A healthy liver is essential in alleviating digestive problems like bloating, gas, sluggish metabolism, and constipation. It regulates blood sugar levels and prevents sugar cravings, fatigue, and fuzzy thinking. The liver plays a vital role in producing proteins, cholesterol, and bile besides storing vitamins, minerals, and carbohydrates.
An unhealthy liver can cause inflammatory diseases, such as arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure, and autoimmune diseases. A toxic liver can also lead to hormonal imbalances that can result in headaches, mood swings, and even depression. Here are 9 foods that promote liver health.
1. Cruciferous Vegetables
Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and mustard greens are high in fiber and beneficial plant compounds. Brussels sprouts and broccoli sprout extract increase levels of detoxification enzymes and protect the liver from damage.1 2 A study conducted in men with fatty liver found that broccoli sprout extract improved liver enzyme levels and decreased oxidative stress. It was also observed that broccoli sprout extract prevented liver failure in rats.3
2. Beetroot Juice
Beetroot juice is a source of nitrates and antioxidants, which may improve cardiovascular health and reduce oxidative damage and inflammation. Studies in rats show that beetroot juice reduces oxidative damage and inflammation in the liver, besides increasing natural detoxification enzymes.4 Even consuming raw beetroot can provide similar health benefits to the liver.
3. Olive Oil
Olive oil is considered a healthy fat due to its positive effects on the liver.5 One study performed on people with NAFLD found that a teaspoon of olive oil per day improved liver enzyme and fat levels. It also increased the levels of a protein associated with positive metabolic effects, reduced fat accumulation, increased blood flow in the liver, and raised insulin sensitivity.6 7
4. Prickly Pear
Prickly pear has been used for ages in traditional medicine as a treatment for ulcers, wounds, fatigue and liver disease.8 Studies show that prickly pear extract can reduce the symptoms of a hangover. One study also found that the juice can decrease the amount of oxidative damage and injury to the liver after alcohol consumption and helped in stabilizing the antioxidant and inflammation levels.9
Nuts are a rich source of fats, vitamin E, and many nutrients that offer various health benefits to the heart and the liver. A study in people with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease found that eating nuts improved the levels of liver enzymes.10 Another study on Korean adults noted that people who ate large amounts of nuts and seeds had a lower risk of developing NAFLD.11 On the other hand, a low intake of nuts is associated with a higher risk of developing the disease.
Studies have shown that tea may have specific benefits for the liver. A Japanese study found that drinking 5–10 cups of green tea per day was associated with improved blood markers of liver health.12 A study in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) patients found that consumption of green tea high in antioxidants for three months improved liver enzyme levels and reduced oxidative stress and fat deposits in the liver.13 Another study found that people who drank four or more cups of green tea every day were less likely to develop liver cancer.14
Grapefruit contains antioxidants that naturally protect the liver by reducing inflammation and protecting cells. Studies in animals have found that the antioxidants in grapefruit help protect the liver from injury.The antioxidants reduce the development of hepatic fibrosis, a harmful condition in which excessive connective tissue accumulates in the liver.15 A study conducted in lab rats has shown that naringin, an antioxidant present in grapefruit, has been shown to improve the ability to metabolize alcohol and counteract some of the alcohol’s negative effects.16
Coffee is one of the best drinks for promoting liver health. Coffee protects the liver from disease even among people with liver problems. Many studies have shown that drinking coffee lowers the risk of cirrhosis in people with a chronic liver disease. It also reduces the risk of developing a common type of liver cancer and has beneficial effects on liver disease and inflammation.17 18 Drinking at least three cups of coffee every day also lowers the risk of death in people with a chronic liver disease.19 Coffee also increases the antioxidant levels that destroy harmful free radicals, which are produced naturally in the body and cause cell damage.
9. Fatty Fish
Fatty fish are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which help reduce inflammation and are beneficial for the liver. Research shows that they help prevent fat accumulation, normalize enzyme levels, improve insulin resistance, and fight inflammation.20 While omega-3s are essential, it is crucial to ensure a balance between the ratio of omega-3 fats and omega-6 fats, which are generally found in many plant oils. Since a high omega-6 to omega-3 ratio can lead to the development of liver disease, it’s important to minimize the intake of omega-6s.
