The liver is a powerhouse of an organ. It performs a variety of essential tasks, ranging from producing proteins, cholesterol and bile to storing vitamins, minerals and even carbohydrates.
It also breaks down toxins like alcohol, medications and natural byproducts of metabolism. Keeping your liver in good shape is important for maintaining health. This article lists the 7 best foods to eat to keep your liver healthy.
Tea is widely considered to be beneficial for health, but evidence has shown that it may have particular benefits for the liver.
One large Japanese study found that drinking 5–10 cups of green tea per day was associated with improved blood markers of liver health. A smaller study in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) patients found drinking green tea high in antioxidants for 12 weeks improved liver enzyme levels and may also reduce oxidative stress and fat deposits in the liver.
Furthermore, another review found that people who drank green tea were less likely to develop liver cancer. The lowest risk was seen in people who drank four or more cups per day. A number of mouse and rat studies have also demonstrated the beneficial effects of black and green tea extracts. For example, one study in mice found that black tea extract reversed many of the negative effects of a high-fat diet on the liver, as well as improved blood markers of liver health. Nevertheless, some people, especially those who have liver problems, should exercise caution before consuming green tea as a supplement. That’s because there have been several reports of liver damage resulting from the use of supplements containing green tea extract.
Grapefruit contains antioxidants that naturally protect the liver. The two main antioxidants found in grapefruit are naringenin and naringin. Several animal studies have found that both help protect the liver from injury. The protective effects of grapefruit are known to occur in two ways — by reducing inflammation and protecting cells.
Studies have also shown that these antioxidants can reduce the development of hepatic fibrosis, a harmful condition in which excessive connective tissue builds up in the liver. This typically results from chronic inflammation. Moreover, in mice that were fed a high-fat diet, naringenin decreased the amount of fat in the liver and increased the number of enzymes necessary for burning fat, which can help prevent excess fat from accumulating. Lastly, in rats, naringin has been shown to improve the ability to metabolize alcohol and counteract some of alcohol’s negative effects.
Thus far, the effects of grapefruit or grapefruit juice itself, rather than its components, have not been studied. Additionally, almost all studies looking at the antioxidants in grapefruit have been conducted in animals. Nevertheless, the current evidence points to grapefruit being a good way to keep your liver healthy by fighting damage and inflammation.
3. BLUEBERRIES AND CRANBERRIES
Blueberries and cranberries both contain anthocyanins, antioxidants that give berries their distinctive colors. They’ve also been connected to many health benefits. Several animal studies have demonstrated that whole cranberries and blueberries, as well as their extracts or juices, can help keep the liver healthy. Consuming these fruits for 3–4 weeks protected the liver from damage. Additionally, blueberries helped increase immune cell response and antioxidant enzymes.
Another experiment found that the types of antioxidants found commonly in berries slowed the development of lesions and fibrosis, the development of scar tissue, in the livers of rats. What’s more, blueberry extract has even been shown to inhibit the growth of human liver cancer cells in test-tube studies. However, more studies are needed to determine if this effect can be replicated in the human body. Making these berries a regular part of your diet is a good way to make sure your liver is supplied with the antioxidants it needs to stay healthy
Grapes, especially red and purple grapes, contain a variety of beneficial plant compounds. The most famous one is resveratrol, which has a number of health benefits. Many animal studies have shown that grapes and grape juice can benefit the liver. Studies have found that they can have various benefits, including lowering inflammation, preventing damage and increasing antioxidant levels. A small study in humans with NAFLD showed that supplementing with grape seed extract for three months improved liver function. However, since grape seed extract is a concentrated form, you might not see the same effects from consuming whole grapes. More studies are needed before taking grape seed extract for the liver can be recommended. Nonetheless, the wide range of evidence from animal and some human studies suggests that grapes are a very liver-friendly food.
5. BEETROOT JUICE
Beetroot juice is a source of nitrates and antioxidants called betalains, which may benefit heart health and reduce oxidative damage and inflammation. It’s reasonable to assume that eating beets themselves would have similar health effects. However, most studies use beetroot juice. You can juice beets yourself or buy beetroot juice from the store or online. Several rat studies have shown that beetroot juice reduces oxidative damage and inflammation in the liver, as well as increases natural detoxification enzymes. While animal studies look promising, similar studies have not been done in humans. Other beneficial health effects of beetroot juice have been observed in animal studies and replicated in human studies. However, more studies are needed to confirm the benefits of beetroot juice on liver health in humans.
6. CRUCIFEROUS VEGETABLES
Cruciferous vegetables like Brussels sprouts, broccoli and mustard greens are known for their high fiber content and distinctive taste. They are also high in beneficial plant compounds. Animal studies have shown Brussels sprouts and broccoli sprout extract increase levels of detoxification enzymes and protect the liver from damage. A study in human liver cells found that this effect remained even when Brussels sprouts were cooked. A recent study in men with fatty liver found that broccoli sprout extract, which is high in beneficial plant compounds, improved liver enzyme levels and decreased oxidative stress. The same study found that the broccoli sprout extract prevented liver failure in rats. Human studies are limited. But so far, cruciferous vegetables look promising as a beneficial food for liver health. Try lightly roasting them with garlic and lemon juice or balsamic vinegar to turn them into a tasty and healthy dish.
Nuts are high in fats, nutrients — including the antioxidant vitamin E — and beneficial plant compounds. This composition is responsible for several health benefits, especially for heart health, but potentially also for the liver.
One six-month observational study in 106 people with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease found eating nuts was associated with improved levels of liver enzymes. What’s more, a second observational study found that men who ate small amounts of nuts and seeds had a higher risk of developing NAFLD than men who ate large amounts of nuts and seeds. While more high-quality studies are needed, preliminary data points to nuts being an important food group for liver health.