The liver is arguably the most important organ in regards to metabolism and overall health. Sure, the heart keeps you going, but the liver maintains the environment in which the heart functions. It cleans the blood of toxins, decides how much fat to store or burn, it plays a role in your hormone profile, among many other life-sustaining functions. With this in mind, it is important to pamper your liver to make sure it functions at optimal levels. A happy liver means more results in fitness and better overall health. Here are 5 foods that have been shown to contribute to liver health.
President George H.W. Bush once famously said he did not like broccoli. The ensuing headache he received from broccoli producers, who delivered 10 tons of it on the White House lawn, proved to be a mildly comical episode in his presidential tenure. Politics aside, broccoli, a cruciferous vegetable, is one of the best foods we can eat to promote liver health.
A variety of animal studies over the past two decades have shown that cruciferous vegetables promote higher levels of a detoxification enzyme known to protect the liver from damage. These findings were true especially for both broccoli and brussel sprouts, and the results remained consistent whether the vegetables were cooked or not.
While human studies remain limited, current evidence suggests cruciferous vegetables are among the top liver healthy foods in existence.
Beets have had a long history in Western Civilization. The Romans believed beets to be an aphrodisiac, and believed eating beets promoted amorous feelings. While their ability to promote libido is certainly not a proven fact, the benefit of beets on liver health does have some scientific backing.
Most studies look at the effects of beetroot juice rather than beets themselves. While it is safe to say that the effects of beetroot juice are likely similar to that of beets, it makes directly associating beets with benefits to liver health a bit more challenging. Nevertheless, study after study has shown that beets and beetroot juice promote detoxifying processes similar to those of cruciferous vegetables by reducing oxidative stress.
Berries are small, but mighty. They pack outstanding amounts of antioxidants in a very small package, and these antioxidants promote health in a variety of ways. In regards to the liver, mixed berries, and specifically blueberries and cranberries, have shown to protect the liver from oxidative damage.
Because of their purported benefits to health, scientists have turned to mixed berries to examine how beneficial they might be, especially for people with existing chronic diseases. Some studies have found berries may reduce the progression of fibrosis in the liver, while other studies have begun to discover that berries may inhibit the growth of liver cancer cells.
Tea has been considered the ultimate food in many cultures across the world since the dawn of civilization. It helps promote focus and productivity, and some even claim it helps their creativity. More recently, scientists have looked at the positive role tea may play in health. Specifically, tea may play a role in promoting liver health, especially among at-risk populations for liver disease.
A recent Japanese study discovered that the consumption of 5-10 cups of tea per day improved liver health, as measured by specific blood markers. This study was further reinforced in its findings by another study that found that the same effect could be measured in patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Further studies have found that tea may play a role in lowering liver cancer risk, including in populations with liver-damaging high fat diets.
For years, scientists have been exceptionally cautious when it comes to touting the healthful benefits of coffee. Part of this is rooted in the fact that caffeine is a powerful stimulant that many people, particularly those with anxiety and panic disorders, should avoid. There is also the question of the role it may play in cardiovascular health. Thus, coffee is a bit of a mixed bag.
As it relates to the liver, coffee is hands down the top superfood available. Repeated, replicated, and reviewed studies have consistently found that coffee consumption is associated with lower risk of cirrhosis and permanent liver damage in people with chronic liver disease. Coffee is also associated with lower risk factors for developing certain kinds of liver cancer, and has been shown to reduce liver inflammation.
The Takeaway for Liver Health
If you’re serious about improving and optimizing your liver’s health, these 5 foods are a good place to start. There are, of course, other foods that are beneficial to the liver, including grapefruit, fatty fish, grapes, among others. What is most important to remember is that liver health starts with a well-rounded, healthy diet.