The liver is a key part of your bodily system and serves an important role in keeping you healthy. It's the organ primarily responsible for processing and removing toxins from your blood, filtering them out, and purging them through various bodily functions. Thus, keeping the liver healthy is the single most important thing you can do to cleanse your system.
Unfortunately, we live in a world packed full of environmental toxins. Whether it's in the water we drink, the food we eat, or the air we breathe, we're almost constantly being exposed to some kind of toxin or another. Your liver is generally good enough to handle this load, but sometimes it can get overwhelmed.
There are a few warning signs you should look for. Your liver might need a little more assistance than normal if:
- You have frequent bloating.
- You have constipation.
- You have excessive gas.
- Your urine is dark even when you're hydrated.
- Your cholesterol is high.
- You experience mood swings.
- You get frequent headaches.
There are other symptoms as well. We wrote a more detailed guide for liver issues over here, which you should read through if you're concerned.
Ideally, you don't live a lifestyle that puts you at risk of liver damage. Simply supporting your liver with healthy foods and supplements is all you need to keep your body cleansed of mostly anything that could build up inside it.
What, though, should you be eating? What foods and supplements are good for the liver? We've put together a list.
Coffee – straight, black coffee – is surprisingly one of the best things you can consume for your liver's health. You definitely have to avoid the sugary nonsense, but plain coffee has a number of excellent benefits. Several studies have shown that coffee can help protect against liver disease, including cirrhosis, which is otherwise permanent liver damage. It's even possible that regular coffee consumption can help protect you against liver cancers!
The main ways coffee works are still being studied by science, but it currently appears as though coffee helps prevent collagen and fat from building up in the liver. This, incidentally, is why we recommend that you use collagen supplements in moderation.
Coffee has a wide range of health benefits, so it's generally a good beverage to have once or twice a day. Just make sure you're drinking it appropriately and not hurting yourself with excess caffeine or disrupting your sleep.
Camelia Sinensis, the green tea plant, is as close as the world has to ambrosia. It's such a brilliant little leaf, full of all manner of delicious phytonutrients. It's high in antioxidants and vitamins, which help throughout your body. What, though, does it do for the liver specifically?
The antioxidants are a big one. Oxidative stress is bad for most parts of the body, and green tea helps cut that off. Additionally, green tea drinkers show lower levels of liver cancer, better liver enzymes, and lower levels of fat in the liver itself.
Keep in mind that you need to drink the actual tea plant. Black, white, green; the variety doesn't matter. It's just that rooibos or herbal teas don't have the same benefits, because they lack that specific miracle plant in them. That said, plenty of different herbal teas have great benefits to the body as well, so they can be good to add to your diet too.
Grapefruit is citrus, and all citrus is good for the body, but grapefruit may be better than most. Studies have shown grapefruit to protect the liver by protecting cells, as well as providing antioxidants. Specifically, grapefruit is high in naringenin and naringin. Yes, those are different things.
Grapefruit hasn't had a lot of human studies, so most of the data about its protective abilities come from studies in rats. Part of the problem is that grapefruit is pretty bad about reacting with other medications in the body. It essentially "opens you up" to medications, so those medications hit you stronger and harder. This means, among other things, shorter active durations and worse side effects. You can read more about how this works and what medications are affected here.
If you're on any ongoing medications, ask your doctor if you're safe to have grapefruit. If you are, by all means, go wild with it and keep your liver safe.
Much like citrus, all berries are good for the body (at least, all human-edible berries), but some are better than others. In particular, blueberries and cranberries are very good. Why is it? In part, it's due to their antioxidant content. These berries get their distinctive colors from anthocyanins, which are potent little chemicals connected with a range of health benefits.
These berries help keep your liver healthy through antioxidant content, as well as by helping bolster the immune system response in liver cells. Some experiments also found that these berries slowed the development of liver lesions and fibrosis, which is the development of scar tissue in the liver. There's also some minor evidence that they may help suppress liver cancers, though much more study is needed before that can be truly tested.
Grapes are right up there with blueberries and cranberries, though they work in a different way. Red and purple grapes are high in many useful plant compounds, including resveratrol, which has been linked to a number of health benefits including lower blood pressure, lower blood fats, brain protection, and reduced insulin insensitivity.
For the liver specifically, grapes have been shown to help reduce inflammation and increasing antioxidant levels in the organ. Some people have also seen reductions in fatty liver disease, as well.
The trick here is that there hasn't been much study into grapes themselves. What most studies look at is grapeseed oil, which is a highly concentrated extract from the seeds of grapes. It's entirely possible that most benefits come from this oil, and that simply eating grapes isn't enough to help all that much. Nevertheless, it won't hurt you to try it out.
