Your liver is a crucial organ that performs many functions to clear your body of toxins and break down food into usable components. If you take good care of your liver, your liver will take good care of you. Providing your body with healthy and nutritious food is an important component of taking care of your organs. Similarly, avoiding foods that are devoid of nutrients or contain harmful chemicals can put your body, and your liver, at risk. Read on for foods that will provide your liver with important nutrients, and foods that you should avoid.
Packed with protein, fiber, healthy fats, and vitamin E, nuts are a great source of nutrition when consumed in moderation. A study in the World Journal of Gastroenterology suggests that walnuts are one component of a diet that may help treat nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). The other foods that showed promise in this study are oily fish and coffee. Grab a handful of almonds or walnuts to enjoy as a snack. Sprinkle them on salads, top your morning oatmeal with them, or enjoy them in a crunchy homemade granola.
Oily fish like salmon, tuna, and herring are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids appear to be important for lowering cholesterol, protecting the heart, and fighting inflammation. Along with walnuts and coffee, oily fish may be beneficial in NAFLD treatment. NAFLD is a condition in which excess fat is stored in your liver. A person afflicted with NAFLD may not notice any symptoms. If symptoms do occur, they may include tiredness, pain in the upper right part of the abdomen, and an enlarged liver.
If you enjoy a morning cup of joe, you may be pleased to note that coffee may be of benefit to your liver. A meta-analysis of sixteen studies compared coffee drinkers to non-coffee drinkers. This study suggests that consuming coffee can decrease the risk of hepatic fibrosis. Hepatic fibrosis occurs when scar tissue builds up in the liver. Over time, this buildup of scar tissue can cause cirrhosis, or severe liver damage. Coffee may prevent hepatic fibrosis by decreasing the activity of certain liver enzymes.
Anthocyanins are the phytochemicals in berries that give them their vibrant colors and also impart possible health benefits. These phytochemicals may also offer protection against liver disease. Blueberries are tasty berries that can be enjoyed on top of yogurt, blended into smoothies, or savored by the handful. Cranberries make delicious additions to oatmeal, salads, and trail mix.
Broccoli is a deep green vegetable rich in antioxidants that protects your body against damage caused by free radicals. In addition, studies suggest that broccoli consumption may increase certain enzymes that protect your liver. Roast, stir fry, or steam broccoli for an antioxidant-packed side dish. Other cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower and bok choy may also keep your liver healthy. The cruciferous vegetables contain glucosinolates which may aid in preventing cancer in several organs, including the liver. Dip raw broccoli or cauliflower into a tasty hummus for a healthy afternoon snack.
Green tea is another delicious beverage that may offer protection against liver damage. One study suggests that the catechins in green tea may increase liver function in patients with NAFLD. A second study suggests that consuming green tea may prevent both heart and liver disease. If you are not a coffee drinker, you may wish to give green tea a try for its antioxidants, heart protection, and liver benefits.
The whole grain goodness of oatmeal provides your body with the fiber it needs to keep your digestive tract and liver at their best. Furthermore, oatmeal keeps you feeling full longer. This helps cut down on overeating and decreases the risk of liver damage associated with obesity. It doesn’t matter which type of oatmeal you choose. Whether you prefer steel cut oats, rolled oats, or instant oatmeal, you can reap the benefits of this grain. If you choose instant oatmeal, select products without the added sugar that negates the health benefits of this food.
Leafy greens such as spinach, kale, or collard greens can contribute to a healthy, liver-protective diet. These vegetables, with their rich green color, are packed with antioxidants which fight inflammation and protect your body against cellular damage. Treat your liver to the benefits of leafy green salads made with spinach or kale. Check out this recipe for Kickin’ Collard Greens by Allrecipes. It combines collard greens, onion, and garlic with crunchy bacon and spicy red pepper flakes for a delicious addition to any meal.
It is easy to overlook the many health benefits that come from keeping your body well hydrated. Like all body organs, your liver needs water to function properly. Additionally, when your body becomes dehydrated, toxins can build up in your system leading to further damage. Aim to drink about eight 8-ounce glasses of water each day, although the main idea is to drink when you are thirsty. Your specific needs depend on your level of activity and the temperature of your surroundings.
To protect your liver, avoid drinking excessive amounts of alcohol. Chronic drinking can cause irreversible damage to your liver, known as cirrhosis. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism recommends those who drink stick to one drink or less per day for women and two drinks or less for men. Binge drinking puts you at risk for liver damage. This is defined as drinking that results in a blood alcohol content of 0.08 g/dL. This translates to about four drinks in 2 hours for women and five drinks for men.
Fried and fatty foods cause weight gain and take a toll on your heart, lungs, kidneys, and liver. Replace fatty foods like cheeseburgers, milkshakes, and muffins with delicious yet healthy substitutes. Stick to lean sources of protein such as poultry instead of fatty cuts of meat. Blend up frozen fruit chunks with a dab of Greek yogurt and your favorite nut milk instead of a milkshake. Add berries and just a splash of real maple syrup to oatmeal instead of consuming a muffin. Replace French fries with roasted veggie sticks and roast your chicken instead of frying it.
You are probably aware that a diet high in salt can raise your blood pressure and cause heart damage. Salt can have a negative effect on your liver as well. Protect your body by avoiding foods with excess salt content. Canned soups, ketchup, and cheese can all be high in salt. When cooking, experiment with healthful herbs and spices to add flavor to your food without the negative effects of salt.
Sugar may be sweet on the tongue, but its effect on your body is anything but sweet. The increase in weight gain caused by sugar not only increases risk of liver disease but also of heart disease. Furthermore, excessive amounts of sugar can cause your liver to become resistant to insulin. This can lead to developing type 2 diabetes. Sugary drinks such as sodas and juices are often culprits in excessive sugar consumption. Shun these beverages and enjoy plain or fruit-infused water instead.
Processed snack foods like cupcakes, cookies, and candy are full of sugar, refined white flour, and fat. These substances place a toll on your body and lead to increased weight gain and therefore increased risk of liver damage. Savory snacks such as pretzels, chips, or white crackers are no better with their refined flour, high fat content, and excess salt. When you get a hankering for something sweet, grab a piece of fruit or whip up a sweet yet nutrient-packed fruit smoothie. Satisfy your desire for crunch with crispy vegetable sticks or a handful of raw nuts.
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