Next to your brain, your liver may be the most overworked organ in your body.
This powerful organ, sitting just under the ribs on the right side of your body, has approximately 500 functions— from filtering toxic substances out of our blood, to reducing excess stress hormones and cholesterol, ensuring strong digestion and even filtering over-the-counter and prescription drugs.
Because it works so tirelessly, it also needs plenty of nutrients and liver-supporting foods to keep it functioning optimally. Here are some of the best foods to give your liver a boost:
Avocado—Exciting research published in the medical journal Hepatobiliary Surgery and Nutrition found that a group of compounds found in many fruits and vegetables known as carotenoids can help protect and treat non-alcoholic fatty-liver disease (NAFLD). NAFLD has been linked with obesity, type 2 diabetes and other serious health conditions.
While avocado contains a small amount of carotenoids, it has been shown in research to boost the absorption of carotenoids 2 to 6 times when eaten alongside rich sources of the nutrients, such as tomatoes, carrots, squash, pumpkins and many other orange and dark green fruits and vegetables. The healthy fat found in avocados also reduces inflammation in the body—a condition that has been linked to cancer, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis and many other serious conditions. Use avocado in place of butter on bread or sandwiches. Add it to wraps, on top of salad or as a creamy salad dressing or dip base.
Beets—These nutritional powerhouses contain a substance known as betaine which is essential to healthy digestion, one of the liver’s many functions. They are powerful liver-cleansers and rebuilders. Enjoy raw grated beets in salads or on sandwiches. Steam or roast beets and use in soups, stews and atop salads.
Dandelion Greens—Perhaps dandelion greens are the most overlooked liver-cleansing foods. They contain numerous bitter compounds that help cleanse the liver and boost its functioning. Choose young dandelion greens as they are more palatable than more mature ones. Also, pick dandelion greens away from high-traffic areas or areas that have been sprayed with chemical pesticides. Steam, saute or juice the greens. I love them sautéed with minced garlic, olive oil and topped with some fresh lemon juice and a dash of sea salt.
Flax Seeds and Flax Seed Oil—Flax binds to hormone receptor sites, preventing excess hormones (including synthetic xenoestrogens—chemicals that mimic estrogen in the body—from plastics and other sources) from floating around your bloodstream. One of the liver’s 500 jobs is to filter excess hormones. Flax seeds and flax seed oil can help improve the liver’s efficiency in this regard. Sprinkle flax seeds on cereal, toast, salads or blended into smoothies. Use flax seed oil as a base for homemade salad dressings, along with some lemon juice or apple cider vinegar.
Lemons—The compound limonene found in lemon can boost your body’s production of glutathione, a critical nutrient in liver detoxification that helps ensure toxins are neutralized before they can damage the body’s cells. Add fresh lemon to your water, atop salads, over vegetables or to soups. Keep in mind that the limonene is primarily found in lemon peels, so buy organic lemons and grate a small amount of the rind and add to your salad dressings, soups and baked goods.
Turmeric—This super spice is potent medicine for the liver. It is the highest known source of beta carotene, which helps protect the liver from free radical damage. In the medical journal Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, researchers found that curcumin, a naturally-present compound found in turmeric, could protect the liver against alcohol-induced injury. Curcumin is also a potent anti-inflammatory.
When it comes to boosting liver health, food truly is the best medicine.
Dr. Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD, DNM is a board-certified doctor of natural medicine and international best-selling and 19-time published book author whose works include: Be Your Own Herbalist: Essential Herbs for Health, Beauty, and Cooking (New World Library, 2016).
James Achanyi-Fontem, is a Senior Health Journalist and Communication Consultant. He worked as a health journalist and broadcaster for 30 years with Radio Cameroon and later Cameroon Radio Television, CRTV before retiring in 2005 to engage fully with Cameroon Link (Human Assistance Programme). Cameroon Link is a registered charity, not-for-profit organisation involved in the promotion of community health, humanitarian assistance, promotion of women and child rights through involvement of communities in Cameroon for mother and child health care. Cameroon Link is a partner to Commonwealth of Learning (COL), Farm Radio International (FRI), International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN Africa), World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA). As the intermediary of Commonwealth of Learning (COL), Cameroon Link is engaged to implement a Cameroon Rural Radio story design Programming through an investigative research, which aims to discover through interviewing beneficiaries of health programmes on their interests, documenting and disseminating new ideas about how radio stations produce and air Healthy Communities Radio Programs in Cameroon.