Here we are at the start of May and what a perfect time to talk about sending some well deserved love to our liver! Our liver is our largest organ (after our skin of course) and it works 24-7, 365 days a year carrying out 500 critical metabolic and detoxification processes for our body so that we can keep on keepin' calm about all that life has to throw our way. But sadly, we continually use and abuse the poor lady (yes, in my world the liver is a lady ~ because multitasking!) through the foods we eat, the air we breathe, the environmental toxins we are exposed to, both inside and outside of our homes, and even our negative emotions. So let's take a look at my five favourite foods to support the liver so we can show her some love and help keep her running like a charm.
Dark Leafy Greens
Dark green leafy vegetables such as dandelion greens, spinach, kale, collard greens, mustard greens, kohlrabi and watercress offer loads of vital nutrients for supporting the liver, including powerful antioxidants such as beta carotenes, chlorophyll, lutein and zeaxanthin, all of which help to neutralize free radicals so the liver doesn't have to work so hard to do it instead. They also are high in dietary fiber which helps the digestive system to eliminate wastes faster. Why is this so important? Because the longer food waste remains in our colon, the harder the liver has to work to clear toxins that leach back into the blood stream through the colon wall.
Believe it or not, beets belong to the same family as chard and spinach. However, with beets we eat both the leaves and the root with the leaves being higher in nutritional value than the roots themselves. The leaves are loaded with antioxidants, calcium, iron and folic acid. And of course both the roots and the leaves are an excellent source of fiber. Beet roots have long been used for medicinal treatment of liver disorders because of their stimulating effect on the liver's detoxification processes. So, with beets, we get a double whammy through the leaves and the roots with both parts of the plant providing powerful support to the liver's ability to detoxify impurities and toxins.
The globe artichoke is one of the world's oldest cultivated vegetables with a long folk history of treating many liver diseases. This folk history has been backed by recent scientific studies which show that the active ingredients in artichokes are caffeoylquinic acids such as cynarin. These are found in the highest concentrations in the leaves of the artichoke but they are also found in the bracts and the heart.
Artichoke leaf extracts, such as those contained in many liver supporting supplements, have shown mighty liver protecting and regenerating effects. They also promote a healthy flow of bile and fat to and from the liver. This is extremely important because if the bile is not sent efficiently to the gallbladder, the liver is put at a higher risk of damage. This "choleretic" effect as it is known, is very useful in the treatment of hepatitis and other liver diseases thanks to the decongesting action it has on the liver.
Commonly looked upon as an unwanted weed, dandelions are a nutritional powerhouse, rich in many nutrients and compounds to support not only liver function, but weight loss, urinary tract health and blood sugar management.
The most beneficial part of the dandelion plant for the liver are the roots (the leaves have a stronger effect on the urinary system), which have long been regarded as one of the finest liver remedies, both as a food and a medicine. Both human and animal studies have shown that dandelion root enhances the flow of bile which effectively improves such conditions as liver congestion, bile duct inflammation, hepatitis, gallstones and jaundice. The action of dandelion to improve bile flow is twofold: it has a direct affect on the liver causing it to produce more bile and help it flow to the gallbladder (the "choleretic effect"), as well as a direct action on the gallbladder, causing it to contract and release the stored bile. Dandelion also improves the liver's detoxification functioning, allowing the liver to clear toxins more efficiently so they can be excreted through the bowel.
Now I'm not a fan of chewing on a dandelion root because it is SUPER bitter, so I recommend taking it either in the form of a tea such as Traditional Medicinal's Roasted Dandelion Root Tea, as a tincture or in capsule form. You will get all the wonderful benefits of the root but without the pucker power.
I love onions! Not only do they taste and smell wonderful, onions contain a variety of organic sulfur compounds that provide many health benefits, including helping to support the liver's Phase II detoxification process. They are also high in folic acid which is essential for protein metabolism which occurs in the liver. Quercetin, a flavonoid that provides many amazing benefits to the body, is abundant in onions. One of the biggest benefits of quercetin to the liver is that helps reduce the accumulation of dangerous abdominal and liver fat, as well as helping to prevent the growth of cancer cells in the liver.
Of course, drinking plenty of clean filtered water, choosing organic and non-GMO foods whenever possible, eating a more plant-centric diet and reducing exposure to alcohol and chemical toxins are some of the other important ways to support and protect our majestic liver. It's so easy to take this vital organ for granted but, believe me, the more we help her to do her miraculous work each and ever day, the more vibrant and blissfully healthy we will feel.
Jill Taylor is a Certified Holistic Nutritionist based in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada. She is the mom of two pretty awesome teenagers, s very dramatic dog, a hedgehog and a snake (yikes!). Jill assists her clients in achieving true wellness through thoughtful and compassionate dietary and lifestyle coaching. Feel free to visit the "Contact" page to get in touch. Jill would love to hear from you!