Think of your liver as your body’s housekeeper and handy-person. Really, your liver is responsible for cleaning the body of toxins (i.e., processed foods, chemicals in body care products, alcohol) to keep your internal organs running effectively. Basically the more toxin you take in; the more stress your liver suffers.
Perhaps it’s time to give your hard-working liver a well deserved break by implementing the following 15 naturally cleansing foods…
1. Lemon Juice
Lemon has naturally cleansing abilities. Just look in your kitchen to see just how many cleaning products have lemon as an ingredient. In fact, if you use green or DIY safe cleaners, you don’t need much more than lemon to give your kitchen a clean, lively, refreshing smell. Well, the same things goes for the inside of your body.
I do this one first thing each morning—a squeeze of lemon juice in a lukewarm glass of water. This is a well-known and natural kick-start to your body’s elimination organ. The acidity in the lemon wakes up the nerves in the digestive system and liver to encourage healthy digestion, and more optimal bowel movements.
It turns out that in addition to being a great source of healthy fats, the yummy, creamy avocado is great for your liver. In fact, a Japanese study discovered that avocados packed with protective compounds that shield the liver from damaging toxins, like galactosamine. These compounds, in which avocados are rich, help protect the liver from long term damage.
The Japanese study compared avocados to over 20 other fruits and monitored their ability to protect livers from the galactosamine toxin, which in high levels will cause long-term liver damage akin to human viral hepatitis. Avocados happen to be high in glutathione, a powerful antioxidant that can actually repair damaged cells in your liver.
If you suffer from chronic inflammation or liver issues, turmeric is a potent spice with serious anti-inflammatory benefits. Turmeric has actually proven effective in warding off nasty viral infections. Turmeric has long been used in natural healing for its beneficial effects on our bodies and organs.
It just so happens that turmeric spice is rich in curcumin, an active pharmacological agent with powerful anti-bacterial, antiseptic, antiviral, anti-fungal, anti-carcinogenic, and anti-inflammatory abilities. With a blast of inner body benefits, this spice is a superhero protecting our livers from evil infections and damage, and giving liver cells the boost they need to regenerate fresh, healthy tissues.
Adding it to our diet regularly also helps to increase our levels of natural bile production – essential to ridding our bodies of harmful toxins.
The powerful enzyme, zinc, causes some pretty awesome reactions inside your body. Taking a zinc enzyme supplement will assist the liver in the breakdown of alcohol so it can be safely and more efficiently eliminated from the body. If you drink alcohol often, start taking zinc! Several studies not only show that adults who have low levels of zinc are linked to alcohol induced liver damage–upping levels of zinc can also protect the liver and digestive tract from booze, including protecting babies from the damaging effects of alcohol during pregnancy (i.e., early mortality like stillbirth).
According to research from the Hanson Institute/Institute of Medical and Veterinary Science, a group of mice were given zinc supplements and alcohol during pregnancy to monitor the adverse effects. The final data indicated that findings demonstrate that the zinc supplementation (with dietary Zn supplements) during pregnancy protected the unborn fetuses against pregnancy ameliorates dysmorphology and postnatal mortality caused by exposure to ethanol during early pregnancy. Zinc is believed to boost the enzyme that clears alcohol.
5. Dandelion Root
Dandelion might be an embarrassing yellow smear on your front lawn, but the root has some pretty amazing healing powers. In fact, dandelion root has been used for eons as a healing liver tincture—steeped as a tea or brewed as a bitter coffee. Many Korean and Mexican forms of herbal medicine utilize dandelion for it’s powerful antioxidant hepatoprotective properties.
In fact, research from the Institute of Agricultural Medicine, in Poland found that dandelion root had therapeutic properties thanks to the kynurenic acid within. This amino acid is used for digestive aid support, specifically for bile production, and luckily dandelion root has the richest concentration needed to stimulate bile production and bile transport toxins out of the body. This is why dandelion root is considered a strong natural immune response aid.
In addition to its supernatural expertise in warding off vampires, a small clove of garlic is antiviral. Not only does garlic help beef up the immune system to ward of infections and germs, garlic packs pungent sulfur compounds, which trigger the function of enzymes to enhance liver function. This is due to the high levels of sulfur compounds in garlic. These are able to encourage enzyme production in the liver.
If that wasn’t already beneficial enough, garlic is high in source of selenium and allicin, both agents that act to protect our livers. And luckily, the taste and versatility of garlic means it’s super easy to incorporate into daily diets for a healthier, protected, and detoxed liver.
Good old H2O is good for so many health reasons. Well, now you can add liver function to your list of why to drink more water. It makes sense, hydrating fluids—like herbal tea and water infused with lemon, improve waste elimination and protect the liver from developing gallstones. You already know that your liver primarily works to filter the blood that is transported from your digestive tract, in order to metabolize nutrients, as well as to filter out drugs, alcohol, and other toxins.
