Sounds important, right?
Thus, it’s critical to eat the right foods and live a liver-friendly lifestyle to keep our bodies in optimal function.
Here’s how to do it:
- Eat Organic: Non-organic foods are full of pesticides, GMOs, hormones and other chemical additives that can damage your liver and pollute your blood. Avoiding toxins is the best way to stay pure—and in the comfort of your own home, it’s easy. Shop organic at your local store and cook meals with the freshest ingredients. If you can’t shell out enough money for all organic produce, prioritize: stick to buying the “Dirty Dozen” (apples, berries, leafy greens, potatoes, tomatoes, stone fruit, grapes, etc.) organic and cheating on the “Clean Fifteen” (asparagus, cauliflower, corn, bananas, mango, avocado, citrus, etc.). Here’s a hint: if you don’t eat the skin, don’t worry about it.
- Exercise Regularly: Getting adequate exercise consistently lowers your risk of contracting fatty liver disease. Plus, obesity contributes to poor liver function. Keeping your body weight at a normal level without much fluctuation is the best way to keep your liver in check. Aerobic exercise raises your heart rate to burn fat, which in turn reduces the fatty build up that can surround the organ. It also flushes glucose from your system, thus aiding those who suffer from diabetes or high blood sugar. Try a spin class, a morning run or a dance party on a Saturday night—whatever gets your heart racing will do.
- Quit Smoking: Don’t even think about it! The puff is never worth it. By smoking, you allow toxic substances to enter your bloodstream and put you at risk for several cancers and diseases.
- Eat The Rainbow: Fresh fruits and vegetables are natural detoxifiers. Loaded with antioxidants, polyphenols and vitamins, these babies are the purest things you can eat. Their high vitamin C and A contents are especially beneficial for liver function, as these vitamins stimulate liver performance. Squeeze fresh lemon, orange, grapefruit and lime into a juice or veggie side dish. Citrus fruits are one of the best sources of vitamin C.
- Keep Your Home Clean: Investing in a water filter and a “cleaning day” at least once a week will protect you from germs, mold, dust and other toxic elements that can wreak havoc on your health. If you simply don’t have time to clean as much as you deem necessary, try hiring a maid service. If your budget doesn’t allow for that, turn those chores into something pleasurable. Perhaps play pump-up music while you vacuum and burn a few extra calories with a dance workout too! Or make a deal with yourself—for each day that you stick to the cleaning schedule, you’ll treat yourself to a fancy green juice or an extra hour of video games. (Ladies—get your man to clean in exchange for sports viewing during dinner that night!)
- Consume Sulfur-Rich Foods: Cruciferous veggies, such as Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower, are high in sulfur and glucosinate, both of which stimulate the liver to release enzymes that will protect the body from dietary and environmental toxins.
- Think Red and Orange: Red and orange produce, such as carrots, beets and tomatoes, are all high in vitamin C and beta-carotene, a precursor to vitamin A. These vitamins signal the liver to begin its cleansing process. Also, the fiber helps flush toxins from the body through healthy, regular digestion and secretion. The lycopene in tomatoes is also a huge power nutrient, as it protects against tumor growth and cancers. Cook tomatoes with broccoli for maximum results—studies can’t explain how this dynamic duo operates, but for some reason it’s a great anti-cancer formula.
- Build a Spice and Herb Repertoire: Turmeric is a great anti-inflammatory and aid for liver cleansing. It directly signals the liver to flush out toxins. Likewise, garlic is high in sulfur, a liver activator, and also allicin and selenium, two natural aids for detoxing the liver. As a bonus, selenium is great for boosting thyroid health! Other rich sources include leafy greens and Brazil nuts.
- Let Your Pee Stink: We all know that smell after eating asparagus—gross right? Well, wrong. That scent signifies a healthy liver and a pure bloodstream. Asparagus is a diuretic that assists the liver and kidneys in eliminating toxic substances quickly and efficiently.
