Your liver is your body's detoxifier. It cleanses blood coming from your digestive system, reduces the effects of toxins and secretes bile, a digestive fluid that helps fats break down. It also produces proteins important for blood clotting. A healthy diet can help ensure that your liver functions normally and prevent or help manage liver-related disease. If you have a serious illness, discuss dietary changes with your doctor or dietitian in advance.
Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are prime suppliers of antioxidants, such as vitamin C, beta-carotene and lycopene. Antioxidants enhance your body's ability to resist and heal from infections and diseases, including liver-related conditions. An antioxidant-rich diet is vital for people prone to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, says registered dietitian Christen C. Cooper, a disease that affects an estimated 20 to 40 percent of people in Western countries. Fruits and vegetables particularly high in antioxidants include berries, citrus fruits, tomatoes, dark leafy greens, broccoli and carrots.
Whole grains provide more antioxidants than refined grains, and plentiful amounts of carbohydrates -- the primary fuel source for your liver. If you have a severe liver disease, your diet should contain large amounts of carbohydrates in proportion to protein, according to the National Library of Medicine. Liver disease damages your body's ability to process protein, and carbohydrates can help stave off energy decline and fatigue. Examples of nutritious whole-grain foods include brown rice, wild rice, oatmeal, pearled barley and 100 percent whole-grain bread and pasta.
Beans and Lentils
Beans and lentils are rich in antioxidants and low in fat. Fatty foods can worsen liver health by causing inflammation. Fats can also tax the liver if you have liver disease, says Cooper, by making it work too hard. Beans and lentils provide moderate amounts of protein, compared to high-protein sources, such as meat, fish and eggs. A 1/2-cup serving of beans or lentils provides about 6 grams of protein. Three ounces of beef provides over 23 grams. Liver disease sufferers should aim for about 1 gram of protein per kilogram of body weight daily, according to the National Library of Medicine, or less in severe cases.
Low-Fat Milk and Yogurt
Low-fat milk and yogurt provide carbohydrates, less protein than meats and seafood and valuable amounts of B vitamins, nutrients important for liver health. One cup of low-fat milk provides about 8 grams of protein, an adult's full-day supply of vitamin B-12 and 45 percent of an adult's daily riboflavin, or vitamin B-2, needs. For antioxidant benefits and added carbohydrates, top low-fat yogurt with berries or sliced banana.
- National Liver Foundation; Liver Wellness
- Today's Dietitian; Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease — Strategies for Prevention and Treatment of an Emerging Condition
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: Diet -- Liver Disease
- USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference: Protein Content of Common Foods
- The Dairy Council: Vitamins in Milk
August McLaughlin is a health and sexuality writer, podcast host and author of “Girl Boner: The Good Girl’s Guide to Sexual Empowerment” (Amberjack Publishing, 2018). Her articles appear in DAME Magazine, Cosmopolitan.com, the Huffington Post and more, and she loves connecting with readers through her blog and social media. augustmclaughlin.com