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FOODS TO IMPROVE LIVER HEALTH
The liver is a powerhouse of an organ.
It performs a variety of essential tasks, ranging from producing proteins, cholesterol, and bile to storing vitamins, minerals, and even carbohydrates.
It also breaks down toxins like alcohol, medications, and natural byproducts of metabolism. Keeping your liver in good shape is important for maintaining health.
Coffee is one of the best beverages you can drink to promote liver health.
Studies have shown that drinking coffee protects the liver from disease, even among those who already have problems with this organ.
For example, studies have repeatedly shown that drinking coffee helps lower the risk of cirrhosis, or permanent liver damage, in people with chronic liver disease .
Drinking coffee may also help reduce the risk of developing a common type of liver cancer, and it has positive effects on liver disease and inflammation.
It’s even associated with a lower risk of death in people with chronic liver disease, with the greatest benefits seen in those who drink at least three cups per day .
These benefits seem to stem from its ability to prevent the buildup of fat and collagen, two of the main markers of liver disease .
Coffee also decreases inflammation and increases levels of the antioxidant glutathione. Antioxidants neutralize harmful free radicals, which are produced naturally in the body and can damage cells .
While coffee has many health benefits, your liver, in particular, will thank you for that morning pick-me-up .
Tea is widely considered to be beneficial for health, but evidence has shown that it may have particular benefits for the liver.
One Japanese study found that drinking 10 cups of green tea per day was associated with improved blood markers of liver health .
A smaller study including people with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) found that drinking green tea high in antioxidants for 12 weeks improved liver enzyme levels and may also help reduce oxidative stress and fat deposits in the liver .
Furthermore, another review found that people who drank green tea were less likely to develop liver cancer. The lowest risk was seen in people who drank four or more cups per day .
A number of mouse and rat studies have also demonstrated the beneficial effects of black and green tea extracts .
For example, one study in mice found that black tea extract reversed many of the negative effects of a high fat diet on the liver, as well as improved blood markers of liver health .
Nevertheless, some people, especially those who have liver problems, should exercise caution before consuming green tea as a supplement.
That’s because there have been several reports of liver damage resulting from the use of supplements containing green tea extract .
4. Blueberries and cranberries
Blueberries and cranberries both contain anthocyanins, which are antioxidants that give berries their distinctive colors. They’ve also been linked to many health benefits.
Several animal studies have demonstrated that whole cranberries and blueberries, as well as their extracts or juices, can help keep the liver healthy .
Consuming these fruits for 21 days protected the liver from damage. Additionally, blueberries helped increase immune cell response and antioxidant enzymes .
Another study found that the types of antioxidants found commonly in blueberries slowed the development of lesions and fibrosis, which is the development of scar tissue, in the livers of rats .
What’s more, blueberry extract has been shown to inhibit the growth of human liver cancer cells in test-tube studies. However, more studies are needed to determine whether this effect can be replicated in humans
Making these berries a regular part of your diet is a good way to help make sure your liver is supplied with the antioxidants it needs to stay healthy.
Grapes, especially red and purple grapes, contain a variety of beneficial plant compounds. The most famous one is resveratrol, which has a number of health benefits.
Many animal studies have shown that grapes and grape juice can benefit the liver.
Studies have found that they can have various benefits, including lowering inflammation, preventing damage, and increasing antioxidant levels.
A small study in humans with NAFLD showed that supplementing with grapeseed extract for 3 months helped improve liver function .
However, since grapeseed extract is a concentrated form, you might not experience the same effects from consuming whole grapes. More studies are needed before taking grapeseed extract to promote liver health can be recommended.
Nonetheless, the wide range of evidence from animal and some human studies suggests that grapes are a very liver-friendly food.
6. Prickly pear
Prickly pear, is a popular type of edible cactus. Its fruit and juice are most commonly consumed.
It has long been used in traditional medicine as a treatment for the following:
- liver disease
A 2004 study in 55 people found that the extract of this plant helped reduce symptoms of a hangover.
Participants experienced less nausea, dry mouth, and lack of appetite. They were also half as likely to experience a severe hangover if they consumed the extract before drinking alcohol, which is detoxified by the live.
The study concluded these effects were due to a reduction in inflammation, which often occurs after drinking alcohol.
Another study in mice found that consuming prickly pear extract helped normalize enzyme and cholesterol levels when consumed at the same time as a pesticide known to be harmful to the liver. Subsequent studies observed similar results .
A more recent study in rats sought to determine the effectiveness of prickly pear juice, rather than its extract, at combating the negative effects of alcohol.
This study found that the juice helped decrease the amount of oxidative damage and injury to the liver after alcohol consumption and keep antioxidant and inflammation levels stable.
More human studies are needed, especially using prickly pear fruit and juice, rather than extract. Nonetheless, the studies thus far have demonstrated that prickly pear has positive effects on the liver.
7. Beetroot juice
Beetroot juice is a source of nitrates and antioxidants called betalains, which may benefit heart health and reduce oxidative damage and inflammation.
It’s reasonable to assume that eating beets themselves would have similar health effects. However, most studies use beetroot juice. You can juice beets yourself or buy beetroot juice from the store or online.
While animal studies look promising, similar studies have not been conducted in humans.
Other beneficial health effects of beetroot juice have been observed in animal studies and replicated in human studies. However, more studies are needed to confirm the benefits of beetroot juice on liver health in humans.
9. Fatty fish
Fatty fish contain omega-3 fatty acids, which are healthy fats that help reduce inflammation and have been associated with a lower risk of heart disease.
A 2016 analysis found that omega-3 fatty acids helped lower liver fat and triglycerides in those with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease or nonalcoholic steatohepatitis .
While consuming omega-3-rich fatty fish appears to be beneficial for your liver, adding more omega-3 fats to your diet is not the only thing to consider.
The ratio of omega-3 fats to omega-6 fats is also important.
Most Americans exceed the intake recommendations for omega-6 fats, which are found in many plant oils. An omega-6 to omega-3 ratio that’s too high can promote the development of liver disease .
Therefore, it’s a good idea to reduce your intake of omega-6 fats, too.
The foods listed above have demonstrated beneficial effects on the liver. These benefits include the following:
- a lowered risk of liver disease and cancer
- higher antioxidant and detoxification enzyme levels
- protection against harmful toxins
Incorporating these foods into your diet is a natural and healthy way to help keep your liver functioning at its best.
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