7 Foods that will Cleanse Your Liver and Help You Detox the Healthy Way
By Mike Kamo
The liver is one of the most important organs in your entire body and requires optimal nutrition in order to function at its best.
There are certain foods that will cleanse your liver and help you detox the natural way without you ever having to go to extreme measures such as buying liver cleansing pills or going on dangerous, low-calorie diets that promise to cleanse the liver.
First, why is liver health important?
The liver is an organ that acts as the primary filter for your entire body. It determines what stays in the body and what gets filtered out.
Imagine it like a colander in your kitchen. If you put clean fluids through that colander with the occasional pieces of vegetable peels and whole grains, it would likely filter out the liquid just fine.
However, add in a cheeseburger, some chips, and a bunch of sugary syrups, and you won’t see that colander do such a great job at filtering out the clear fluids.
Your liver must keep your blood healthy in order to maintain life within your body.
When it becomes responsible for filtering out too much junk and doesn’t get enough vital nutrition to work at full capacity, you start to feel tired, worn down, and may suffer health problems due to the fact that your liver is not working like it should.
It’s like the backed up colander from above, only inside your body and not the kitchen!
What are the signs that you need to cleanse your liver?
Many times our liver health can be seen through the quality of our skin and through our eyes. A weak or toxic liver may also cause skin rashes, sluggish energy, and lackluster hair. Many times acne, eczema, red (bloodshot) eyes, pimples on the forehead, and yellow skin are also signs of a weak or bogged down liver.
We all know that too much alcohol can resort in an unhealthy liver, but so can taking in too many processed foods, artificial foods, chemicals, sugar, and inflammatory food in general. The best foods for the liver are always whole, natural foods but within those foods are specific foods you can eat that offer especially useful liver-cleansing properties.
Below you’ll find 7 simple foods that will cleanse your liver and help you detox the healthy way without dramatic detox symptoms and that won’t put your body at risk for possible harmful side effects that pills and diets can cause.
1. Dandelion greens
Spinach and kale are fantastic for you, but why not try something new for a change? Dandelion greens are an edible wild green that has major benefits for your liver. Dandelion greens help the liver work at its full potential and are a great source of Vitamins A, C, D, B vitamins, and the greens are chock-full of minerals such as iron, potassium, zinc, and magnesium.
Dandelion greens are used by herbalists and practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine to treat liver disease, kidney problems, inflammation, and water weight gain. Dandelion greens have a naturally bitter flavor which is one sign they’re so beneficial for the liver. Bitter greens are especially strengthening for the liver in general because they help produce more bile needed for optimal liver function.
Organic dandelion greens have a similar flavor to kale with more astringent flavors. They’re delicate in texture like spinach and make for a nice addition to any spring mix salad. Optimize your intake of the Vitamin C and iron found in dandelion by pairing with turmeric and black pepper. There is some research that shows the curcumin found in turmeric and piperine found in black pepper can help your body absorb more iron and vitamin C from plant-based sources.
How to Use:
To use dandelion greens in your daily routine, just add them to a smoothie or salad in place of kale or spinach. Always buy them organic when you can and never use them wild (such as fresh from a field) so you can avoid the potential risk of taking in fertilizers and chemicals sprayed out wild greens.
Lemons are another powerful source of Vitamin C and especially useful for cleansing your liver naturally. They’re a powerful diuretic and rich in potassium which can reduce water weight gain and improve kidney function.
Lemons are also a great source of antioxidants that benefit the liver, not just Vitamin C. Antioxidants help keep the body in optimal health by reducing free radicals that inflame the body and act as toxins within the body. Remember, the less mess your liver has to filter out, the better it can work in general.
Vitamin C found in lemons, limes, and grapefruit also help the body synthesize toxic materials to be excreted by the body more easily via the urine. This is why these fruits are referred to as cleansing foods, and they’re a much better source of Vitamin C than synthetic forms found in supplements.
How to Use:
Add a little lemon water to your day or consider using freshly squeezed lemon juice on top of your greens instead of processed salad dressing. The Vitamin C found in the lemons will even help your body absorb the iron found in leafy greens much better!
Garlic may make your breath smell, but it’s fantastic for your heart, liver, and overall body. The pungent root is high in allicin which is used by the body to produce more bile flow and aid in better blood flow which is why garlic is so good for your heart.
Garlic is also useful for fighting off toxins and pathogenic bacteria. It can improve not only your immune system but also your gut health, heart health, and liver health by reducing inflammatory agents in the body and assisting with easier detoxification.
It should also be noted that garlic is high in B vitamins that can boost your brain health, especially Vitamin B6 which improves your metabolism and energy levels. Garlic is also a good source of selenium, a mineral that is vital for liver health and thyroid health. Just be careful not to take in too much since it can cause gas and bloating in individuals who may be sensitive to garlic (and onions).
How to Use:
Add some fresh or dried garlic to your meals when you can, but no need to go overboard; a little garlic goes a long way, and more isn’t always better when using such a powerful food. Start with one clove a day or ¼ a tsp. of dried garlic powder. Or, you can also buy odorless garlic pills, but resort to those as a last option. Remember, food is always better for you than lots of supplements or pricey products.
Beets may not be at the top of the list you’re incredibly excited about eating, but they should be. Beets taste incredible when roasted and caramelized in the oven, and they can be baked and roasted just like sweet potatoes or onions for easy meal prep.
Raw beet juice also has a naturally sweet flavor and is even more beneficial for you than cooked beets may be.