- Limit Processed Foods and Sugar: Packaged foods often contain hidden traces of hydrogenated and trans fats and oils. These are enemies! They stimulate fat deposition in your body and trap you in an addictive cycle of sugar, salt and fat cravings that seem to never subside. Also, high fructose corn syrup in sodas and baked goods inhibit your body from properly utilizing glucose as fuel and maintain proper blood sugar balances. Our bodies aren’t primed to digest fructose well, and this also puts extra pressure on our livers to digest our food particles, break down fat and insulin and purify our blood. Stick to whole foods and steer clear of weird, hard-to-pronounce words that cloud your thinking.
- An Apple A Day…: Apples are high in pectin, a key nutrient that helps cleanse and eliminate toxins through digestion. Partnering with the liver, it gets the job done faster.
- Avoid Gluten: Gluten can make the liver’s duty difficult. Grains such as wheat, flour, and other whole grains that contain gluten, make the liver’s detoxing process more taxing than it has to be. Stick to gluten-free grains, such as quinoa, millet, amaranth, buckwheat and brown rice.
- Load Up on Omega 3’s: In addition to taking a daily fish oil supplement, eating oily fish and using healthy oils, such as flaxseed, hempseed, and olive oil, in your cooking will reduce inflammation in the body and help flush out dangerous substances. Walnuts are also great, as they have glutathione and the amino acid arginine, which help detoxify the liver and assist particularly well with ridding the body of ammonia.
- Leafy Greens to the Rescue: Leafy greens, such as spinach, kale, and Swiss chard, are rich in chlorophyll, a molecule that promotes bile production, cleanses the body of environmental pathogens, and neutralizes metals, toxins and other dangerous chemicals. They are also high in vitamin E, which as been shown to protect the membranes of liver cells. Two other great sources of vitamin E are avocado and seeds. Furthermore, dandelion root, also in tea form, helps break down fats in the liver. Another beneficial tea is green tea due to its high catechin content.
- Don’t Binge Drink: Limiting intake of alcohol lowers the risk of toxic elements entering your system. Drinking too often, with too many drinks in a sitting, can cause serious damage to the liver. If you have fatty liver disease, stop drinking altogether if possible. If not, drink in moderation, and choose wisely. Red wine is beneficial, as it has resveratrol to reduce inflammation, supply antioxidants and promote longevity.
- Monitor Your Medicine Cabinet: Be wary about taking over-the-counter drugs for too long and in too high dosages. Once a pill enters the bloodstream, toxins can damage the cells. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is particularly notorious for liver damage. Stick to natural remedies as much as you can, and quit taking doses once you start to feel a bit better.
- Supplement If Necessary: Milk Thistle is supposed to protect the liver and stimulate liver cell growth. It also helps with protein production and acts as a barrier against toxins. Also taking a turmeric, green tea, or grape seed extract may also provide benefits. MSM is a natural form of sulfur, so taking a dose can also help. Vitamin E has also been shown to reduce inflammation and protect liver cell membranes. Check with your primary physician before taking any supplements, and of course, eating real, food sources is always best.
- Devour Dark Chocolate: By devour, I really mean eat a square or two a day. About 10g or less will do. But still—it’s chocolate! Dark chocolate is loaded with antioxidants that stimulate liver function and healthy blood flow. In fact, benefits have been shown for people with cirrhosis of the liver.
- Eat Meat in Moderation: Too much animal protein creates a protein overload that can be too much for the liver to process. Also, too much red meat will raise ammonia levels in the blood. This is particularly bad for people with cirrhosis or other liver diseases.
- Juice Up: Having a green juice with leafy greens, cruciferous veggies, and red and orange hued fruits and vegetables is a fast and easy way to get more servings in. However, be cautious of sugar. 80% should be non-starchy and low-cal veggies, such as leafy greens, and 20% should be fruit or starchy veggies—think carrots or apples. Adding a kick of ginger, lemon, lime, cayenne or turmeric will add some extra purity and heat to further detox.
Think of this not as a detox, but a lifestyle! Keep your liver running strong every day.