Your liver is an essential organ with a variety of functions that includes aiding in the digestion and metabolism of food, storing vitamins and minerals, cleaning toxins from the blood, and protein synthesis. While the liver does have the unique capability to regenerate itself after damage, it is not invincible, and your food and drink choices can have a big impact on this organ.
There are many nutrient-rich foods that benefit the liver, and one especially important food group is vegetables. Read on for the four best vegetables for your liver, and for more, don’t miss Best Breakfast Habits to Reduce Liver Fat, Say Dietitians.
Some may think the flavor of this vegetable is a little too “earthy,” and while it may not appeal to everyone’s taste buds, beets are packed with nutrients that support your liver health. Research indicates beetroot juice is a “health-promoting” and “disease-preventing” drink and may be particularly useful for liver health. One study specifically looked at the impact of beetroot on liver health and found that beetroot juice may help protect the liver against certain classes of carcinogens.
Eat This!: Roasted and pickled are the most popular ways to eat beets, while beetroot juice provides the highest concentration of the nutrients found in beets.
Of course, all veggies are good veggies, but specific nutrients found in cruciferous veggies—like broccoli—appear to be especially helpful to liver integrity. One study conducted on mice found those who were fed broccoli had more positive liver metrics and lower incidence of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and liver tumors. While the exact mechanism of this outcome is not confirmed, the unique plant compounds found in broccoli and other cruciferous veggies are likely to thank.
Eat This!: Broccoli can be enjoyed raw or cooked and can even be shredded to enjoy as a slaw. It can also be an addition to quiche and pasta dishes or added to a salad or served as a side dish—there are so many ways to incorporate broccoli into your meal plan.
Another cruciferous vegetable, Brussels sprouts have become a more popular veggie in recent years, and for good reason. While Brussels sprouts can improve digestion and provide tons of vitamins and minerals, they also contain plant-based compounds that have been seen to aid in liver function.
In one study, raw Brussels fed to mice appeared to increase levels of detoxifying enzymes in the liver and lungs. It appears these detoxifying properties are highest in uncooked Brussels; however, research indicates that even when cooked, Brussels sprouts maintain the ability to induce these detoxifying enzymes. Glucosinolates are a unique compound found in cruciferous vegetables that are involved in enzymatic reactions that can detoxify carcinogenic compounds in the body.
Eat This!: Brussels sprouts are most commonly enjoyed after being roasted, sauteed, or steamed; however, it may be beneficial to incorporate more raw Brussels into your diet. Shaved Brussels can easily be added to a salad for additional crunch and nutrient boost.
This vegetable group includes kale, spinach, and collard greens, which can be beneficial for overall wellness, including liver health. Like the other vegetables on this list, leafy greens are packed with antioxidants that protect the body against dangerous free radicals.
In addition to lessening the impact of free radicals in the body, some leafy greens, like spinach, appear to provide more specific benefits for the liver. A recent study found consuming raw spinach lowered the risk of NAFLD, and the more spinach participants consumed, the lower their risk of the disease. While cooked spinach still provides many essential nutrients, like fiber, in this study, cooked spinach was not found to have as significant of an impact on reducing NAFLD risk.
Eat This!: Leafy greens can be added to a salad or smoothie to be enjoyed raw, or they can be cooked in a variety of ways. While this study focused on spinach specifically, all leafy greens contain chlorophyll, a compound that can assist the liver in neutralizing toxic compounds and chemicals.