7 Foods to Protect Your Liver

After a long holiday season of indulging in sugar, fat and alcohol, your liver may need a little extra care. Try these foods shown to help strengthen the liver, improve its detox processes and protect it from damage.
Author:
Publish date:
Updated on

Artichokes 

are rich in cynarin, chlorogenic acid and other compounds that boost the liver’s detox pathways, protect against oxidative stress and reduce the risk of liver damage. It’s also high in inulin, which stimulates components of the immune system. Try this: Steam whole artichokes then serve with warm olive oil infused with rosemary and garlic; toss chopped artichoke hearts with cannellini beans, black olives, roasted red peppers and
baby arugula; quarter baby artichokes, grill until tender then toss with a dressing of minced shallots, grapefruit juice and olive oil.

Green tea 

is high in catechins, antioxidants that improve blood markers of liver health, boost liver enzyme levels and protect against oxidative stress and fat deposits in the liver. Some research indicates that green tea may also reduce the risk of liver cancer. Because some studies suggest concentrated green tea supplements can increase the risk of liver damage, it’s best to drink it in its natural form. Try this: Cook brown rice and dried mushrooms in a broth of strong brewed green tea, tamari and ginger; combine matcha green tea powder with minced garlic, ginger, sesame oil and rice vinegar for a robust Asian dressing; purée cooled green tea with cucumber, baby spinach and honey for a refreshing beverage.

See Also Go For the Green

Broccoli sprouts

like other cruciferous vegetables, are rich in sulforaphane and other compounds that boost detoxification and protect the liver from damage. In one study, men with fatty liver disease who took broccoli sprout extract showed improved liver enzyme levels and decreased oxidative stress. Try this: Toss broccoli sprouts with sliced red onion, pomegranate seeds, walnuts, feta cheese and olive oil; roll broccoli sprouts, avocado, carrots, cucumbers and cooked brown rice into sheets of nori for
quick veggie sushi; sauté shallots and wild mushrooms in olive oil and garlic, add broccoli sprouts to warm and toss with pasta.

Grapefruit 

is high in naringin, which humans metabolize as naringenin, an antioxidant that protects the liver by reducing inflammation, preventing oxidative damage. Some studies show naringin may reduce the risk of cirrhosis and hepatic fibrosis, the development of excessive connective tissue in the liver. Naringin also helps the liver’s ability to metabolize alcohol and protects against some of its damaging effects. Try this: Toss grapefruit sections
with cubed avocado, frisée, pomegranate seeds and pistachios or combine chopped grapefruit sections with minced red pepper, red onions, jalapeño peppers, cilantro and lime juice for a zesty salsa.

Blueberries 

are rich in anthocyanins, antioxidants that reduce inflammation and protect the liver from oxidative stress. Some studies suggest blueberries, as well as cranberries, protect against liver damage and reduce the risk of fibrosis. Try this: Simmer mashed blueberries with minced onion and sprigs of fresh thyme then purée for a savory jam; combine blueberries, Greek yogurt and chia seeds, refrigerate overnight then top with chopped pecans for a quick breakfast bowl.

See Also Warm Salt-Baked Beet Salad

Beetroot juice 

has traditionally been used as a remedy to activate liver enzymes and increase bile, which helps the liver’s detox function. It’s high in betalains and other compounds that have been shown to reduce inflammation, protect against oxidative stress and reduce the risk of liver damage. Try this: Juice whole beets, ginger, carrots and green apples for an uplifting morning beverage; combine beet juice, grapefruit juice, lime juice and sparkling water and garnish with lime wedges.

Coffee 

protects against fatty liver disease and reduces inflammation. Studies show drinking coffee lowers the risk of cirrhosis, a condition that’s marked by scarring of the liver, even in people with chronic liver disease. It may also protect against liver cancer and reduce mortality in people with chronic liver disease. Try this: Blend cooled espresso with vanilla Greek yogurt, freeze in an ice cream maker and top with shaved chocolate; simmer coconut milk with ginger, turmeric and honey, strain and add to brewed coffee; mix instant espresso powder, coconut sugar, chipotle powder and garlic powder and use as a rub for grilled salmon.

Nutrients for Liver Health

Milk Thistle

Studies show that milk thistle effectively treats alcoholic liver disease, and may also reduce the risk of liver cancer.

MILK THISTLE, from a flowering plant native to the Mediterranean, is a traditional liver tonic in herbal medicine. It’s high in silymarin, an antioxidant with anti-inflammatory and immune-supportive properties. Studies show milk thistle is effective in treating alcoholic liver disease, hepatitis and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and can protect the liver from damage caused by toxins and alcohol. Some research also suggests it may even reduce the risk of liver cancer.

BURDOCK ROOT, a vegetable related to the sunflower family that’s native to Asia and Europe, has a long history of use in Chinese medicine as a liver tonic. It’s rich in compounds with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities, and studies show it can protect the liver from damage caused by toxins, acetaminophen and chronic alcohol consumption. 

BETAINE, a compound found in beets and many other foods, is typically used to promote cardiovascular health. Studies show it can also help break down fatty acids in the liver and may help treat nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Other research shows betaine can protect the liver from inflammation and damage caused by toxins and chronic alcohol consumption. 

CURCUMIN, the active compound found in turmeric, protects against inflammation and free-radical damage and is widely used in Ayurvedic medicine. Studies show curcumin can protect the liver from damage caused by toxins, chronic alcohol intake and a high-fat diet. It’s poorly absorbed, so look for supplements formulated with piperine, a compound in black pepper that dramatically increases absorption.

See Also What's the Difference Between Curcumin and Turmeric?