With our exposure to environmental toxins, medications, toxic body care products, processed foods and alcohol, our health is greatly dependant on how well our body remove toxins. The main way to detoxify our body is through our liver, one of body’s most hard working organs. Liver not only detoxifies our blood, but it also produces bile to digest fats, breaks down hormones, stores essential vitamins, minerals and iron… Healthy liver is therefore an essential part of overall health.
Do you need to ‘detox’ to keep your liver healthy?
Supporting your liver doesn’t mean you need to limit a whole variety of food groups and go on drastic detox plans. Rather you should learn to include plenty of supporting foods and limit unhealthy habits that might be overloading your liver.
What should you eat to give your liver a boost?
- Cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and brussels sprouts are sulphur rich vegetables that reduce oxidative stress and increase levels of glutathione, one of most powerful antioxidants. Baked stir fried or in a soup, these vegetables are a great addition to the liver support diet.
- Fresh carrots, cucumbers, beetroots, greens (spinach, kale) have been found to increase natural detoxification enzymes and are perfect to make vegetable juices from. Add some ginger and turmeric. Ginger helps to reduce gas, is anti-inflammatory and soothes the digestive tract. Turmeric acts as an anti-inflammatory and supports glutathione.
- Potassium rich foods such as sweet potatoes, cooked tomatoes, beetroot and beetroot greens, bananas, beans and chick peas increase blood potassium levels. Low potassium levels were found to directly correlate with the risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Keep your potassium intake high to support your liver!
- Green tea is high in polyphenols, potent plant antioxidants. Studies show that drinking green tea for 12 weeks (3 cups per day) improves liver enzymes and may reduce oxidative stress and fat deposits in the liver. Green tea has also been found beneficial in weight loss and has positive effects on immune health. Its particular type of polyphenols called catechins, one study found, may even kill influenza viruses. Possibly another reason to swap that coffee with green tea this autumn?
- Grapefruit contains antioxidants that are anti-inflammatory and protective to liver cells. However be careful with grapefruit if on any medication (may interfere with certain blood pressure medications, cholesterol lowering medications, antidepressants and heart rhythm medications).
- Nuts and seeds are full of antioxidants, include vitamin E and have been found to improve levels of liver enzymes. Add nuts and seeds into your juices and stir fry’s or have them for snacks.
- Garlic helps liver activate enzymes that can flush out toxins. It contains allicin and selenium. Allicin in garlic has antioxidant, antibiotic and antifungal qualities, while selenium increases the action of antioxidants. Enjoy garlic to spice up your food and boost your liver health!
How can you include liver supporting foods into your diet?
It might seem hard to include all these foods into your daily diet but with a bit of planning you can prepare delicious soups, juices, stir fry’s and vegetable bakes which will not only boost your liver health but also your immune system and your moods. In case you didn’t know, liver has a huge impact on our hormones. If these are not properly broken down by the liver they can accumulate and cause hormonal imbalances, fluid retention and weight gain.
What foods should you avoid to keep your liver healthy?
Alcohol, sugar, processed foods and refined carbohydrates are the main culprits of poor liver health. Remember it takes the body approximately an hour to process one alcoholic drink and this increases with each drink. The liver can only process a certain amount of alcohol at a time, the rest circulates in the blood stream, affecting the heart and the brain. Chronic alcohol abuse results in destruction of liver cells. Just like alcohol, refined sugar, especially fructose can also be toxic to the liver and research shows that excessive consumption leads to fat build up in the liver, the so-called fatty liver disease.