Prickly pear is the fruit of a cactus plant, and it has been used as part of traditional medicine for centuries. Over the years, it has been used to treat anything from ulcers to wounds to fatigue to liver disease, even before "liver disease" was isolated as a specific kind of ailment you could have.
The biggest study involving prickly pear fruit comes from analyzing how it works with alcohol. People who drank after consuming prickly pear had a much lower incidence of a hangover and fewer symptoms associated with a day after drinking, including dry mouth, nausea, and lack of appetite. All of these were better after having had a prickly pear.
This is, unfortunately, another food where the majority of the studies performed on it were using extracts rather than the fruit or the juice itself. It may still be viable to work into your diet, but more study is needed.
Beets, specifically beetroot juice, have been known to help with inflammation, oxidative stress, and heart damage. The primary active compound is a set of nitrates and antioxidants called betalains. Since beetroot juice is packed full of these compounds, it's practically a medicinal extract already. It's possible that beetroot juice can help assist the liver with the detoxification process.
The trick here is that, much like many medicinal foods, there haven't been very many studies performed on humans for these effects. Again, though, it can't hurt to add beetroot to your diet, so why not give it a try?
Moringa is one of our favorite medicinal vegetables, which is why we sell it. It's a leafy green with medically active seeds, pods, and leaves. Some studies have shown that moringa juice can help prevent the build-up of fat in the liver, as well as preventing the damage caused by certain medications. That's not a lot, but moringa isn't just a healthy liver food. It's actually good for a wide range of different bodily systems, and we've written about it extensively on this blog. Be sure to check out our Moringa Juice which can come with all the benefits of moringa and more! Feel free to reach out if you want to discuss moringa more directly, as well!
Cruciferous is a fancy scientific word, but it simply means "related to cabbage". The reason is a bit of scientific history; the plant family for cabbage used to be Cruciferae before it was changed to Brassicaceae. Thus, any vegetable related to cabbage falls into this category. There are a lot of them, too. Broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, mustard greens, kale, and cabbage themselves are all part of that category, as are many others.
These vegetables are, across the board, great to eat. High in fiber, high in nutrients, high in vitamins; they're good for digestion and fueling your body. They can also help protect DNA from damage, help with inflammation and oxidative stress, and even prevent some kinds of cancers from forming.
In the liver specifically, these vegetables help prevent oxidative stress, minimize the build-up of fats, and protect the liver from damage. Plus, the effect happens even when the vegetables are cooked; whatever compound is responsible is not destroyed by cooking it.
Nuts are high in fats and vitamin E. Vitamin E is an antioxidant, and we've covered that already. So what about fats? Aren't fats bad for you?
The truth is, there are good fats and bad fats. Your body needs good fats to survive, but bad fats can build up in your liver and contribute to insulin resistance and diabetes. Bad fats are, as the name implies, bad for you.
Nuts have been studied a lot, and one of the primary findings in men was that those who have a diet high in nuts have a lower risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease than men with diets low in nuts. Walnuts, cashews, peanuts, pecans; they're all good options. Just try not to boost your sodium intake too much with the salty roasted nuts.
Fatty fish have the same concern as fats in nuts; the fats they provide are good fats. Specifically, as you may know, fatty fish are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are incredibly good and incredibly important for your body. They help reduce fat build-up in the liver and help minimize the bad triglycerides that build up in the body as well. They can even help reduce inflammation.
More than just eating more fish, however, you also need to watch out for your omega-6 intake. Omega-6 fatty acids are like the evil twin to omega-3s, and too many of them are bad for you. Having a good balance between omega-3s and omega-6s is crucial.
Olive oil is another healthy fat. In particular, one small study showed that as little as a teaspoon each day was enough to improve liver enzymes and fat levels, which is incredible. More study needs to be done into the overall effects of olive oil, but as it stands, it's definitely something to work into your diet.
Oatmeal is high in a substance called beta-glucans, which is a type of dietary fiber that is better than average for helping out the liver. It helps regulate the immune system, fight inflammation, and can even help fight off diabetes. You'll want to find whole oats, however; pre-packaged oatmeal is often filled with flour and other less healthy substances as filler, rather than pure oats.
What to Avoid
Just as there are good foods to eat, so there are bad foods. The list is the same general who's who of bad foods, though. Fatty foods, starchy foods, sugars (especially processed sugars), salt, and alcohol are all bad for the overall health of your liver. In particular, you want to avoid consuming too much in the way of fried foods, chips, bread, pasta, baked goods, cereals, candies, preserved meats, canned foods, and spirits.
Alcohol straddles a weird line. On one hand, moderate intake – a glass or two of wine every day – has been linked to health benefits. On the other, too much alcohol intake leads to fatty liver disease and, eventually, even worse issues with the liver. Just be careful with it, and strive to eat a healthier diet!