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5 Foods to Keep Your Liver Healthy

There are certain foods and drinks you can consume which may help to protect the health of your liver.

A selection of vegetables, fruit and water

Find what the best foods are to keep your liver healthy, along with the best drink for liver health - you may be surprised!

Top 5 Foods For Liver Health

It's important to eat a healthy balanced diet to keep our whole body in good order and functioning well.  Along with taking exercise and drinking plenty of water.  But what the foods for a healthy liver?  Here are our top 5 tips:

  1. Oats
  2. Oily Fish
  3. Nuts
  4. Whole grains
  5. Vegetables and fruits

Let's look at each of these foods in more detail and how they help the liver.

1. Oats

Oats may have protective effects for the liver as they contain a specific type of fibre called beta-glucan.  One study showed that beta-glucan reduced liver damage and oxidative stress in individuals with obstructive jaundice.

Oats are a fantastic source of dietary fibre which is important for aiding digestion, maintain a healthy weight and lowering the risk of cancer. Oats are also good for lowering cholesterol levels.

Choose whole oats which shouldn’t have any added (unessential) ingredients, unlike pre-packaged oatmeal. Try swapping high sugar cereals for a bowl of hearty porridge with some fresh fruit. 

2. Oily fish

Oily fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines and herring are packed with omega-3 fatty acids. These are ‘good’ fats which have many health benefits. They prevent inflammation, a major factor in the development of many chronic diseases.

Omega-3 fatty acids could be beneficial in the treatment of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease or NAFLD. It is a condition characterised by a build-up of fat in the liver and is usually present in overweight or obese people.

These fats found in oily fish can prevent the build-up of fat in the liver and so, prevent the disease from developing. One study recommends the consumption of oily fish at least twice per week as the fats contained within them, can reduce the circulating levels of fat in the blood.

3. Nuts

Nuts are a natural food source. They are, in fact, nutritionally dense fruits which are packed with nutrients, fatty acids and other beneficial compounds.

In terms of your liver, walnuts could be really useful. These nuts are high in omega-3 and have the highest level of polyphenols, naturally occurring chemicals in plant-based foods. They have numerous health benefits mainly due to their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Research has shown that walnuts have improved liver function tests in people with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Therefore, eating a handful of nuts, like walnuts as a snack could help to maintain or improve the health of the liver.

However, you should be sure not to eat too many because nuts are high in calories. But they are a much more nutritious snack than a bag of crisps or a cake, plus they’ll make you feel satisfied for longer.

4. Whole Grains

Whole grains contain all the goodness of the entire grain and are high in iron, magnesium, B vitamins and fibre.  All of which help your body, including your liver, stay healthy.

Foods that are high in fibre can protect your liver from inflammation, as well as lower your risk of obesity, diabetes and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.

Examples of whole grains include:

  • Whole oats
  • Whole wheat
  • Whole grain rye
  • Buckwheat
  • Spelt
  • Brown rice
  • Wild rice
  • Quinoa

5. Vegetables and Fruit

Fruits and vegetables - along with whole grains and nuts - are plant-based foods. They are all naturally occurring and by consuming them they help to keep our bodies healthy. Simply put, all plant-based foods are good for the health of your liver as well as the rest of your body.

Many plants have been used for centuries for liver health. Green leafy vegetables are thought to be best for your liver. Like nuts, these naturally occurring foods are high in polyphenols.

Some of the foods which may be helpful for your liver include:

Vegetables

  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Collard greens
  • Kale
  • Cabbage

Fruits

  • Avocado
  • Banana
  • Cherry
  • Lemon
  • Watermelon

Coffee

Ok, so coffee isn't a food but it still gets on the list of things that are good for your liver!

Various studies have shown that moderate consumption of coffee is associated with a reduced risk of developing liver disease. A report by the British Liver Trust, states that regularly drinking coffee can lower the risk of liver cancer. It also reduces the risk of scar-tissue build-up called fibrosis, as well as the development of cirrhosis.

Coffee also contains caffeine which also has potential benefits for liver health. For example, it could help to slow down tissue growth seen in cirrhosis, alcoholic liver disease and cancer.

These benefits are seen no matter how the coffee is prepared. So, whether you like your coffee filtered, instant or espresso, it doesn’t matter because the benefits will still be present.

Summary

The liver has many important functions associated with human health. What you put into your body can affect the health of your liver.

So, choosing foods which may help to keep your liver functioning optimally could help to prevent long-term disease. Most of the foods which are good for your liver are naturally occurring, easy to buy (or even grow) and taste great!

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References

  1. Bashir, K, M, I and Choi, J, S. (2017). Clinical and Physiological Perspectives of β-Glucans: The Past, Present and Future. Int J Mol Sci: 18(9).
  2. British Coffee Association. (2019). Coffee Facts. Available at: https://www.britishcoffeeassociation.org/coffee-in-the-uk/coffee-facts
  3. British Liver Trust. (2016). Coffee Consumption and the Liver-The Potential Health Benefits. Available at: https://britishlivertrust.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/The-health-benefits-of-coffee-BLT-report-June-2016.pdf
  4. Erkol, H et al. (2011). Effects of Beta-Glucan on Hepatic Damage Caused by Obstructive Jaundice. Ulus Travma Acil Cerrahi Derg: 17(4), pp 303-307.
  5. Guan, Y, S and He, Q. (2015). Plants Consumption and Liver Health. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
  6. Gupta, V et al. (2015). Oily Fish, Coffee and Walnuts: Dietary Treatment for Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease. World J Gastroenterol: 21(37), pp 10621-10635.
  7. Lab Tests Online UK. (2017). Alanine aminotransferase (ALT) Test. Available at: https://labtestsonline.org.uk/tests/alanine-aminotransferase-alt-test
  8. Lu, W et al. (2016). Effects of Omega-3 Fatty Acid in Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease: A Meta-Analysis. Gastroenterology Research and Practice.

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