Beets are beneficial for the liver because they help it produce more bile and excrete more toxins as a result. Bile is also essential for optimal digestion of fats and also helps the body process nutrients more efficiently. Cleansing isn’t just about what goes out but also what you take in. When it comes to eating whole foods and detoxing naturally, it’s important to consider both sides of cleansing so you can feel as best as possible.
Beets are also high in vitamins A, C, and are rich in minerals such as magnesium, iron, potassium, and high in a compound known as nitric oxide which improves blood flow and lower blood pressure. Beets are even high in betaine, an amino acid that supports enzyme production in the liver and fights inflammation to fight off toxins. Overall, there aren’t many things that beets can’t do for your entire body, including your liver.
How to Use:
Beet greens can be added to salads or juiced, and they can even be used in smoothies or baked dishes where you would normally use kale or spinach. Whole beets can be roasted on a pan with sweet potatoes; just peel them first and make sure they’re washed and rinsed well.
Juice a whole beet or add it to your smoothie. Not only will the color of beets make your dishes bright and colorful, but the sweet flavor found in beets will also reduce the need for sweeteners you may currently be using in your dishes.
Turmeric is rich in curcumin which is an antioxidant that can provide multiple cleansing and supportive health benefits Turmeric is one of the best foods to cleanse your liver and help you detox, and all you have to do is add it to your other foods! The curcumin found in turmeric is a type of flavonoid (antioxidant) shown to reduce liver toxicity and improve blood sugar levels and blood flow. It also helps the body produce optimal levels of bile for a healthy gallbladder.
How to Use:
Turmeric has a savory, bitter and slightly astringent flavor. It pairs well with kale, ginger, spinach, and is naturally found in the condiment mustard. Turmeric can be added to any whole grain dish, is especially tasty in a stew or curry such as red lentil curry, and it’s even delicious when steeped into a homemade tea with lemon peel and fresh ginger.
Use turmeric however you can, and work up to using ¼ – ½ of a teaspoon in your diet if possible for optimal benefits.
You’ve probably heard that cranberries are great for your kidney health because they help filter out toxins and aid in better kidney flow, however, what you may not know is how beneficial they are for liver health too.
Cranberries are excellent detoxifiers for your entire body and have been shown to filter out not only excess water weight, but also reduce harmful bacteria in the kidneys, digestive system, and liver. They help reduce the dangerous bacteria known as H.pylori which is life-threatening.
They also reduce yeast overgrowth, toxic byproducts within the body, and they’re excellent at reducing inflammation in the joints and muscles.
Cranberries should always be used fresh when possible, but since they’re not always easy to find, unsweetened dried cranberries are another option. Do your best to avoid all sweetened cranberry products since added sugars are not good for the body and feed bad bacteria in the system.
You can find frozen cranberries at the supermarket or fresh cranberries in the produce section in the fall and winter. Many organic and natural food brands also offer dried cranberries without added sweeteners both in stores and online.
How to Use:
To use cranberries in your dishes to cleanse the liver, include ¼ cup of them in some whole grains like oatmeal or brown rice, add them to a salad, or put them in some unsweetened Greek yogurt. They add a slightly sweet and tangy flavor to anything they’re paired with and make excellent fruits to include in your routine.
Broccoli is one of the most valuable vegetables for your health, especially when it comes to cleansing your liver naturally. Broccoli is a cruciferous type of vegetable along with cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and kale.
These types of vegetables are high in compounds that trigger Phase II detoxification of your liver which most foods can’t even touch. Phase II of liver detoxification is where the liver begins flushing out some of the most dangerous toxins we take in (including caffeine!) and improving enzymatic production needed to reduce harmful compounds for excretion from the body.
Broccoli is also one of the best sources of Vitamin K, containing over 200% of your daily needs per cup. Vitamin K assists with overall blood flow, immune health, and it improves the rate at which your liver excretes toxins out of the system. The cruciferous veggie is also high in other immune system boosting and liver cleansing nutrients such as Vitamin C, amino acids (protein), and is high in prebiotic-fibers that stimulate good gut health.
Speaking of the fiber found in broccoli, it’s one of the most important factors for overall detoxification.
When your liver starts filtering out toxins, all of those toxins have to leave the body one way or another or they’ll end up recirculating back into the blood. If your digestion isn’t working optimally, your body may try to expel toxins through the skin which is why acne and skin problems can occur, or you’ll become tired because you’re not getting rid of those toxins and they’re making you feel sluggish as a result.
Fiber helps your body excrete toxins via the bowel, and the water found in fruits and vegetables (such as broccoli) will help flush out the fiber and improve kidney health.
It’s also important to eat a variety of fiber-rich foods and water-rich foods, primarily from fresh fruits and vegetables to help your body detox at its best. Broccoli is one not to miss, and eating just one cup per day can bring multiple benefits to your overall health.
How To Use:
Eat broccoli raw or cooked, but be aware that it’s very cleansing and may be easier to digest when consumed cooked versus raw. Lightly steam it to retain as many benefits as possible instead of roasting it at high temperatures or over-boiling it where nutrients may be lost during cooking. You can also juice broccoli or even add it to a green smoothie if desired.
Remember that your liver can be your best friend to help you detox the healthy way, but it can’t do its job efficiently unless you regularly consume foods that will cleanse your liver.
Opt for fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean sources of protein, and anti-inflammatory fats such as olives, coconut, and raw nuts and seeds to take care of your liver, heart, and overall body as much as possible.