The liver is the largest gland in the human body which plays a vital role in digestion. It stores and metabolizes the nutrients obtained from food and also acts to remove harmful substances from the blood. Unfortunately, a rising population in today’s world is experiencing liver diseases, possibly as a result of a bad lifestyle, poor nutrition or high alcohol intake.  

The liver also plays the most important role in detoxifying your body. So, you should ensure that it stays healthy. The food that you eat plays an important role in this. In particular, the liver needs certain foods that combine vitamins A, vitamin B, and vitamin C and minerals such as zinc, magnesium, calcium and sulphur to function well.

  1. Symptoms of bad liver health
  2. Top Foods for Healthy Liver

A dysfunctioning liver or a liver that is not working to it's optimum levels, shows several symptoms. The most commonly observed symptoms of bad liver health have been mentioned below.

Whether or not your liver is in good shape, you should aim to include certain foods in your diet that will keep it strong and healthy. This article discusses such foods in detail.

These are the top foods recommended by nutritionists for a healthy liver. The foods listed below are evidenced by various researches and clinical trials.

Garlic for healthy liver

Garlic, also known as Allium sativum or Lasun is a herb commonly used to add flavour to foods. For ages, this herb has been to have potential therapeutic effects and has played a role in the prevention and treatment of various diseases. Classical Indian and Chinese medicine indicate that this herb help patients struggling with respiratory and digestive disorders. Garlic has also been used to treat parasitic infestation and leprosy.

The principal bioactive compound in garlic is allicin which helps in the removal of harmful substances from the body. A recent study has found protective effects of garlic against alcoholic fatty-liver disease and inflammation in the liver. The results of the study found decreased fat accumulation and reduced inflammation, demonstrating the potential effects of the herb.

Dosage: One clove of raw garlic can be taken in the morning or 1-2 teaspoons of cooked chopped or minced garlic can be used every day. But it is always recommended to consult your doctor before taking any herbal supplement.

Turmeric for liver health

Turmeric, also known as haldi or Curcuma longa, is a yellow coloured root known for its anti-inflammatory, antifungal, antioxidant, antiviral, and antibacterial properties. Its main compound 'curcumin' is the natural polyphenol known to have multiple health benefits in metabolic syndrome, pain and degenerative eye disorders. Curcumin comes in the form of capsules, tablets, energy drinks, ointment, cosmetics and soaps.

A research carried out in 2013 revealed the benefits of curcumin in combating liver diseases. According to the study, curcumin exerts a hypolipidemic effect i.e. prevent fatty acid accumulation in the liver. Another study demonstrated that curcumin lessens oxidative stress, inflammatory cytokines, improves insulin sensitivity and thus aids in attenuating liver injury and non-alcoholic liver disease.

(Read more: Insulin resistance)

Dosage: 1-3 grams of turmeric powder or 3-6 grams of turmeric root can be used per day.

Broccoli for liver health

Broccoli is an edible green cabbage-like vegetable that contains multiple bioactive compounds such as flavonoids, Vitamin C and glucosinates. According to a study conducted by Yung-Ju Chen, daily intake of broccoli exhibited reduced liver damage and protects against liver tumorigenesis.

In 2016, researchers found that consuming broccoli, rich in sulforaphane, in diet lessened the development of fatty liver disease and prevents hepatocellular carcinoma (the most common form of liver cancer).

Dosage: 1 cup of broccoli twice or thrice per week can be taken for effective results. 

Beetroot for healthy liver

Beetroot, also known as garden beet or red beet is the taproot portion of the beet plant. Being rich in ascorbic acid, carotenoids, flavonoids, nitrates and antioxidants, this red root is known for its detoxification properties. Beets break down the toxic wastes in the liver by improving enzymatic activity and hence stimulating the bile flow.

(Read more: Antioxidant foods)

Researchers have reported that beetroots also contain certain bioactive compounds as betalains, betacyanin, and betanin which protect the liver against carcinogens and hence liver injury.

