You may not realize it, but your liver plays an essential role in keeping you healthy. This organ filters your blood and removes toxins, as well as fats, so they aren’t circulated back into your bloodstream. If the functions of your liver become impaired for any reason — such as from excess drinking or drug use — those harmful byproducts can build up and have negative impacts on other organs and body processes. Unfortunat ely, many people suffer from a weakened or diseased liver without even realizing it. However, there are things you can do proactively to prevent further deterioration of this organ. That’s where the benefits of eating more liver-friendly foods come in! In addition to being packed with vitamins A and B12 (which are both helpful for reducing inflammation), specific fruits, vegetables, spices and herbs have properties that support the health of your liver.
What is liver health?
Liver health is the state of the organ’s function — not its size or appearance. If we’re talking about the health of your liver, we’re referring to factors like the following:
- Bilirubin levels – The liver produces a yellow pigment called bilirubin that helps us break down old red blood cells and metabolize hormones like estrogen. If those levels are too high, it can cause jaundice (which is why newborns have to be tested with a special light-measuring device to ensure their livers are working properly).
- Blood Sugar – The liver controls blood sugar levels by storing excess glucose as glycogen, then releasing it into the bloodstream as needed. If your liver is impaired, it may also fail to store enough glucose, leaving you at risk for low blood sugar.
- Detoxification – The liver removes toxins and harmful substances from your body, such as alcohol, certain medications, harmful bacteria, and even undigested food particles.
- Hormone Balance – The liver is responsible for converting certain hormones, including estrogen and testosterone, into active forms. If it doesn’t function properly, those levels can become unbalanced where you’re at risk for a host of negative health effects, including infertility in women and decreased muscle mass in men.
Grapefruit and liver health
Grapefruit is high in vitamin C, which is essential for producing collagen — a protein that acts as a support system for your liver and reduces signs of ageing. However, many people are put off from eating grapefruit due to the side effects of combining it with certain medications, such as blood-thinning drugs. If you take any medications that interact with grapefruit, consult with a doctor or pharmacist before eating it. Otherwise, grapefruit is a healthy, liver-friendly food that can be enjoyed regularly as part of a balanced diet. In addition to its vitamin C content, grapefruit is a good source of fibre, which can help move the liver’s toxins out of your system more efficiently. What’s more, grapefruit is rich in the flavonoid naringenin, which is known for boosting liver health.
Dark Leafy Greens and Liver Health
Dark leafy greens are packed with vitamins and minerals that support the health of your liver. In fact, consuming enough vegetables is one of the leading recommendations for prevention of liver disease. Spinach is one of the most liver-friendly vegetables, since it’s a good source of antioxidants and iron — both of which help your body detoxify. Additionally, spinach is high in vitamin K, which helps regulate blood clotting in the liver. Swiss chard, collard greens, and kale are also great foods for supporting your liver health.
Turmeric and Liver Health
Turmeric contains a compound called curcumin, which is known to have anti-inflammatory properties and may be helpful in preventing liver disease. In fact, a study found that turmeric was as effective as a common anti-inflammatory drug in treating liver conditions. That being said, more research is needed to determine the effective dosage for these effects. In the meantime, eating turmeric in moderation — about one teaspoon per day — can help improve liver health. You can add it to soups, curries, or even smoothies. Alternatively, you can also use it in baking since the process of baking can increase the amount of curcumin in the turmeric.
Beans and Liver Health
Beans are a superfood rich in fibre, vitamins, minerals, and protein. They are also particularly high in anthocyanins — a type of flavonoid that has antioxidant properties. Many studies have found that beans, in particular, can help prevent liver disease. A study published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology found that the consumption of fava beans was associated with a reduced risk of liver disease. Other studies have found that the consumption of kidney beans, pinto beans, and black beans can also be helpful in preventing liver disease. The best way to consume beans is by cooking them properly and enjoying them in a variety of dishes. Beans can be eaten as a side dish, in baked goods and casseroles, or even as a substitute for meat in a meal.
The liver is a super important organ that is responsible for so many important functions in the body. Unfortunately, this organ is at risk for damage or even failure when certain lifestyle choices are made. People who drink heavily, take certain medications, or frequently consume high-fat foods are at particular risk. Fortunately, there are several foods that can be helpful in protecting the liver. By adding a few of these foods to your diet, you can help keep your liver healthy and functioning at its best.