Due to the simple fact that the liver (with help from your kidneys, skin, lymphatic system, blood, and bowel) help to detoxify the body by eliminating waste and chemicals through perspiration, feces, and urine, drinking plenty of water can help to encourage this natural process. Just be sure to drink room temperature, clean water with no added sugars or chemicals for the best results.
8. Brussels Sprouts
They might taste a little funky, but Brussels sprouts contain glucosinolates, a sulphur compound that gives off that telltale pungent smell while shielding the liver from toxic and chemical damage. So invite a few more of these “mini-cabbages” to your next dinner party. According to the National Cancer Institute, cruciferous vegetables (which includes broccoli and cauliflower) contain glucosinolates, a collection of substances that contain sulfur chemicals, which is why Brussels sprouts have such a pungent aroma and bitter flavor.
However, Brussels sprouts also contain glucosinolates, which help form biologically active compounds (i.e., nitriles, indoles, isothiocyanates, and thiocyanates) that are accredited by the National Cancer Institute, as well as other noted medical experts, for their anticancer effects on the liver and other essential organs.
Beets are another great vegetable that helps cleanse the liver – specifically the dark red beets. Beets are high in plant-flavonoids, beta-carotene and are rich in iron, folates, phosphorous, vitamin C, copper, potassium and manganese. These little guys are loaded with micronutrients! Just like most vegetables, to get the most out of their nutritious value you should eat them raw. This is because heat will often burn away all the nutrients and it’ll either evaporate or end up in the water we’ve boiled the food in – which is not appetizing.
The best way to incorporate beets into your diet for a cleanse is to use their juice! Beets have an interesting flavour to them, so incorporating it as an ingredient in a fruit juice with other antioxidant juices will make it more satisfying.
You know what they say, an apple a day keeps the doctor away! Liversupport.com explains how apples are one of the top detoxifying foods because they contain fiber, and many vitamins and minerals as well as phytochemicals and flavonoids and terpenoids. They also contain phloridzin which stimulates bile production just like dandelion root which was mentioned earlier.
Additionally, the fiber pectin found in apples assists in eliminating metals and food additives from the bloodstream. Unless you’re a picky eater, apples are quite tasty to eat on their own, and they will make your beet juice a lot sweeter and tastier!
Healthy fats are necessary for our daily diet for many reasons. In terms of cleaning the liver, walnuts help rid the body of ammonia. They are high in amino acid arginine, glutathione and omega-3 fatty acids – all which support liver cleansing.
It’s important to consume healthy fats to assist in the absorption of fat soluble toxins. However, even though walnuts are a healthy fat, we still want to eat them in moderation.
Coffee gets a bad rap sometimes. However, it does have its health benefits! WebMd claims that, “drinking two to three cups a day can protect your liver from damage caused by too much alcohol or an unhealthy diet.” That being said, what you put in your coffee could potentially be damaging to your liver. Too much sugar and creamer is counter productive.
When we consume too much sugar, the liver turns it into fat which in turn could hurt the liver. Using minimal or no sugar, low-fat milk or milk substitutes such as almond milk in your coffee will make those detoxifying cups even more beneficial!
13. Broccoli Sprouts
Well + Good talked to Charles Passler, DC, a New York-based nutritionist and founder of detox program Pure Change who said broccoli sprouts are amazing at detoxing the liver. “They’re rich in antioxidants and boost up glutathione even better than straight broccoli, which means they support both phases of liver detoxification,” says Passler. “Broccoli sprouts also contain indole-3-carbinol, [a compound] that helps the liver detox excessive levels of hormones.”
While there’s still more research needed on how necessary it is to detox the liver, it wouldn’t hurt to eat more broccoli sprouts because they have amazing health benefits that extend even further than the liver. “They contain precursors of a highly studied substance known as sulforaphane, which has been shown to help prevent certain cancers,” says Passler.
14. Green Tea
According to several sources, green tea can provide some welcome health benefits that make the liver’s job a little easier. Healthline cites a Japanese study which found that participants who drank 5 to 10 cups of green tea a day had better blood markers of liver health.
The source also includes another study published in the International Journal of Molecular Medicine which looked at patients diagnosed with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and found that those who drank green tea high in antioxidants for 12-weeks had “improved liver enzyme levels and may also reduce oxidative stress and fat deposits in the liver.” There’s also evidence that drinking green tea regularly could prevent liver cancer.
People with liver problems should consult a doctor before using green tea extract because there have also been reports of the use of supplements with green tea extract causing liver damage.
15. Milk Thistle
Even though WebMD points out that there’s no proof that liver cleanses and detoxes are necessary or that they help the liver function better. But the source also states that the herb milk thistle contains a compound called silybin. “You may have heard that it helps your liver work better and can treat liver disease,” writes WebMD. However, it also goes on to say that just as there is no evidence that liver detoxes and cleanses work, there’s not enough evidence to support that milk thistle improves the function of the liver.
“There is some proof that compounds from milk thistle have helped to improve the symptoms of certain types of liver disease,” however there needs to be more research done to provide a more definitive answer.