According to the Canadian Liver Foundation, the liver performs more than 500 different functions in the body on a day-to-day basis. It helps filter chemicals such as drugs and alcohol from our blood, regulate our hormones and blood sugar levels, manufacture blood proteins, bile and enzymes, and much more.(1) In fact, there are few biological operations that the liver doesn’t aid to some extent.
Unfortunately, toxic livers are on the rise in the West due to our love of processed foods, which has placed enormous strain on our livers. These unhealthy meals compromise the liver’s ability to process toxins and fat, which, in turn, increases our body’s susceptibility to illness and disease over time. For this reason, it is important that we favor a diet that is rich in organic whole foods to maintain healthy liver function.
If our liver has already become toxic due to a lifelong intake of processed foods, however, then we must immediately prioritize foods that are directly proven to cleanse and protect the liver from further damage. The best of these foods are listed below.
This pungent white herb is packed with allicin, an organic sulfur compound that is known to boost liver health. For example, a study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry in June 2014 found that garlic essential oil and its main sulfur compound, diallyl disulfide, could protect mice from non-alcoholic fatty liver disease by regulating fat metabolism and oxidative stress.(2)
Remember to crush or chop garlic before adding it to meals. This activates its allicin, thus maximizing its benefits for our liver.
Leafy green vegetables
Leafy green vegetables are a fantastic source of chlorophyll, a natural plant pigment that helps accelerate the liver’s cleansing process by stimulating phase II detoxification (the phase in which the liver can turn drugs, hormones and other toxins into water-soluble, excretable substances).(3)
As a general rule, the more chlorophyll the vegetable contains, the better it is for our livers. Spinach contains one of the highest concentrations of chlorophyll and seems to be especially good for liver health. A study featured in Natural Product Research in October 2014, for instance, found that aqueous leaf extracts of Malabar spinach — which is commonly consumed in tropical Africa and Asia — had a “significant hepatoprotective effect” on albino rats suffering from toxic livers.(4)
Few foods can beat spirulina when it comes to detoxification. This cyanobacterium, which is usually consumed in supplemental form, is a fantastic superfood that is known to normalize blood pressure and cholesterol, reduce the risk of cancer, chelate the body of heavy metals and more. Furthermore, according to a pilot study published in the Annals of Gastroenterology in 2014, spirulina can also produce hepatoprotective and hypolipidemic benefits for individuals afflicted with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.(5)
The flesh of the avocado fruit, which is packed with disease-fighting fats and hormone-regulating sterols, has long been considered a miraculous food. However, according to a study published in Dakar Medical, the seeds of the avocado — which most people don’t even realize are edible — possess strong hepatoprotective activity. Specifically, the researchers found that avocado seeds could heal hepatic lesions, normalize aminotransferases enzymes and even stimulate the liver to conjugate and eliminate bilirubin in rats.(6) Therefore, the next time you eat an avocado, don’t throw out the seed; try grinding it into a powder and eating it. Your liver will thank you!