The Best Foods for Your Liver

Foods for your liver are essential to keeping your body's powerhouse—your liver—functioning optimally. A healthy liver plays a key role in relieving digestive issues, such as a sluggish metabolism, gas, bloating, and constipation. It regulates blood sugar levels, which—when out of balance—can cause sugar cravings, fatigue, and fuzzy thinking.

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A toxic liver can lead to inflammatory diseases, such as diabetes, arthritis, high blood pressure, and autoimmune diseases. Without a healthy liver, you may suffer from hormonal imbalances that can cause headaches, mood swings, and depression. It's time to nurture this amazing organ!

Use these foods for your liver to start feeling better:

1. Water
After oxygen, your body needs water more than any other substance, including food, just to survive. Because water flushes toxins and waste products from your body, you feel more energized and alert when your body is fully hydrated (which most of us usually aren't!).

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Usually eight to 10 8-ounce glasses will do the trick. Just don't overdo it—too much water can be harmful, too. Skip the ice when you're drinking water in between meals. Your body uses energy to warm the ice, diluting important digestive enzymes.

2. Crucifers
Crucifers contain vital phytonutrients—flavonoids, carotenoids, sulforaphane, and indoles—to help your liver neutralize chemicals, pesticides, drugs, and carcinogens. Crucifer foods include broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, bok choy, and daikon, a root rich in phenolic compounds that could prevent the formation of carcinogen in your stomach in response to foods made with hydrogenated oils and sodium nitrite.

3. Dark Leafy Greens
Kale, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage are powerful brassica vegetables that contain high levels of sulfur, which supports your liver in its detoxification process, triggering it to remove free radicals and other toxic chemicals. 

Dandelion is another dark leafy green known as one of the most effective and recommended plants to support liver detoxification. One of it's chemical components, taraxacin, is believed to stimulate the digestive organs and trigger the liver and gallbladder to release bile, which supports digestion and fat absorption.

4. Sea Vegetables
One of the oldest inhabitants of the earth, sea vegetables detoxify your body by preventing assimilation of heavy metals, such as cadmium, as well as other environmental toxins. Studies at McGill University have revealed that a compound in brown algae (arame, kombu, and wakame) reduced the uptake of radioactive particles into bone.

5. Sprouted Seeds, Nuts, Beans, and Grains
The energy contained in a seed, grain, nut, or legume is ignited through soaking and sprouting. And those sprouts are superhigh in enzymes, proteins that act as catalysts for all of your body's functions. Broccoli sprouts appear to be high in sulforaphane, which triggers your body's natural cancer protection.

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6. Sulfur-Rich Foods
Garlic—One of the oldest land-based medicinal foods on the planet, garlic contains an active sulfur-based compound called allicin, a critical supporter of liver detoxification. It helps your liver rid your body of mercury, certain food additives, and the hormone estrogen.

Onions, shallots, and leeks—A relative of garlic, these foods also contain those smelly sulfur compounds that support your liver in its production of glutathione, the compound in every cell of your body that neutralizes free radicals.

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Eggs—Eggs provide some of the highest-quality protein, containing all eight essential amino acids, cholesterol, and the essential nutrient choline. Your liver needs these essential amino acids to perform detoxification processes. Choline a co-enzyme needed for metabolism, is found in the egg yolk and protects your liver from a wide range of toxic substances, while detoxifying heavy metals.

Artichokes—Two phytonutrients found in artichokes, cynarin and silymarin, have been shown to nourish your liver, increase bile production, and prevent gallstones.

Medicinal MushroomsMaitake, shiitake, and reishi mushrooms are thought to provide significant healing nutrients that nourish and support your immune system. These mushrooms contain a powerful antioxidant called L-ergothioneine, which neutralizes free radicals while increasing enzymes that boost antioxidant activity.

6. Fruits
Berries—Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and cranberries are among nature's superfoods because they contain phytochemicals—antioxidant-rich plant compounds that help your liver protect your body from free radicals and oxidative stress, which have been linked to chronic diseases and aging. Anthocyanin and polyphenols found in berries have been shown to inhibit the proliferation of cancer cells in the liver.

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Apples—Apples, like berries, contain powerful phenolic compounds, including flavonoids, which can fight inflammatory disease. They also contain pectin, a valuable source of soluble fiber than can help eliminate toxic buildup.

7. Prebiotic-Rich Foods
Prebiotics are indigestible fibers that feed your beneficial gut flora, known as probiotics. Probiotics are living microorganisms that support your health and wellbeing. Prebiotics are nonliving dietary fibers that help probiotics grow and flourish. Prebiotics are found in asparagus, leeks, cruciferous vegetables, and several root vegetables—burdock, chicory, dandelion, beets, and Jerusalem artichoke (pictured above).

8. Cultured Foods
These include kimchi—a traditional Korean dish made of fermented cabbage, radish, garlic, red pepper, onion, ginger, and salt—and sauerkraut. Fermentation, an ancient form of preservation in which food is naturally transformed by microorganisms that break down all the food's carbohydrates and protein, aids in digestion, thanks to a plethora of healthy bacteria like lactobacilli. Real miso is another another example of fermented food.

