Your kidneys and liver are responsible for a variety of functions, but both organs work as as filters that remove toxins and waste products from your body. Diets high in preservatives, chemicals, toxins, refined sugar, hydrogenated fats or protein can damage your kidneys and liver, leading to dysfunction and disease. Eating a wide variety of fresh, natural food is the healthiest strategy for your body, although some foods are better at promoting kidney and liver health than others. Consult your doctor before making significant changes to your diet if you suspect a kidney or liver problem.
Fruits and Vegetables Rich in Antioxidants
Foods high in artificial preservatives, chemical toxins and hydrogenated fats damage the tissues of the kidneys, liver and related blood vessels via the production of free radicals. Antioxidants are compounds that eliminate free radicals, which reduce tissue damage and allow the organs and blood vessels to properly heal. Vitamins C and E, beta-carotene and compounds called flavonoids are powerful antioxidants. Produce rich in these potent nutrients include citrus fruits, most berries, dark-colored grapes, apples, tomatoes, carrots, broccoli, spinach and asparagus, the “American Dietetic Association Complete Food and Nutrition Guide” notes. Vitamin C also helps to dissolve calcium buildup in the kidneys.
Beneficial Herbs and Spices
Some herbs and spices have long been recognized by indigenous peoples and natural healers as beneficial for liver and kidney function. Spices such as saffron and turmeric are commonly used in India and Asia to combat or prevent kidney, bladder and liver disorders. Milk thistle is a commonly recommended supplement for liver detoxification and stimulation, although its effectiveness and safety have not been adequately determined by scientific research. Bitter leafy greens such as dandelion, chicory and arugula also may promote liver function by reducing congestion because they stimulate bile flow, according to “Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy.”
Food with Diuretic Properties
A diuretic is any compound that stimulates increased production of urine, which is helpful in flushing out your kidneys. Natural foods that display diuretic properties include celery, parsley, dandelion root, cucumber, asparagus, eggplant, watercress, artichokes and watermelon. Drinking more pure, filtered water is also very helpful for flushing out the genitourinary system and, to a lesser extent, the liver.
Sulfur is especially beneficial for your liver because it detoxifies substances that are found commonly in medications, pesticides and other environmental toxins. Natural foods especially rich in sulfur include onions, garlic and cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and brussels sprouts. The primary medicinal compound in garlic is called allicin, a strong antimicrobial that also deters infections. Onions, cauliflower and cabbage are also low-potassium vegetables and therefore less taxing on the kidneys, which are responsible for filtering potassium out of the blood.
- American Dietetic Association Complete Food and Nutrition Guide, 3rd Edition; American Dietetic Association
- Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy: Modern Herbal Medicine; Simon Mills and Kerry Bone
Sirah Dubois is currently a PhD student in food science after having completed her master's degree in nutrition at the University of Alberta. She has worked in private practice as a dietitian in Edmonton, Canada and her nutrition-related articles have appeared in The Edmonton Journal newspaper.