Another study demonstrated the effect of beetroot juice on DNA damage and liver injury and it was reported that beetroot decreased the activity of carcinogens or cancer-causing agents, protecting the liver against toxicity and damage.

Dosage: A cup of beetroot in a salad or a glass of beetroot juice can be taken every 2-3 days.

Carrots for healthy liver

Carrot is a root vegetable rich in fibre, vitamin E, vitamin C, carotenoids, and phenolic compounds. In a recent study, researchers found that carrot juice reduced the production of monounsaturated fatty acids and increased the DHA levels required for a healthy body.

In another study published in the European Journal of Nutrition, the researchers observed a notable decrease in liver cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the rats fed with carrots, pointing toward the protective benefits of carrots.

(Read more: Lipid profile procedure)

Dosage: One glass of carrot juice or one cup of cooked carrot can be taken every 2-3 days. However, it is always better to consult a doctor before adding carrots to your routine diet.

Green tea for liver health

Green tea has become one of the most popular beverages around the world. Rich in compounds like catechins, caffeine, theanine, vitamin C, E, B2, B-12, beta-carotene, minerals and chlorophyll, green tea has potential therapeutic and preventive health benefits.

Research has shown the benefits of green tea in the regulation of lipid (fat) metabolism, thereby, lowering the fat accumulation in the liver. Several studies have found that green tea plays a protective role against diseases such as liver cirrhosis, liver cancer and fatty liver disease. In vivo research also showed that green tea leaves inhibit liver cancer.

(Read more: Liver cirrhosis diet)

Dosage: One cup of green tea can be consumed twice a day. Yet, it is important to discuss with your doctor before it is consumed for therapeutic reasons.

Apple for healthy liver

‘An apple a day keeps a doctor away.’ This proverb refers to the varied medicinal properties of this fruit rich in vitamins, amino acids, polyphenols, pectin and malic acid that help to remove the toxins from the body.

A study demonstrated the anti-cancerous effects of apple against liver cells in humans. The study identified the presence of ‘triterpenoids’ compound in the apples which are responsible for the suppression of cancer cells proliferation.

Researchers have reported the antioxidant activity of apples with the peel of 100 g apples equivalent to about 1500 mg of Vitamin C. Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that may prevent liver cancer and significantly drop liver cholesterol and triglycerides.

(Read more: Foods to reduce and control high cholesterol)

Dosage: An apple a day is recommended for better health. 

Lemon for liver health

Lemon is a citrus fruit highly rich in vitamin C. Apart from this, this fruit also contains nutrients such as vitamin B-6, carotenoids, flavonoids, magnesium and potassium, pantothenic acid and folate.

(Read more: Vitamin B12 rich foods)

Researchers have indicated that lemon exhibit the antioxidative properties pertaining to its richness in vitamin C, hence protects the liver against oxidative stress and free radicals formation in the liver tissue.

In another study, it was found that eriocitrin, a main flavonoid in the lemon, reduced high cholesterol and high-fat content in the liver. Research has also shown the protective effects of lemon in the improvement of liver injury caused by excessive use of alcohol.

(Read more: Alcoholism treatment)

Dosage: You can add lemon to warm water every morning or may add to your green tea to find the best benefits of the fruit. One needs to discuss with the doctor in case of chronic liver injury. Besides lemon, other fruits rich in vitamin C such as oranges, grapefruit and papaya is also good for your liver.

Walnuts for healthy liver

Walnuts or akhrot are an integral part of our dry fruits package. Super-loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, these nuts also a good source of calcium, iron, sodium, copper, manganese, magnesium and proteins and fats.

A research analysis that assessed the effect of consuming walnuts on lipid and cholesterol levels in the body suggested that walnuts are rich in antioxidants which help to lower lipid and cholesterol levels.

Another study that evaluated the effect of walnuts on fatty liver revealed that walnuts reduce triglyceride levels in the liver, and suppresses the liver inflammatory genes. Furthermore, walnuts contain the amino acid arginine, which supports in detoxifying ammonia from the liver.

(Read more: Detox diet benefits)

Dosage: 5-7 walnuts per day is recommended.