9. Healthy Fats
Flax seeds—A great source of omega-3 essential fatty acids, freshly ground flax seeds help regulate hormone levels.

Hemp seeds—A mix of clean omega-6 and omega-3 fats, hemp seeds help ease inflammation while lowering dangerous blood fat levels.

Chia seeds—A staple in Central American Aztec and Mayan diets for thousands of years, chia seeds are all-around nutritional powerhouses. Three tablespoons contain 5 grams of protein, 200 milligrams of calcium, 10 grams of healthy fat, and 12 grams of fiber.

Coconut oil—An extremely healthy saturated fat, coconut oil is easy to digest and is almost immediately broken down by enzymes in your saliva and gastric juices. This means pancreatic fat-digesting enzymes are not essential, which produces less strain on your liver so it can work more efficiently.

Avocado—A vital source of monounsaturated fat rich in oleic acid, avocados contain glutathione, an essential nutrient for liver health.

Cold-pressed, unrefined extra-virgin olive oil—Unadulterated olive oil is rich in phenols, the same anti-inflammatory compounds found in berries and apples. Daily consumption of olive oil supports the liver in decreasing oxidative stress in the body.

10. Herbs
Ginger—Gingerol antioxidants possess anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and antimicrobial properties. Ginger supports detoxification by nourishing your liver, promoting circulation, unclogging blocked arteries, and lowering blood cholesterol by as much as 30 percent.

Cumin—In one Indian study, cumin was shown to boost the liver's detoxification power while stimulating the secretion of enzymes from the pancreas, which helps your system absorb nutrients.

Coriander—Coriander seeds have been shown to hep the liver lower blood lipids among those with obesity and diabetes, lowering triglycerides and LDL (bad) cholesterol, while increasing HDL (good) cholesterol. Fresh cilantro leaves help remove heavy metals from the body, mobilizing mercury, cadmium, lead, and aluminum that's been stored in the brain, spinal cord, and central nervous system so your body can eliminate them.

Cardamom—This member of the ginger family helps improve digestion by stimulating the flow of bile, which is critical in fat metabolism. Cardamom accelerates the gastric emptying rate, relaxing the stomach valves that prevent food from entering the small intestine, allowing nutrients to pass on to the small intestine without excess effort.

Cayenne—This detoxifier stimulates your circulatory system, increasing the pulse of your lymphatic and digestive rhythms, heating your body.  This "heat" from cayenne helps get your gastric juices flowing, enhancing your body's ability to metabolize food and toxins.

Cinnamon—Used for centuries for flavoring and medicine, cinnamon keeps sticky platelets from forming clots in your arteries, boosts metabolism, and prevents candida, a condition characterized by yeast overgrowth.

Fennel—The essential oils in fennel prompt the secretion of gastric juices, helping to lower inflammation in your digestive tract and diminish aide product. This allows your body to absorb nutrients more efficiently.

Turmeric—The curcumin compounds in turmeric have been shown to heal your liver, aiding in detoxification and strengthening your whole body.

11. Animal Protein
My LiverUp! Cleanse outlined in Heal Your Whole Body offers options for omnivores and herbivores. The key is to listen to your body. Experiment to see what protein sources make you feel energized, satisfied, and balanced. For most of our existence, we've depended on nutrient-rich dietary fats in the form of meats, fatty fish, and bone marrow for at least 60 percent of our caloric consumption.

Factory farms and industrialized ingredients changed all that, and in 1912, heart disease the medical community identified heart disease.

Meat—Eat only clean, grass-fed land animals, ones raised without the use of feed grown with pesticides. Avoid factory-farmed meat laden with chemicals, hormones, and antibiotics.

Fish—In general, fish is healthy and protein-rich. Some wild-caught fish, such as Atlantic mackerel from Canada, sardines, and anchovies, are notable for their omega-3 fatty acids and their low level of contaminants. Wild salmon, an excellent source of protein, is also one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids from the krill and shrimp they eat—that's what gives salmon their beautiful color and makes them rich in antioxidants.

Whey protein powder—If you choose to eat dairy, whey is an excellent source of protein. A byproduct of milk and cheese, whey protein has been promoted for its health benefits since the time of the Greek physician Hippocrates. Much of this has to do with the fact that it provides all the key amino acids for glutathione production, a key protector of your liver and entire body.

12. Vegetable Protein
We need to eat protein to build new cells, maintain tissue, and synthesize new proteins to perform basic bodily functions. You can do it with vegetarian sources of protein.

Marine-based—Microalgae contains protein, along with high levels of chlorophyll, which helps heal you by removing toxic drug deposits and heavy metals in your body, improve liver function, and neutralize carcinogens.

Land-based—Cooked lentils, chickpeas, and black, kidney, and pinto beans contain  about 15 grams of protein per cup. A quarter cup of sunflower seeds pack 6 grams of protein. Greens count, too. Eating a cup each of cooked spinach and broccoli equals about 9 grams of protein.

Adapted from Heal Your Whole Body
Photo by Susan Kinast - Getty Images

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