Foods That Are Good For Your Liver
- 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.
- 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.
8. Beetroot Juice
- 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.
9. Fatty Fish
- 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.
10. Sunflower Seeds
- 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.
12. 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.
13. 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.
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Dec, 01 2023
Blessing Ifunanya Maduelosi