Tomatoes for liver health

Tomato, generally used in cooked food, salads or juices, is packed with a high quantity of lycopene, which is a powerful antioxidant. They are also a good source of vitamin C, vitamin K, folate and minerals like potassium, sulphur and chloride. Although used as a taste agent, this fruit helps in detoxification of the liver. Lycopene in tomatoes protects the liver against the damage from free radicals.

According to the experts, natural chlorine in tomato stimulates the detoxifying functions of the liver. Researchers also suggest that sulphur in tomatoes protect the liver from cirrhosis.

In one study, researchers claimed that there are few compounds in tomato that infer the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, hence are able to eliminate metals accumulated in the liver.

Dosage: A glass of tomato juice or 2-3 tomatoes in a salad can be consumed every day.

Ginseng for good liver health

Ginseng is an oval-shaped root of the plant in the genus Panax. This herb has traditionally been used in Chinese herbal remedies owing to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Ginsenosides or ginseng saponins are the compounds majorly active in the root. According to scientists, ginseng extracts and individual ginsenosides benefit in regulating normal liver functions and in the management of liver disorders such as liver toxicity, hepatitis, liver cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma (the most common form of liver cancer).

Animal and clinical models have shown ginseng extracts to exert protective effects against toxins like hydrogen peroxide like carbon tetrachloride, and carbon-tetrachloride that directly affect the liver. Ginseng is also beneficial in shielding liver cells from hepatitis and radiation.

(Read more: Ayurvedic treatment for hepatitis) 

Dosage: According to the Complete German Commission E Monographs, 1 to 2 g of ginseng dried root powder can be taken daily for up to 3 months.

Leafy Greens for healthy liver

Leafy greens such as spinach, kale, lettuce are rich in vitamins, proteins, minerals like potassium, magnesium, calcium and iron, dietary fibre and much more. Loaded with antioxidants, green leafy vegetables are recommended by nutritionists to maintain good digestion. Leafy greens help scavenge off the free radicals and prevent the liver from damage. Studies have demonstrated that consuming green leafy vegetables help improve lipid profiles, thereby protecting against fatty liver diseases.

Dosage: One to two cups of green leafy vegetables every day is recommended.

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References

  1. Leyla Bayan, Peir Hossain Koulivand, Ali Gorji. Garlic: a review of potential therapeutic effects . Avicenna J Phytomed. 2014 Jan-Feb; 4(1): 1–14. PMID: 25050296
  2. Suraphan Panyod et al. Diet Supplementation with Allicin Protects against Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease in Mice by Improving Anti-inflammation and Antioxidative Functions. J. Agric. Food Chem.201664387104-7113
  3. Vera-Ramirez L et al. Curcumin and liver disease. Biofactors. 2013 Jan-Feb;39(1):88-100. PMID: 23303639
  4. Sun Y, Peng ML. et al. [Recent advances in curcumin and its derivatives for treatment of liver diseases]. Yao Xue Xue Bao. 2014 Nov;49(11):1483-90. PMID: 25757271
  5. Yung-Ju Chen, Matthew A Wallig, Elizabeth H Jeffery. Dietary Broccoli Lessens Development of Fatty Liver and Liver Cancer in Mice Given Diethylnitrosamine and Fed a Western or Control Diet. J Nutr. 2016 Mar; 146(3): 542–550. PMID: 26865652
  6. Ninfali P, Angelino D. Nutritional and functional potential of Beta vulgaris cicla and rubra. Fitoterapia. 2013 Sep;89:188-99. PMID: 23751216
  7. Malleswarapu Mahesh et al. Carrot Juice Administration Decreases Liver Stearoyl-CoA Desaturase 1 and Improves Docosahexaenoic Acid Levels, but Not Steatosis in High Fructose Diet-Fed Weanling Wistar Rats . Prev Nutr Food Sci. 2016 Sep; 21(3): 171–180. PMID: 27752492
  8. Xueru Yin et al. Int J Clin Exp Med. 2015; 8(6): 8339–8346. PMID: 26309486
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