In Traditional Chinese Medicine, spring is the season to cleanse the liver. During the winter months, we tend to eat heavier foods, reduce our activity, and conserve energy. But once spring emerges from the shadows and we see everything around us start to bloom, we find our bodies wanting to feel the same sense of renewal as nature. So while you may have time dedicated to cleaning out your closet and tossing some old junk that doesn’t suit you anymore, you may want to consider doing the same for your body. Spring is the perfect time to detach from dietary habits and food choices that don’t serve you. Today we will let you know what habits you can toss for good while informing you about specific foods and herbs you can incorporate into your diet that will cleanse, support, and nourish your liver.
What Our Livers Do For Us
Our livers have hard but important jobs. Among these include producing and excreting bile, metabolizing fats, protein, and carbohydrates from the food we eat, activating enzymes, and processing cholesterol, hormones, and drugs for removal. We live in a world where we are constantly bombarded with toxic chemicals from our environment and the food that we eat. While our livers are designed to process these pollutants for detoxification and removal, it’s not uncommon for our livers to get overwhelmed and operate at a less than optimal level. This is where giving your liver some extra support can be beneficial.
Foods and Drinks That Harm the Liver
Most of us already know that alcohol isn’t helpful to our livers. Eliminating alcohol from your diet will have a beneficial impact on your liver function. Alcohol can cause alcoholic fatty liver disease and can contribute to other diseases of the liver as well. But, it’s important to note that there is also a type of liver disease called nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) which can be caused by poor dietary choices, and it’s estimated that 20% of Americans have NAFLD. Some other big offenders that can cause a lot of damage to the liver include highly processed food, trans fats, simple carbs, fried foods, and added sugars (high fructose corn syrup is particularly bad). Any food that contributes to insulin resistance may also contribute to fat build up in the liver, so focusing on keeping your blood sugar levels balanced will also keep your liver healthy too!
Liver Friendly Foods and Drinks
Focusing on consuming whole foods that are minimally processed is the foundation of an optimally functioning liver. Focus on eating balanced meals that contain adequate protein, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates that contain a lot of fiber. Some foods that are especially beneficial for the liver include:
- Citrus fruits
- Bitter greens
- Beets and beetroot juice
- Nuts (especially walnuts and almonds)
- Cruciferous vegetables
- Green tea
These foods all contain beneficial compounds and antioxidants that support liver health. Some examples of bitter greens include dandelion, arugula, collards, and mustard leaf. The bitterness in these greens helps stimulate digestive juices, including bile, which is essential for effective detoxification. Bitter foods also help us absorb nutrients from the food we eat. Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, cabbage and kale are also really great liver friendly foods. In fact, many foods from this family are considered bitter foods as well, but cruciferous vegetables are also rich in sulfur-containing compounds known as glucosinolates. Glucosinolates help regulate inflammation levels, our stress response, have antioxidant effects, and help phase I metabolism in the liver. The closer the food is to nature, like unprocessed whole foods, the better it is for your liver. And of course, drinking enough water to keep your body hydrated will go a long way in keeping your liver healthy as well.
Spice Up Your Meals With These Liver Friendly Herbs
Aside from food , there are also many herbs and spices that are beneficial to the liver. You can try adding some of the following to your food to enhance the flavor and give your liver even more support: