What you eat has the ability to either heal or harm your liver.
There are many foods and drinks that help protect the liver. But, there are also certain foods and food groups that are hard for the liver to process and cause damage.
Foods that put pressure on the liver are mainly those that are of poor nutritional quality – e.g. processed foods/grains, sugar, dairy, refined salt, chemically sprayed foods, and saturated fats.
A sluggish liver impacts the digestive system, resulting in bloating, indigestion, weight gain, feeling heavy, and puffy.
The liver is a metabolic organ and regulates the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.
After a meal, nutrients absorb into the bloodstream from the gastrointestinal tract. These nutrients carry to the liver and get used for over 500 physiological functions.
The liver stores and releases fats and sugars, as well as sending vitamins, minerals, and iron to various parts of the body when needed. Good nutrition helps to reduce the metabolic burden on the liver.
Helping Your Liver with the Right Nutrition
The best thing you can do to help your liver is to cut out overly processed and packaged foods and maintain a well-balanced diet that is high in fresh vegetables, eggs, nuts, fish, and healthy oils. It’s also important to drink at least two litres of water each day, as water helps to flush the liver.
Focus on meals and snacks that are fresh, local, seasonal, nutrient-dense, and high in fiber. The table below is a list of liver-friendly foods proven to have beneficial effects on the liver.
Liver Friendly Foods – Eat More
Vegetables – Broccoli, spinach, kale, rocket, avocados, onions, cucumber, celery, cauliflower, cabbage, sweet potato, tomato, fennel, zucchini, carrot, beetroot, capsicum, eggplant, sprouts, beetroot, asparagus.
Fruit – Berries, citrus, pomegranate, papaya, green apples, pineapple, kiwi.
Grains & Flours – Millet, buckwheat, almond, coconut.
Nuts & Seeds – Almonds, chia, quinoa, walnuts, pepitas, sunflower, sesame, linseed, hemp.
Oils – Extra Virgin Olive Oil, coconut oil, hemp oil, avocado oil, macadamia oil.
Herbs & Spices – All – parsley, coriander, chili, garlic, turmeric, ginger, rosemary, cinnamon.
Dressings (Fresh) – Lemon, tamari, tahini, apple cider vinegar (ACV), garlic, fresh herbs, salt, pepper.
Legumes & Pulses – Chickpea, lentils, mung beans, black beans, cannellini beans, kidney beans.
Animal Protein – Eggs, White Fish, Salmon, Liver
Dairy – Avoid all Dairy – Use Plant alternatives like Almond Milk, Coconut Milk/Cream.
Sugar / Sweeteners – Small amount of honey or maple syrup, stevia, erythritol.
Drinks – Filtered Water, Lemon Water, herbal tea, ACV, green vegetable juices/smoothies.
Snacks – Veggie sticks, green apples, seed crackers and dip, buckwheat pancakes, coconut yoghurt, and berries.
Foods to Avoid to Maintain a Healthy Liver
At least 30% of the western population has a fatty liver, yet many are unaware. Of the 30%, less than 0.3% is due to the overuse of alcohol. So what is causing the epidemic of Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD)? The main culprit…….. Sugar.
Sugar and Your Liver
Sugar is sucrose, made up of 50 percent glucose and 50 percent fructose.
The liver uses glucose for energy and stores the excess to use when we are running low. This form of energy storage is called glycogen and it’s like having a spare battery. Eating a meal charges the battery, but when we are low on fuel the body first uses what’s in the bloodstream, then after that uses glycogen stores from the liver.
With fructose, the liver works very differently. Whether it needs energy or not, the liver is constantly pulling fructose from the blood and storing it. If you already have a ‘full battery’ when it comes to energy, that fructose immediately gets turned into fat and then more fat and more fat!
Foods that contain High Fructose Corn Syrup, should be avoided – e.g. cereals, muesli bars, soda, sweet yoghurt, lollies, store-bought baked goods, juice, canned fruit, ice-cream, sauces/condiments/salad dressing.
Fried/fast foods that are high in fat and sugar are also harmful to liver health. In addition, consumption of high-salt foods can lead to fluid buildup and swelling in the liver.
Since the liver is the main organ for alcohol detoxification, liver damage can be prevented by avoiding or limiting alcohol consumption.
Below are foods to avoid to achieve optimal liver function and to maintain your ideal weight.
Liver Damaging Foods – Eat Less
Animal Protein – Red Meat, Poultry, Game, Tinned Fish, Farmed Fish
Dairy – Margarine, Butter, Cheese, Ice-cream, Milk,
Sugar / Sweeteners – Artificial sweeteners, Sugar (Cane), High Fructose Corn Syrup
Vegetables – High starch veggies – corn, potato, peas.
Grains & Flours – Wheat, oats, barley, rice, rye.
Nuts & Seeds – Peanuts and cashews.
Oils – Sunflower oil, canola oil, peanut oil, corn oil, soybean oil.
Dressings – Store-bought dressings – e.g. salad dressings, mayonnaise.
Legumes & Pulses – Soy: tofu, tempeh, milk, soy lecithin, soy-based meat replacers.
Drinks – Soft drinks, coffee, alcohol, energy drinks, fruit juices, milkshakes.
Snacks – Packaged snacks – chips, crackers, chocolate, lollies, muesli bars, biscuits.
Rate YOUR Liver Friendly Nutrition.
Write down what you eat on a typical/standard day. Detail the ingredients used in your meals.
Writing down your food intake helps keep you accountable and aware of what you consume and makes it easier to make changes when it’s written on paper.
Use the List of Supporting Foods and Damaging Foods to rate yourself in terms of how well you eat to support your liver function. Be honest – where do you think you sit?
- Needs Improvement
- Work In Progress
- Going Well
Comment below on what you do on a regular basis to take care of your liver.
Are you struggling with sticking to a well-balanced diet to sustain your ideal health and weight? Book a free phone consult to discuss your health concerns and get started on a wellness path today.