Once you’ve got the basics down, you can start adding in targeted foods that promote healthy liver functioning—i.e., fuel glutathione production, bind heavy metals and toxins, and help stimulate bile flow.
Here are 13 of our favorite liver-friendly foods:
Almonds, sunflower seeds, peanuts, wheat germ, salmon, and avocado are all great sources of vitamin E, a potent antioxidant that research suggests can combat oxidative stress and help bolster liver health.
Bile helps to transport toxins so they can be removed from the body, so healthy bile flow is essential for optimal liver health and toxin removal. Artichoke contains phenolic derivatives that have been used for centuries to stimulate bile flow and help protect the liver.
Deep-hued berries such as blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries aren’t only loaded with fiber; they contain phytochemicals called anthocyanins, which have potent antioxidant properties that have been shown to scavenge free radicals and promote normal inflammatory processes.
These ruby-hued roots contain phytonutrient pigments called betalains, which help promote normal inflammatory responses and support cellular repair in the liver thanks to their potent antioxidant properties.
They also contain betaine, which helps liver cells eliminate toxins, and pectin, a type of fiber that helps bind and clear toxins. Consider trying one of these 10 delicious beet recipes for a healthy liver.
Cruciferous veggies—such as broccoli sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and watercress—contain sulfur-containing phytochemicals called glucosinolates, which help the body remove toxins and promote longevity.
One study found that a drink made with broccoli sprouts activated enzymes that help pick up pollutants from the bloodstream and flush them out via urine, while another tied broccoli intake to positive changes in gut-liver axis health.
Lemons, tangerines, and oranges contain a phytonutrient compound called D-limonene. In a preclinical rodent study, D-limonene has been shown to buffer the physiological stress of a high-fat diet.
Sipping on lemon water throughout the day is also a great way to stay hydrated, which promotes the movement of toxins out of the body.
Dandelion root and greens
Dandelion is known for its cleansing properties, and one study found that both the root and leaf helped rid the body of reactive oxygen species. Reap the benefits by sipping on dandelion root tea, which makes a great caffeine-free alternative to coffee.
Dandelion greens (along with other bitter greens, such as mustard greens and arugula) are great too, because they help stimulate bile production and promote healthy digestion.
Sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, lacto-fermented pickles, kefir, yogurt, and other fermented foods are loaded with beneficial probiotic bacteria that promote healthy digestion and the integrity of the gut lining, thereby helping keep toxins out of the bloodstream.
According to functional medicine expert Frank Lipman, M.D., they can also help clear heavy metals out of the body.
Glutathione is an antioxidant concentrated in the liver that helps bind and neutralize toxins and escort them out of the body via urine or bile. Glutathione can be obtained directly from a few foods—including raw spinach, avocado, and asparagus—and it can also be produced by your body from the amino acids glutamine, glycine, and cysteine.
Some foods containing the building blocks of glutathione include bone broth, whey protein, and sulfur-containing foods (such as broccoli and garlic).
In addition to elevating antioxidant capacity in the body, the phytochemicals in green tea help trigger both phase one and phase two liver detoxification pathways in the body.
In phase one, toxins are converted into water-soluble compounds by enzymes; and in phase two, toxins are bound to protective chemicals that neutralize them and allow them to be eliminated via bile (and eventually feces) or urine.
Dark leafy greens such as dandelion greens, arugula, spinach, and kale contain plant chlorophylls, which help remove chemicals, pesticides, and heavy metals from the bloodstream. Chlorophyll, according to preclinical science, has toxin-binding properties, which can theoretically reduce the toxic burden on your liver.
When feces remain in the bowel, toxins can be reabsorbed into your system. So, it’s important to get plenty of fiber-rich foods that bind up toxins in the gut and help promote regularity. Try legumes (especially lentils), raspberries, root vegetables, apples, pears, avocados, and almonds.
There are so many reasons to get more omega-3 fatty acids in your diet, and the health of your liver is one of them. A recent research review found that omega-3 consumption was associated with healthy liver fat levels—specifically, lower liver-fat levels and higher HDL “good” cholesterol levels.
Good sources of these healthy fats include oily fish (e.g., salmon, anchovies, sardines, etc.) for EPA and DHA, and plant-based sources like walnuts and flaxseed for ALA.