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Sweet treats, alcohol and all kinds of indulgences happen during the holidays – but after weeks and weeks of a “treat yourself!” mindset, your diet could probably use a bit of a refresh and reset. The new year is the perfect time to start anew and return your focus to whole, nutrient-rich foods that do your health and overall wellness good. And it’s also a great opportunity to give your hardworking liver a bit of extra care. Our weeklong liver reboot will help you do just that.
Follow our seven-day, easy-eating plan to cleanse, repair damage and help your liver get back to what it does best. We’ll walk you through what to eat each day and teach you which foods can best fuel your liver as it carries out critical jobs like detoxification and filtering.
Breakfast: Blend up a smoothie
Smoothies are the ultimate grab-and-go morning meal, and they’re so simple to make when you’re short on time. Power up your usual smoothies with foods proven to protect the liver and heal existing damage. Focus on nutrient-dense blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries and cherries, which are rich in anthocyanins, resveratrol, ellagic acid and other antioxidants. Studies link higher berry consumption with reduced inflammation and less risk of liver damage or disease.
Add spinach, kale and other greens into the mix to tame inflammation and support cells during the detox process. Include pumpkin seeds or a handful of ground chia or flax seeds for even more protective antioxidants, inflammation-fighting fats and extra fiber. These seeds have shown they can optimize liver function.
What should you use for your smoothie’s base? Try unsweetened almond milk, coconut water or kefir water, options that are rich in probiotics to enhance immune response and reduce levels of inflammatory compounds in the liver. Then, stir in a scoop of collagen powder – it’s high in glycine, an amino acid that helps escort toxins from the body.
To keep your AM smoothies interesting, vary the ingredients every morning. It’ll also help to maximize the healing power of different nutrients (and avoid tastebud boredom).
And yes, you can keep your morning coffee: Research links moderate coffee consumption with improved liver function and lower risk of chronic liver disease. Too much can dehydrate your body and stress the liver, so stick to two cups a day and drink it black, or with a dash of stevia or monk fruit. And keep in mind that studies suggest sugar can be as harmful to the liver as alcohol.
For extra liver protection, try green tea. This steamy bev offers a gentle dose of caffeine, and some research shows it decreases the likelihood of liver cancer. Or, try an herbal alternative; licorice root tea helps regulate fat metabolism in the liver, and milk thistle tea encourages toxin removal and speeds repair.
Lunch: Make a supersized salad
Cancel that sandwich or wrap – studies show even whole-grain flours can impact blood sugar levels and elevate triglycerides, which are linked with a higher risk of fatty liver disease. Instead of bread, opt for a supersized salad. Pack it with a rainbow of antioxidant-rich vegetables to combat free radicals and support your liver’s natural detox processes.
Your salad can use any lettuce, but make sure it includes bitter greens (watercress, chicory, endive, radicchio and dandelion greens, for example) to enhance liver function. They’re high in compounds that help flush toxins and excess fat from the liver, and research suggests dandelion greens protect the liver from damage and speed repair. Then, toss in seven or eight multicolored vegetables to bump up fiber and liver-healing phytochemicals. Nutrient-dense options include kale, carrots, beets, red cabbage, yellow peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, arugula and Brussels sprouts. Mix your veggies up to maximize antioxidants, or build a bowl (but skip the rice or grains); you can use cauliflower rice or finely shredded greens as the base.
For toppings on your salad or bowl, add healthy fats like olives, avocados, nuts and seeds to minimize inflammation. Dress your salad with lemon juice and extra-virgin olive oil whisked with garlic and minced cilantro, which has been shown to remove heavy metals from the body.
And don’t forget to drink a giant glass of filtered water; it’s crucial for transporting nutrients and removing waste. Stir in grapefruit wedges, sprigs of mint, slices of cucumber, chunks of ginger or a handful of raspberries to make your water even better (and a little more exciting). Or, make a liver-healing tonic with unsweetened cranberry juice concentrate, lemon juice, sparkling water and stevia or monkfruit to taste. Stay hydrated all day by keeping a stainless-steel bottle of filtered water on your desk or in your car. Drink a glass after every bathroom break, and set a timer to remind you to sip throughout the day.
Dinner: Opt for more plants, less meat
More veggies are the key to a liver-friendly dinner, along with (the right kind of) protein, which is needed to give your liver the amino acids and other materials it needs to detox. But animal protein is hard on the liver, and studies suggest red meat and processed meat increase the risk of fatty liver disease and liver damage. Emphasize plant proteins instead. Beans are an especially great choice, as they’re loaded with fiber and resistant starch, which is shown to improve gut bacteria, support immune response and tame inflammation.
And you’ll really want to amp up the plants; fill your plate with at least three servings of vegetables proven to protect the liver. Some of the most powerful are:
- Broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and other crucifers, which are rich in compounds that promote the formation of glutathione, the body’s master antioxidant (and it’s been found to support liver detox and healing).
- Burdock root, which is high in antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients. Studies suggest it can prevent damage caused by toxins, acetaminophen and chronic alcohol consumption.
- Artichokes, which contain cynarin, chlorogenic acid and other compounds that shore up detox pathways and enhance liver function.
- Beets are loaded with betaine, which can lower inflammation and reduce the risk of liver disease. Some research shows betaine protects the liver from damage caused by harmful chemicals and chronic alcohol consumption.
- Onions, leeks, shallots and garlic are rich in sulfur compounds, which simulate liver enzyme production and promote detoxification.
Drizzle cooked vegetables with olive oil, an addition that’ll improve liver enzymes and decrease levels of fat in the liver. Just note that overheating oils can create toxins, so you’ll want to steam vegetables or sauté them in a little chicken broth or bone broth, then add oil. Season your veggies abundantly with liver-healing herbs and spices like turmeric, which research suggests protects the liver from damage caused by chemicals, chronic alcohol intake and a high-fat diet. Other liver-boosting herbs and spices to emphasize include garlic, cilantro and ginger (which dampens inflammation and lessens the risk of fatty liver disease).
Lastly, don’t overeat: Minimizing calories without cutting nutrients blunts inflammation, and studies link caloric restriction with lower rates of disease and improved longevity.
Looking for more liver-friendly nutrition and recipe ideas as you follow this reboot? Keep reading: