Your liver is vital to your health. When working well, the liver efficiently detoxifies chemicals and built-up metabolic waste. It also stores sugar as glycogen, breaks down old red blood cells , and produces hormones and proteins. Natural medicine can go a long way in improving liver health. Read on for a full breakdown of the best liver-protective foods and supplements. Foods that Are Good for the Liver
People who have liver problems are often told to closely examine their diet and supplements regimen. The same goes for anyone who wants to support their liver health.
Many “fad” diets restrict important food groups. Some go as far as to exclude many healthy fats, which is often detrimental to overall health.
As a general rule, it’s important not to stress the liver by eating more than the body needs. However, a plethora of research highlights the importance of getting a variety of nutritious, antioxidant-rich foods, and healthy fats [ 1 , 2 ].
Remember to speak with your doctor before making any major changes in your diet.
The following natural substances have shown promise for supporting liver health in limited, low-quality clinical trials or animal studies. Additionally, some human studies look only for associations, which means that a cause-and-effect relationship can’t be established.
Therefore, there is currently insufficient evidence to support the use of the foods listed below in the context of liver disease, and they should never replace what your doctor prescribes.
Remember to talk to your doctor before starting any new supplement or making significant changes to your diet. 1) Seafood
Seafood has taurine , which seems to protect against oxidative stress -induced liver damage and fibrosis in rats [ 3 ].
Seafood is also rich in omega 3 fatty acids that are hypothesized to have beneficial effects on liver lipid metabolism, fatty tissue function, and inflammation [ 4 ].
Omega-3s may also decrease liver fat according to one study [ 5 ].
A meta-analysis indicates that eating plenty of white meat or fish might reduce the risk of liver cell carcinoma (HCC), but far more research is needed [ 6 ]. 2) Eggs
Egg yolks abound in choline , which is thought to enhance the liver’s detoxification of fats and cholesterol . Hence, eating more eggs is hypothesized to prevent Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD), but large-scale human data is needed to confirm this link [ 7 ].
On the other hand, the consequences of choline deficiency on the liver are well known. According to one study, 77% of men and 80% of postmenopausal women deprived of dietary choline developed fatty liver or muscle damage. Once they were given choline, their liver function recovered [ 8 ].
Intravenous choline improved hepatic steatosis associated with parenteral nutrition in one study, but larger trials are needed [ 9 ]. 3) Liver
Animal liver contains uridine and choline, which are often seen as essential for a healthy liver. Beef liver is the richest source of choline (333 mg in 100 gms of food) [ 10 ]. 4) Chicken
Chicken contains carnosine , which is hypothesized to protect against toxin-induced liver injury in rats due to its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory properties [ 11 ].
According to one limited cohort, white meat (like chicken) intake was associated with reduced risk of chronic liver disease and liver cancer in both men and women. Better-designed trials are needed to determine the impact of white meat intake on liver cancer risk [ 12 ]. 5) Blueberries & Probiotics
This one seems like an unlikely combination. But scientists think that both blueberries and probiotics may protect animals from acute liver injury. They are hypothesized to reduce liver cell injury, inflammation, and pro-inflammatory cytokines and improve antioxidant activity. Human data are lacking [ 13 ].
Blueberries are rich in antioxidants, while probiotics have many potential benefits on overall gut and liver (and brain) health. Read more about probiotics here.
Also, proanthocyanidins from blueberry leaves are being investigated for suppressing the replication of the hepatitis C virus in test tubes – though it’s far too early to draw any conclusions [ 14 ]. 6) Beets
Beets contain a pigment called betalain, which may protect the liver from oxidative stress and chronic inflammation based on animal experiments [ 15 ].
The liver-protective potential of beetroot (table beet) and beetroot extracts (betacyanin) are also being investigated in mice [ 16 , 17 ]. 7) Olive Oil
An olive-oil rich diet decreased the buildup of triglycerides in the liver in limited clinical trials. Scientists think it might be helpful for Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) patients who have high triglycerides , but large clinical trials are needed to confirm this [ 18 ].
One small study in patients with NAFLD demonstrated that olive oil has protective effects. The authors said it may improve glucose and lipid metabolism and prevent atherogenesis (hardening of the arteries) [ 19 ]. They also mentioned the Mediterranean diet, in general, as potentially good for people with NAFLD.
In animal experiments, extra virgin olive oil and its extracts had protective effects against oxidative damage of the liver tissue when exposed to toxins (by preventing excessive lipid peroxidation) [ 20 ]. 8) Carrots Biofortified Carrot (carrots with increased bioactive compounds) intake increases liver antioxidant capacity and Vitamin A status in animals [ 21 ].Carrots are also being researched for protecting against liver injury, modifying bile acid excretion, and increasing antioxidant status in animals [ 22 , 23 ].In rats chronically poisoned with alcohol, oral supplementation with β-carotene seemed to reduce oxidative stress, cell death, and inflammation [ 24 ].Human data are lacking. 9) Garlic Garlic is often described as a powerful nutraceutical , but its effects on liver health are still largely unknown.One study suggested that 15-week garlic supplementation may decrease body fat mass among NAFLD patients. The authors hypothesize that garlic may reduce the amount of fat in the liver and prevent or delay the progression of NAFLD, but larger trials are needed to verify these claims [ 25 , 26 ].Some small […]