicious roasted with garlic and a splash of balsamic vinegar.
2. Ease Up on Sugar
Much of the sweet stuff can take a toll on your liver. That’s because part of its job is to convert sugar into fat. If you overdo it, will makes too much fat, which ends up hanging around where it doesn’t belong. In the long run, you could get a condition like fatty liver disease. So do your liver a favor and make sweets an occasional treat.
Foods with lots of fiber can help your liver work at its best. Want one that’s a great way to start your day? Try oatmeal. Research shows it can help you shed some extra pounds and belly fat, which is a good way to keep away liver disease.
4. Herbs and Spices
To protect your liver and your heart at the same time? Sprinkle on some oregano, sage, or rosemary. They’re a good source of healthy polyphenols. An extra benefit: they help you cut back on salt in many recipes. Cinnamon, curry powder, and cumin are good ones to try, too.
5. Avoid Fatty Foods
French fries and burgers are a poor choice to keep your liver healthy. Eat too many foods that are high in saturated fat and it can make it harder for your liver to do its job. Over time it may lead to inflammation, which in turn could cause scarring that’s known as cirrhosis. So next time you’re in the drive-thru line, think about ordering a healthier option.
If you know that you can’t make it through the day without it, you’ll be glad to hear that it may have some benefits for your liver. Studies show that drinking two to three cups a day can protect your liver from damage caused by too much alcohol or an unhealthy diet. Some research suggests it may even lower your risk of liver cancer.
7. Green Tea
Green Tea is loaded with a type of antioxidant called catechins. Research suggests it may protect against some forms of cancer, including liver. You’ll get more catechins if you brew tea yourself and drink it hot. Iced tea and ready-to-drink green teas have much lower levels.
8. Drink Water Always
One of the best things you can do for your liver is keep a healthy weight. Get in the habit of drinking water instead of sweetened drinks like sodas or sports drinks. You’d be amazed at how many calories it will save you each day.
Nuts — especially these — are good sources of vitamin E, a nutrient that research suggests may help protect against fatty liver disease. Almonds are good for your heart, too, so grab a handful the next time you feel like snacking. Or try them in salads, where they add a nice crunch.
Leafy greens have a powerful antioxidant called glutathione, which can help keep your liver working right. And spinach couldn’t be easier to prepare. It makes a great base for a dinner salad, and it’s also delicious sauteed with garlic and olive oil. When it’s wilted, top it with a dusting of fresh parmesan.
Blueberries have got nutrients in them called polyphenols that may help protect you against nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, which often goes hand in hand with obesity and high cholesterol. If blueberries aren’t your thing, other foods rich in polyphenols include dark chocolate, olives, and plums.
13. Reduce Salt Consumption
Your body needs some salt — just not nearly as much as you probably get. Early research suggests a diet high in sodium may lead to fibrosis, which is the first stage of liver scarring. There are some easy things you can do to cut back. Avoid processed foods like bacon or deli meats. Choose fresh instead of canned veggies. And keep temptation at arm’s length by taking your salt shaker off the table.
14. Be Moderate With Alcohol
Drinking too much can wreak havoc on your liver. Over time it can lead to cirrhosis. Even occasional binge drinking — four drinks in one sitting for women and five for men — can be harmful, too. Try to limit yourself to one drink a day if you’re a woman or two a day if you’re a man.
Adding more avocados to your diet can help your body produce a type of antioxidant called glutathione, which is needed for our livers to filter out harmful materials.