If you’re overweight, irritable, suffering sharp, painful headaches or detoxing from smoking or drinking, you may want to focus on including more liver-protective foods in your diet.
A first step would be to be sure you’re drinking enough water between meals, which will help flush toxins and waste products from your body. A general guide is to drink enough water so that your urine is pale yellow in color. As for foods, the right combination of nutrients will help keep your liver functioning optimally.
Fermented foods: Fermented foods like cultured vegetables provide your body with beneficial bacteria that aid in digestion and provide detoxification support. The fermented food kimchi, for instance, has been found to help your body break down pesticides.
Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, bok choy, and daikon): These help your liver neutralize toxins, including chemicals, pesticides, medications, and carcinogens.
Dark green leafy vegetables (kale, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and dandelion greens): These contain rich amounts of sulfur, which helps your liver with detoxification. Dandelion greens in particular are known for supporting liver detoxification and health.
Sea vegetables: Various types of seaweed and brown algae also support detoxification and may also help prevent your body from absorbing heavy metals and other environmental toxins. Be sure the sea vegetables come from a non-polluted water source.
Sprouts: Sprouts contain high levels of enzymes that serve as catalysts for important body functions. Recent research suggests that broccoli sprouts may help your body detox environmental pollutants such as benzene.
Garlic, onions, shallots, and leeks: These foods are rich in sulfur, including the sulfur-based compound allicin, which is critical for liver detoxification.
Organic, pastured eggs: Eggs are a high-quality source of protein that includes all eight essential amino acids. Your liver needs these to help detoxify your body. Choline, found in egg yolks, also helps protect your liver from toxins.
Artichokes: These contain cynarin and silymarin, which support liver health.
Mushrooms: Maitake, shiitake, and reishi mushrooms are known for their potent immunosupportive agents and also contain L-ergothioneine, a powerful antioxidant to help neutralize free radicals.
Berries: Berries are rich in phytochemicals, including anthocyanin, which might inhibit the proliferation of liver cancer cells.
Coconut oil: This healthy saturated fat is so easy for your body to digest that no pancreatic fat-digesting enzymes are needed. This puts less stress on your liver and helps it function optimally. Eating a tablespoon of coconut oil or coconut cream after or with your meal will also increase satiation and reduce sugar cravings. Say, ‘I’m full!’
Avocados: These contain healthy monounsaturated fat, oleic acid, and glutathione, which is important for liver health.
Organic, unrefined, cold-pressed, extra-virgin olive oil: High-quality olive oil contains anti-inflammatory compounds that help your liver decrease oxidative stress in your body (consume this oil unheated by making it into salad dressing).
Flax seeds, hemp seeds, and chia seeds: These contain plant-based omega-3 fats to fight inflammation along with healthy fiber.
Herbs: Many herbs support liver detoxification and function. This includes ginger, cumin, coriander, cardamom, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, fennel, and turmeric (curcumin).
Organic, grass-fed meat: By avoiding meat raised on confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) and instead choosing grass-fed meat exclusively, you’ll help avoid pesticides, chemicals, hormones, and antibiotics that further tax your liver.
Wild-caught sardines, anchovies, and salmon: These provide anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats. You can also find these in krill oil.
Whey protein powder: Whey protein provides the amino acids necessary for glutathione production, which is essential for liver protection and function. Choose organic whey protein from grass-fed cows.
Spirulina: This blue-green algae is a potent detoxifier. Animal studies suggest spirulina can also protect your liver, probably as a result of its high antioxidant properties and its ability to synthesize or release nitric oxide.
Of course, adding these to a diet generally rich in vegetables, some high-quality meats and a few whole grains is the best. Avoiding sugar and high-carb treats is easy when you treat yourself right first!
Yours in good health,
John Van Hoy, EAMP, LMP