6 Foods That Naturally Cleanse the Liver
Your liver is the primary detoxifier in your body and it can totally handle moderate intake of alcohol, fatty foods, and sugary treats. The liver excels at converting toxins into waste products, cleansing blood, and metabolizing nutrients and medications so that they can be used by the body.
But the liver can easily get overwhelmed if you don’t ever give it a break. There are many products on the market that purport to detox your liver after an overindulgence, but there really isn’t any such thing as a true liver detox because that’s what your liver does all the time. There is no scientific data to support the efficacy of these products, and they may even be dangerous.
Still, your liver must be cared for in order to keep functioning in a healthy way. If a capsule won’t do it, what will? In a word, food. Healthy eating is the best gift you can give your liver, and the good news is that you are probably already consuming many of the liver-friendly foods on our list.
Read on to see how well you are doing by your liver, and learn some ways to improve its health.
1. Coffee & Tea
Coffee has been shown to protect the liver from disease, even if you already have liver issues. Coffee lowers the risk of cirrhosis and liver cancer as well as reduces damaging inflammation. Researchers think it works because of its ability to prevent the buildup of fat cells, one of the markers of liver disease. The strongest benefits are seen in people who drink at least three cups a day, so don’t listen to anyone who says you have a problem.
Studies show that green tea consumption is also linked to better liver health, but you may need to drink 5-10 cups per day. Who has that much time to run to the restroom? Still, skip the concentrated green tea supplements, because too much can actually have a damaging effect on the liver. Black tea seems to help reverse the effects of a high fat diet. Long story short – enjoy as much tea of any variety as you would like each day, but check in with your doc if that amount exceeds 10 cups.
Grapefruit is great for the liver due to its antioxidants. The two main antioxidants in grapefruit are naringenin and naringin, which help reduce inflammation and protect liver cells. They also seem to prevent the growth of excessive connective tissue and decrease the amount of stored fat in the liver.
Interestingly, naringin has been shown in rat studies to improve the liver’s ability to metabolize alcohol and counteract some of alcohol’s negative effects. Next time you’re about to party, eat some grapefruit as a snack before doing shots and potentially save yourself the debilitating hangover. Your liver will thank you for it.
3. Blueberries and Cranberries
Blueberries and cranberries contain a category of antioxidants called anthocyanins. Beyond giving the berries their distinct colors, these antioxidants have been connected to several liver health benefits.
Eating blueberries and cranberries daily for 3-4 weeks has been shown to protect the liver by preventing the development of lesions, scar tissue, and fibrosis. Blueberries in particular increase immune cell response as well as antioxidant enzymes. Blueberry extract also inhibits the growth of liver cancer cells in test tube studies, but more research in humans is necessary.
Grapes, especially red varieties, contain several beneficial plant compounds. The one you’ve probably heard about is resveratrol, otherwise known as a great excuse to drink red wine. Resveratrol helps the liver by reducing inflammation and protecting against damage by free radicals. Regular consumption is thought to lower your risk of developing cancer, too.
A small research study in people with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) indicated that daily consumption of grape seed extract over three months improved their liver function. Of course, grape seed extract is way more concentrated than what you’d get in whole grapes, or wine for that matter.
But it doesn’t hurt to make grapes a daily habit, and you could certainly ask your doctor if he or she thinks a grape seed extract regimen makes sense for you.
5. Prickly Pear
Prickly pear is actually a type of edible cactus. You may not be able to find it at your local grocery store, but it’s worth a look because this interesting fruit has been shown to reduce the symptoms of a hangover. Study participants reported feeling less nausea, dry mouth, and overall misery if they drank some prickly pear extract before consuming alcohol.
A hangover indicates a liver struggling to process the amount of alcohol it has been given. Prickly pear extract seems to decrease the oxidative damage that the liver sustains after heavy drinking, as well as helps to keep antioxidant and inflammation levels stable.
But beyond being a potential boon to college kids everywhere, prickly pear has long been used in holistic medicine to treat liver disease as well as ulcers, wounds, and fatigue
6. Beetroot Juice
Beets have a very distinct earthy flavor, and there are very few people who can either take them or leave them. You either like beets or you really, really don’t. But if you can stand ‘em, eat up, because beets contain antioxidants in a category called betalains. These compounds are great for reducing oxidative damage and inflammation in the liver as well as increasing detoxifying enzymes.
Though most studies have been done on the juice of beetroots, we can assume that eating them whole is beneficial, too. But even those of us who don’t like beets might be able to tolerate some beet juice in their smoothies, perhaps disguised by the flavor of the blueberries and cranberries we should also be eating.