Our liver is like a battery- it helps power our body by storing and releasing energy when we need it. The liver converts food into the chemicals important for life and removes toxins from the blood. An optimal diet for a healthy liver is balanced nutritiously with protein, fat, and carbohydrates and filled with fruit and veggies. Following a nutritious diet can lead to a healthy liver.
Significance. Purpose. Effect.
The liver is the largest and hardest-working organ in the body. It is found beneath the diaphragm, nestled in the upper right part of the abdomen. Blood leaving the stomach and intestines for the rest of the body must first pass through the liver. Here we can see the liver function as the body’s refinery. The liver processes the blood, breaking down the nutrients and absorbed drugs into forms that the body can easily use.
The liver also makes bile, a green-yellow fluid that is essential for digestion. The gallbladder stores the bile and releases it into the intestine after eating.
Other functions of the liver are: carrying away waste and breaking down fats in the small intestine, producing proteins and cholesterol, converting excess glucose into glycogen for storage, regulating blood levels of amino acids, storing iron, clearing the blood of drugs and bacteria, and regulating blood clotting. If any of these functions go wrong, illness can occur.
Significance of Nutrition to a Healthy Liver
Nutrition and liver go hand in hand and work together to get things done. One example is when the intestine absolves carbohydrates and is transported through blood vessels into the liver. There, they are converted into glycogen and stored. The liver breaks down this stored glycogen between meals, releasing sugar into the blood for quick energy and lowering blood sugar. This process occurs so that we can have balanced energy throughout our day.
A second great example is a protein. Food proteins are broken down in the small intestine and turned into amino acids through the liver. The liver uses amino acids to make body proteins- these contribute to the strength and beauty of our hair, nails, bones, and muscles. A toxic metabolic product known as ammonia is produced during the breakdown of body proteins. The liver detoxifies this toxin, makes it into urea, and is removed from the body through the kidneys.
Liver Friendly Foods
In addition to fruits and vegetables being part of a healthy liver plan, some other natural foods help to protect liver health like fibrous foods such as lentils and whole grains, healthy amounts of beverages derived from natural food sources like coffee and tea. Regular consumption of these foods and beverages nurtures healthy liver function.
Let’s Take a Closer Look at Popular Liver Friendly Foods
Grapefruit: The antioxidants in grapefruit protect the liver by helping reduce inflammation and increase its protective mechanisms.
Berries: Berries are high in antioxidants, which help protect the liver from damage.
Grapes: Both the seed and fruit contain a powerful antioxidant called resveratrol- especially found in red and purple grapes. Resveratrol provides protection against many diseases, especially liver cancer and liver inflammation.
Nuts: Nut intake associated with improved liver enzyme levels in people with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Conversely, low nut intake is related to a higher risk of developing the disease.
Fatty Fish: Fatty fish such as salmon and mackerel are rich in omega 3 fatty acids. Omega 3 fatty acids play an important role in protecting cardiovascular health, balancing cholesterol, preventing inflammation, and protecting liver health. Liver health-conscious should consume fatty fish at least two days a week to get enough omega 3 fatty acids into the body.
Artichoke: The component called “Ciaran” found in artichokes supports the working order of the liver, gallbladder and bile ducts, and the kidneys and intestines. Artichoke speeds up the flow of bile. In this way, it prevents blockages in the bile duct and protects against gallbladder diseases. At the same time, it facilitates digestion, prevents indigestion, and increases urea in the kidneys to create a diuretic effect.
Coffee: Coffee increases antioxidant levels in the liver, all while decreasing inflammation. It also helps lower the risk of developing liver disease, cancer, and fatty liver.
Tea: Black and green tea may help improve enzyme and fat levels in the liver.
Foods the Liver Can Live Without
Our liver thrives on nutrients for support throughout its unresting work. While fruit and vegetables are the food of choice to provide the nutrients needed for the liver to be healthy and function, things like processed food and refined sugars can do just the opposite and damage the liver.
Now that we know some of the best liver-friendly foods, let’s take a look at popular foods that the liver can live without:
- Sugar, such as candy, cookies, sodas, and fruit juices should be consumed in moderation.
High blood sugar increases the amount of fat buildup in the liver.
- Fried foods, such as french fries, fast food, nuggets, onion rings are super high in saturated fats and should be consumed occasionally or avoided altogether.
Foods higher in saturated fats make it hard for the liver to work and do its jobs.
- Alcohol. Consuming alcohol regularly can lead to serious liver damage.
Alcohol is removed from the body through the liver. The liver breaks the alcohol down into substances that can be removed. However, the substances are more dangerous than the alcohol itself. Following moderate alcohol consumption guidelines can prevent liver damage.
- Salt must be consumed minimally.
Too much sodium can cause reactions that lead to liver fibrosis.
- Refined carbohydrates like white bread, rice, and pasta must be consumed in moderation.
Due to a lack of fiber, this carb type is known to raise blood sugar.
- Meat and meat products should be consumed occasionally.
Red meat and processed meats such as deli meats have many negative effects on the liver, especially high in saturated fat. Overconsumption of these food products can lead to serious problems, specifically insulin resistance and fatty liver disease.