1 – Beetroot Juice
A healthy liver isn’t just good for your filtration system – keeping your liver happy can help to boost your immune system, increase your energy levels and even better your mood. In order to do this though, you need to feed your liver plenty of nutrients and beetroot juice definitely ticks the box here.
Beetroots are nutrient powerhouses containing plenty of iron, B vitamins, vitamin C and special antioxidant compounds called betalains which can help to decrease inf
lammation and free-radical damage. Beetroots are also a surprisingly rich source of fibre, particularly pectin which can help to keep your digestive system ticking over nicely – very important as sluggish digestion often places additional pressure on your liver!
Why juice? There are plenty of ways of incorporating beetroots into your diet – you can mix them into soups, blend them into smoothies or even make brownies out of them! Why then am I fixating on juice? Well, not only is juice easier for your digestive system to break down, there’s a better chance of these beneficial nutrients being absorbed too. If you’re curious about trying beetroot juice but worried about the taste, I’d recommend trying Biotta’s Beetroot, Apple and Ginger Juice which contains all the benefits of beetroot juice but with the additional support of antispasmodic ginger and sweet apple.
2 – Blueberries
When it comes to antioxidants, dark skinned berries take top position. They might be small but raspberries, cranberries and the like are extremely potent and blueberries especially are amazing when it comes to preventing oxidative stress. In fact, studies have found that blueberries may even help to strengthen your immune system thus benefitting your liver – just a few portions every week could help to protect your liver from damage and encourage the proliferation of antioxidant enzymes.1
What’s the best way to eat blueberries? Blueberries are extremely versatile but ideally, they should be eaten as fresh as possible – when juiced or blitzed they can sometimes lose their content of fibre. You could try having a bowl of blueberries topped with natural yoghurt or you could sprinkle them over your breakfast. I sometimes even make blueberry compote to drizzle over pancakes using this recipe for easy to make blueberry pancakes.
3 – Broccoli
Crunchy and high in fibre, broccoli might seem a bit bland at first but there’s plenty of ways you can enhance its flavour which is just as well for your liver. While most of the studies concerning broccoli’s potential benefits for the liver have been conducted on animals, a more recent study using humans has produced positive results. In this study, men with fatty livers were introduced to broccoli sprout extract and the trial found that this broccoli-derived ingredient was capable of increasing liver enzyme levels whilst combating free-radical damage.2
How should I eat broccoli? Broccoli isn’t the most attractive vegetable and most people consider it to be a dull addition to a meal. This doesn’t have to be the case though – broccoli can taste delicious when added to soups or grilled with herbs and spices. You could even try growing your own broccoli sprouts and sprinkling them over sandwiches or stir fries!
4 – Brussel sprouts
It turns out that Brussel sprouts aren’t just for the holiday season – ideally we should be eating a lot more of them all year round! Just like broccoli, this cruciferous vegetable is rich in vitamin C, fibre and antioxidants. Great if you’re looking to protect your liver from free-radical damage, but even better if you’re trying to reduce your levels of inflammation. Several studies have examined the anti-inflammatory benefits of Brussel sprouts, with test-tube and animal-based studies focusing on kaempferol, an antioxidant compound present in Brussel sprouts which is thought to have particularly powerful anti-inflammatory properties.4
How do you cook Brussel sprouts? When it comes to eating Brussel sprouts, most of us probably don’t give them the attention they deserve. They’re actually pretty versatile – you can roast them with spices, pan fry with seasoning or even incorporate them into tasty stir fries.
5 – Garlic
Garlic is a pungent herb that’s quite popular when it comes to adding flavour to different dishes; however, it also has a number of benefits for your liver. This is largely because garlic contains an active compound called ‘allicin’ which imbues the herb with antioxidant, antifungal and antibiotic properties. It also helps that garlic is rich in selenium and an amino acid called arginine – this combination can help to protect your liver from oxidative stress plus it can work to active liver enzymes that help to flush out nasty toxins!
What’s the best way to get more garlic? Garlic is best consumed in small, steady amounts – you can use it to enhance the flavour of certain dishes or sauces but it can also be added to soups and curries too. If you want a more concentrated amount of garlic though, you might be best trying a supplement like Allicin Max’s 100% Pure Vegetable Capsules which can be quite useful for supporting your immune system.