|↑1||Robbins, Melissa G., Johanna Hauder, Veronika Somoza, Bruce D. Eshelman, David M. Barnes, and Paul R. Hanlon. “Induction of detoxification enzymes by feeding unblanched Brussels sprouts containing active myrosinase to mice for 2 wk.” Journal of food science 75, no. 6 (2010).|
|↑2||Yoshida, Kazutaka, Yusuke Ushida, Tomoko Ishijima, Hiroyuki Suganuma, Takahiro Inakuma, Nobuhiro Yajima, Keiko Abe, and Yuji Nakai. “Broccoli sprout extract induces detoxification-related gene expression and attenuates acute liver injury.” World Journal of Gastroenterology: WJG 21, no. 35 (2015): 10091.|
|↑3||Kikuchi, Masahiro, Yusuke Ushida, Hirokazu Shiozawa, Rumiko Umeda, Kota Tsuruya, Yudai Aoki, Hiroyuki Suganuma, and Yasuhiro Nishizaki. “Sulforaphane-rich broccoli sprout extract improves hepatic abnormalities in male subjects.” World journal of gastroenterology 21, no. 43 (2015): 12457.|
|↑4||Clifford, Tom, Glyn Howatson, Daniel J. West, and Emma J. Stevenson. “The potential benefits of red beetroot supplementation in health and disease.” Nutrients 7, no. 4 (2015): 2801-2822.|
|↑5, ↑10, ↑20||Gupta, Vikas, Xian-Jun Mah, Maria Carmela Garcia, Christina Antonypillai, and David van der Poorten. “Oily fish, coffee and walnuts: Dietary treatment for nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.” World Journal of Gastroenterology: WJG 21, no. 37 (2015): 10621.|
|↑6||Nigam, Priyanka, Suryaprakash Bhatt, Anoop Misra, Davinder S. Chadha, Meera Vaidya, Jharna Dasgupta, and Qadar MA Pasha. “Effect of a 6-month intervention with cooking oils containing a high concentration of monounsaturated fatty acids (olive and canola oils) compared with control oil in male Asian Indians with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.” Diabetes technology & therapeutics 16, no. 4 (2014): 255-261.|
|↑7||Bozzetto, Lutgarda, Anna Prinster, Giovanni Annuzzi, Lucia Costagliola, Anna Mangione, Alessandra Vitelli, Raffaella Mazzarella et al. “Liver fat is reduced by an isoenergetic MUFA diet in a controlled randomized study in type 2 diabetic patients.” Diabetes care 35, no. 7 (2012): 1429-1435.|
|↑8, ↑15||Madrigal-Santillán, Eduardo, Eduardo Madrigal-Bujaidar, Isela Álvarez-González, María Teresa Sumaya-Martínez, José Gutiérrez-Salinas, Mirandeli Bautista, Ángel Morales-González, Manuel García-Luna y González-Rubio, J. Leopoldo Aguilar-Faisal, and José A. Morales-González. “Review of natural products with hepatoprotective effects.” World Journal of Gastroenterology: WJG 20, no. 40 (2014): 14787.|
|↑9||Alimi, Hichem, Najla Hfaeidh, Sakhria Mbarki, Zouhour Bouoni, Mohsen Sakly, and Rouma K. Ben. “Evaluation of Opuntia ficus indica f. inermis fruit juice hepatoprotective effect upon ethanol toxicity in rats.” General physiology and biophysics 31, no. 3 (2012): 335-342.|
|↑11||Han, Jung Mi, An Na Jo, Seung Min Lee, Hyun Suk Bae, Dae Won Jun, Yong Kyun Cho, Ki Tae Suk et al. “Associations between intakes of individual nutrients or whole food groups and non‐alcoholic fatty liver disease among Korean adults.” Journal of gastroenterology and hepatology 29, no. 6 (2014): 1265-1272.|
|↑12||Imai, Kohzoh, and Kohei Nakachi. “Cross sectional study of effects of drinking green tea on cardiovascular and liver diseases.” Bmj 310, no. 6981 (1995): 693-696.|
|↑13||Sakata, Ryuichiro, Toru Nakamura, Takuji Torimura, Takato Ueno, and Michio Sata. “Green tea with high-density catechins improves liver function and fat infiltration in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) patients: a double-blind placebo-controlled study.” International journal of molecular medicine 32, no. 5 (2013): 989-994.|
|↑14||Ni, Chen-Xu, Hong Gong, Ying Liu, Yang Qi, Chun-Lei Jiang, and Jun-Ping Zhang. “Green tea consumption and the risk of liver cancer: a meta-analysis.” Nutrition and cancer 69, no. 2 (2017): 211-220.|
|↑16||Seo, Hyun-Ju, Kyu-Shik Jeong, Mi-Kyung Lee, Yong Bok Park, Un Ju Jung, Hye-Jin Kim, and Myung-Sook Choi. “Role of naringin supplement in regulation of lipid and ethanol metabolism in rats.” Life sciences 73, no. 7 (2003): 933-946.|
|↑17||Chen, Shaohua, Narci C. Teoh, Shiv Chitturi, and Geoffrey C. Farrell. “Coffee and non‐alcoholic fatty liver disease: Brewing evidence for hepatoprotection?.” Journal of gastroenterology and hepatology 29, no. 3 (2014): 435-441.|
|↑18||Morisco, Filomena, Vincenzo Lembo, Giovanna Mazzone, Silvia Camera, and Nicola Caporaso. “Coffee and liver health.” Journal of clinical gastroenterology 48 (2014): S87-S90.|
|↑19||Wadhawan, Manav, and Anil C. Anand. “Coffee and liver disease.” Journal of clinical and experimental hepatology 6, no. 1 (2016): 40-46.|