Your liver is one of the largest and most essential organs in your body, so it’s important you treat it right. If you notice signs that your liver may not be functioning properly, be sure to get it checked by your health care professional right away. The best way to care for your liver is through a healthy diet and lifestyle. Take a look at the 12 best and worst foods for your liver to keep you as healthy as possible.
Why is the Liver So Important?
The liver is one of the largest organs in the body. It’s responsible for many viral functions including processing nutrients from food, regulating blood sugar levels, removing toxins from the body, and building protein. The liver filters all of the blood in the body and breaks down toxic substances such as alcohol and drugs. As part of the filtering process, the liver also removes bacteria from the bloodstream to help resist infection. It also produces bile, a fluid that helps digest fats and carry away waste. It’s essential to keep your liver healthy to maintain optimal health overall.
8 Functions of the Liver
1. Produces bile, which helps carry away waste and break down fats in the small intestine during digestion
2. Makes cholesterol and special proteins to help carry fats through the body
3. Regulates blood clotting
4. Stores glycogen, vitamins and minerals such as vitamins A,D,E,K, B12 and iron
5. Filters the blood and breaks down toxins
6. Enzyme activation
7. Clearance of bilirubin (if there is an accumulation of bilirubin, the skin and eyes turn yellow)
8. Resists infections by making immune factors and removing bacteria from the bloodstream
10 Signs Your Liver Needs Support
1. Feeling sluggish, tired and fatigued
2. Weight gain (especially around the abdomen)
3. Cravings and blood sugar imbalances
4. Poor digestion
5. Stools that take on a grey, clay-like colour
6. Nausea after fatty meals
7. Stomach pains on the right side
8. White or yellow-coated tongue and/or bad breath
9. Skin breakouts; acne, rashes
10. New allergies and sensitivities such as a new intolerance to perfumes
6 Ways to Improve Your Liver Function
1. Maintain a healthy weight
2. Eat a healthy, balanced diet
3. Exercise regularly
4. Limit your intake of alcohol
5. Watch your use of medications with acetaminophen such as Tylenol
6. Avoid toxins such as insecticides, chemicals and additives
8 Best Foods for Your Liver
Dark berries, including blueberries, raspberries and cranberries contain antioxidants called anthocyanins, which reduce inflammation and protect the liver from oxidative stress. They also protect against liver damage and slow the development of lesions and fibrosis, the development of scar tissue, in the liver.
Grapefruit contains antioxidants including naringenin and naringin that help protect the liver from injury. They protect the liver in two ways- by reducing inflammation and protecting cells. These antioxidants have also been found to reduce the development of hepatic fibrosis, a harmful condition where excessive connective tissue builds up in the liver.
Keep in mind, several medications that are metabolized in the liver can interact with grapefruit, so check with your doctor before adding grapefruit to your diet if you’re on medication.
Oatmeal is a great way to add fibre to your diet, and the specific fibres in oats may be especially helpful for the liver. Oats and oatmeal are high in compounds called beta-glucans, which help modulate the immune system and fight inflammation and may help reduce the amount of fat and collagen stored in the liver. Look for whole oats or steel-cut oats as instant oatmeal may contain fillers such as flour and sugar.
Beans are loaded with healthy fibre, which is known to support gut health. Gut health is linked to improved liver health, and some studies have found that beans preserve liver health by preventing fat from accumulating in the liver. This reduces the risk of a fatty liver. Beans are a great plant-based source of protein to help you stay full longer and aid in purifying your liver.
Yogurt contains probiotics, which are beneficial gut-friendly bacteria. They help replenish microbes and can reduce the risk of non-alcoholic liver disease. Consuming yogurt with probiotics helps reduce the risk of fatty liver disease. Look for unsweetened, plain Greek yogurt to keep added sugar low and reap the probiotic benefits.
6. Cruciferous Vegetables
Cruciferous vegetables such as Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and mustard greens are high in fibre and contain beneficial plant compounds. These veggies may help increase the liver’s natural detoxification enzymes, protect it from damage and improve blood levels of liver enzymes.
7. Fatty Fish
Fatty fish contain omega-3 fatty acids, which are healthy fats that help reduce inflammation. They’ve been found to help lower liver fat and triglycerides in those with non alcoholic liver disease. Omega-3 fatty acids also appear to prevent the build up of excess fats and maintain enzyme levels in the liver.
Coffee has been found to protect against issues such as fatty liver disease. It’s also been noted that daily coffee intake can help reduce the risk of chronic liver disease and minimize your risk of liver cancer. Coffee seems to reduce fat build up in the liver as well as increase protective antioxidants in the liver. The compounds in coffee help liver enzymes rid the body of cancer-causing substances.
4 Worst Foods for Your Liver
Although the liver is responsible for filtering out toxins like alcohol, some liver cells die with each filtering. If you drink a lot of alcohol over a long period of time, it can result in serious and permanent damage to the liver tissue, so if you’re worried about your liver, limit alcohol as much as possible.
2. Fried, Fatty Foods
Fried, fatty foods like French fries, pizza, cheeseburgers and doughnuts aren’t the best thing for your liver. The liver is responsible for breaking down fats and converting them into energy, so too much fatty food can overexert the liver. It can also result in fatty liver disease. These foods can lead to inflammation, which can cause the liver to create scar tissue, a complication known as cirrhosis.
3. Red and Processed Meats
Red and processed meats, such as hot dogs, sausages and pepperoni won’t do your liver any favours. They may lead to non-alcoholic liver disease and insulin resistance. A high consumption of red and processed meats has also been linked to chronic conditions such as cancer, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
4. High Sugar Desserts
Any dessert with high levels of sugar should be avoided for your liver. Ice cream is extremely high in sugar and saturated fat, and whipped cream contains calories, sugar, fat and saturated fat. Other desserts to steer clear of are cake frosting, packaged desserts and deep fried desserts like churros.
Liver health is essential to your overall health. Follow these tips on the best and worst foods for your liver and make sure to talk to your doctor is you notice any signs that your liver needs support.
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