6 – Grapes
Grapes are surprisingly rich in nutrients, with dark red or purple in particular containing a bountiful amount of antioxidants, including resveratrol which can help to lower inflammation quite dramatically.5 It isn’t just the flesh or the skin of grapes that’s useful either –studies have found that grape seeds may also be beneficial too. One such study published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology found that grape seeds, in addition to other parts of the grape fruit, were capable preventing liver damage6 whilst another smaller study discovered that supplementing with grape seed extract over a 3 month period actually helped to improve liver function in those with Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD).7
Which part of the grape is best? Grapes are good to incorporate into your diet but the seeds often pose a hazard, particularly to young children, so if you really want to reap the benefit of this part of the grape fruit, a supplement might be your best option. Fortunately grape seed extract is enjoying something of a popularity surge at the moment so there are plenty of options available – Solgar’s Grape Seed Extract is just one amongst the many you can find with our friends at Jan de Vries.
7 – Grapefruit
Detoxes are all the rage when it comes to helping to support your liver but really, your diet should be able to help this process negating the need for fasting and juicing. Grapefruits are an excellent example of this – not only do they contain large amounts of vitamin C, they’re also rich in flavonoids called naringenin and terpenes which may help your liver to activate the chemicals responsible for fatty acid oxidation.8 This can be very useful in cases of fatty liver disease, plus grapefruits also contain plenty of fibre, specifically our old friend pectin, to help support your digestive system too!
Grapefruits or grapefruit juice? Grapefruits, like most foods, are best consumed as fresh as possible; however, most of the research supporting grapefruit appears to revolve around grapefruit juice as opposed to the fruit as a whole. The only problem with this is that most supermarket options are loaded with added sugars and sweeteners so if you are going to pour yourself a glass, make sure you opt for an organic alternative with no unwanted added extras!
8 – Green Tea
Green tea has been consumed widely in the East for centuries but in the last few decades it’s become increasingly common in the West too and for good reason! Unlike your typical builders brew, green tea is incredibly rich in antioxidants which make it the perfect tonic for protecting your liver from free-radical damage. In fact, the specific antioxidant compounds that green tea contains (namely EGCG and ECG) have actually been shown to support your liver against the damaging effects of toxins such as alcohol, in addition to improving overall liver function.9
Isn’t green tea harmful for your liver? If you read the headlines last year, you might be a bit dubious about green tea as some reports have stated that taking high doses of green tea supplements make us more predisposed to liver problems. This is because, like most things, too much can overwhelm your liver, especially if you're mixing your green tea supplements with other herbs, supplements or medications. If you’re worried, I would steer away from green tea supplements and stick with a cup or two of the herbal tea a day.
9 – Prickly pear
This spiky exotic fruit has started to gain a favourable reputation in recent years, being touted for everything, from lowering high cholesterol to diminishing hangovers. When it comes to your liver though, prickly pear actually has some evidence to back up its claims. An article published in the US Library of Medicine, located within the National Institutes of Health, stated that prickly pear juice was capable of decreasing the amount of oxidative damage to the liver after drinking alcohol10 while another published in Scientific America examined a study. In this study, 55 healthy participants were given either an extract of prickly pear juice or a placebo five hours before consuming alcohol. The results revealed that the subjects who drank the prickly pear juice experienced a less severe hangover and had lower levels of C-reactive protein, which is often linked to inflammation.11
Where do I get prickly pears from? If you live here in the UK, the chances are you might not know where exactly to find prickly pears – they don’t exactly sound like something you can pick off the supermarket shelves. The good news is that many health food shops throughout the UK are now stocking these prickly fruits so it might be worth getting in contact with your local store to find out.
10 – Water
Okay, so technically not a food but I’m still including it on this list due its significance and how often this simple step gets overlooked! Unsurprisingly, staying hydrated is perhaps the most important thing you can do for your liver. If you’re drinking plenty of fluids (and by plenty, I mean around 1.5-2 litres of plain water a day!) then it will help to filter out all those nasty toxins. If you become dehydrated though, it can impact your liver’s ability to detoxify your body and place it under additional pressure as all those toxins and waste chemicals start to build up. That’s why you should be doing your liver a favour and making sure you’re hydrated – remember, tea, coffee and fizzy drinks don’t count!