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Five Liver Loving Foods

It’s the liver’s job to detoxify contaminants including carcinogenic substances in our blood-stream so they can be safely eliminated from the body. The liver plays an important role in digestion, metabolising fats, proteins and carbohydrates. It also helps regulate healthy cholesterol levels by making cholesterol and delivering it to cells around the body that need it, and removing cholesterol by turning it into bile salts to be eliminated via the bowels. The liver stores certain important nutrients (vitamins A, D, E, K and B12) and glycogen (stored glucose), maintains healthy blood-sugar levels, and regulates the balance of sex, thyroid and stress hormones.

A healthy, well-balanced diet is essential to provide vital nutrients needed for liver detoxification and good health. Here are five foods you should include in your diet that your liver will love.

Broccoli sprouts

Broccoli sprouts are loaded with liver-loving nutrients including glucosinolates, selenium and vitamins E and C. These nutrients are required for healthy liver function and detoxification.

Broccoli sprouts are particularly rich in phytochemicals called glucosinolates, which are unique to brassica vegetables. Glucosinolates are powerful antioxidants that promote healthy liver detoxification, and support the detoxification of environmental toxins and carcinogenic substances. Broccoli sprouts contain concentrated levels of glucosinolates, up to 100 times more compared to mature broccoli.

You can easily grow broccoli sprouts at home or buy them from health food stores and green grocers. Broccoli sprouts are best eaten raw in salads, sandwiches and wraps. You can also buy powdered broccoli sprouts that can be added to smoothies and veggie juices.

Dandelion root

Swapping your morning cup of coffee with dandelion root coffee will help give your liver function a boost. Dandelion root coffee, also known as dandelion tea, is a healthy alternative to coffee, made from roasted dandelion root (Taraxacum officinale). It has a similar flavour and appearance to coffee without the caffeine.

Dandelion root is considered a liver tonic and is used by herbalists to detoxify the liver and gallbladder and improve digestion. Dandelion root benefits the liver by reducing inflammation and helping protect the liver from oxidative stress. The anti-inflammatory effects of dandelion root and its prebiotic effects help reduce lipid accumulation and liver inflammation, which improves liver function. The polyphenol compounds found in dandelion root have antioxidant properties that have been shown to prevent damage to the liver caused by alcohol toxicity.

You can enjoy dandelion root as a herbal tea or coffee with your favourite milk.

Turmeric

The super spice turmeric contains high levels of a compound called curcumin, which gives turmeric its vibrant yellow colour and potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Turmeric has a long history of medicinal use in Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine, where it has been used to strengthen energy, improve digestion and relieve arthritis. Turmeric is often used by herbalists to treat liver and gallbladder ailments. It is a cholagogue herb, which means it stimulates bile production in the liver and encourages excretion of bile via the gallbladder, which improves the body’s ability to digest fats.

Studies have found that daily consumption of turmeric can be effective for managing non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. According to a study in the Journal of the Medical Association of Thailand, curcumin enhances liver health and offers protection from liver disease. This powerful antioxidant-rich spice can also help repair and regenerate damaged liver cells.

Turmeric is the main ingredient in curry powder. Try a delicious turmeric latte, or add turmeric to savoury dishes, raw desserts or salad dressings.

Garlic

Including garlic in meals is another fantastic way to boost your liver function. Garlic is a great source of the mineral selenium, which is needed by the liver to produce glutathione, one of the body’s major antioxidants. Glutathione plays a major role in liver detoxification.

Eating garlic raw when you can is ideal — it can be added to salad dressings, dips and bruschetta. Garlic is so versatile it can be used in many dishes including pasta sauces, lentil dahls, curries, stir-fries, soups and homemade garlic bread.

Globe artichoke

Globe artichoke is regarded as a valuable liver tonic that is used for its medicinal and culinary properties. Globe artichoke contains a compound called cynarin, found mostly in the leaves, that can help increase bile flow and strengthen liver and gallbladder function.

The best way to prepare globe artichokes is to cut the stems and thorns, then steam them until tender. The leaves are delicious dipped into hummus, baba ganoush, tzatziki or cottage cheese. The heart can be sliced and added to pizza, rice dishes or frittatas.

Lisa Guy

Lisa Guy

Lisa Guy is a respected Sydney-based naturopath, author and passionate foodie with 16 years of clinical experience. She runs a naturopathic clinic in Rose Bay called Art of Healing and is the founder of Bodhi Organic Tea.

Lisa is a great believer that good wholesome food is one of the greatest pleasures in life and the foundation of good health. Lisa encourages her clients to get back to eating what nature intended: good, clean, wholesome food that’s nutrient-rich and free from high levels of sugars, harmful fats, artificial additives and pesticides. Her aim is to change the way people eat, cook and think about food.

Lisa is an avid health writer, being a regular contributor to The Sunday Telegraph's Body and Soul, and leading magazines including WellBeing. Lisa is an author of five books to date, including My Goodness: all you need to know about children’s health and nutrition , Pregnancy Essentials, Heal Yourself, Listen to your Body and Healthy Skin Diet .

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