What foods keep a liver healthy? Its not in my cupboard!
Now since I nearly died of liver disease I have taken as you might imagine a big interest in what food keeps a liver healthy? No surprises there! Now there is a lot of nonsense talked about the liver and liver health but I have learned the hard way that you only have one and when it’s gone it is gone.
When I was in my hospital bed surgeons were not lining up to offer me a transplant and why would they? It’s a complicated process and risky.
Now there is a good reason you are reading this blog. I suddenly found myself having to live in an alcohol free world from drinks to mouthwash. I began to be astounded that it is a bit like wheat, it is in everything!
So if you thought that it was hard, what foods keep a liver healthy is probably a vague area. After all, we know alcohol and the liver are not good dancing partners, in fact they should probably run a mile from each other but don’t!
It’s like a bad date you know you should not go there but when you wake up in the morning go “I knew it was a bad idea!”.
Now the issue I have with what foods keep a liver healthy is that people that write this stuff must live somewhere different to me. I don’t really have the time to get some of these things and it’s a bit like the UK chef Nigella Lawson who goes in her cupboard and gets some fennel out of it. Well I have noodle beans and soup in mine.
So let’s look at the advice given by the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology and do a bit of a reality check. I might be surprised. What foods keep a liver healthy?
Number 10 – Olive Oil
OK fair enough I can do this one and to be fair we know saturated fat is not good. When I gave up alcohol my consultant warned me about sugar intake but he did not mention those big cream cakes and I found them stuffed in my gob!
Now Olive Oil is not cheap but then you are not adding loads of it, so over time unless you are using it to fill your deep fat fryer this may be a good one.
Olive Oil seems to reduce oxidative stress and improve liver function and it’s apparently down to the unsaturated fatty acids in the oil. OK this gets a big tick, I can do this one. We also know about the benefits of the med diet so it needs some planning but its sort able.
Number 9 – Berries
Now we know that dark berries are good so I am talking here about blueberries, raspberries, and cranberries, these contain antioxidants better known as polyphenols, never heard of them! Now these may help protect the liver from damage and stimulate the immune system.
So a bit of a Nigella moment here. If I go into my supermarket they are hardly ever on the shelves and when they are they cost a fortune.
However, if you go to the frozen section they are way cheaper so maybe it’s doable after all!
Number 8 – Grapes
Now I was wary of this one as an ex big wine drinker. I would tell people of course wine it’s full of antioxidants but of I conveniently forgot the alcohol bit !
However, I will bow down to the World Journal of Gastroenterology report that said that grapes, grape juice, and grape seeds are rich in antioxidants. Now these are known to help the liver ( although they use the term “may” a lot in terms of inflammation and hopefully restricting liver damage).
Again in the supermarket is it doable and actually there are some good alcohol free fizz options out there which I review here but I am still dubious about alcohol free wine.
Please tell me otherwise as I am about to write up a review from my tastings! Its just the taste of some of them!
Number 7 – Oats
I don’t really know what oats are as such. Are they cereal porridge, biscuit or wholemeal. What are they!
Eat your oats people say like some retreat but whenever I get some oats off a shelf the description just includes lots of sugar and salt. What am I missing? Maybe I need to eat the pure kind with nothing added that tastes well like nothing really.
However, before I give up on them the evidence is stark. Yes it adds fiber to the diet. Although according to my dietitian too much fiber can swell in your system. I never knew that! Oats are high in what are called beta-glucans. I know stay with me!
In 2017 study in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences reported that beta-glucans are a real stimulus in the body and can help the immune system and fight against inflammation as well as diabetes and obesity.
Now I am not a fan of experiments on mice but apparently these compounds helped with the amount of fat stored in the liver. However, more work needs to be done!
At the end of the day the prepackaged most affordable oats have sugars and salts which could harm us. They don’t make it easy for us do they? I rest my case on this one!
Number Six – Grapefruit
I actually love grapefruit so I was pleased that The World Journal of Gastroenterology also highlighted grapefruit as a helpful food. It says please and thank you! 🙂
So what is in grapefruit that is helpful, well as you might expect it has important antioxidants: naringin and naringenin. That’s a tongue twister! Again it may be a vague advice but it could help stop the liver having inflammation and protecting any new liver cells that are created. There is evidence of it helping with fatty liver disease as well.
Number Five – Nuts
Now I am wary of the blanket eat nuts messages. It is not all a good idea. Packaged nuts are not good for the salt content and if you have liver disease it’s one you really have to avoid! However plain nuts have unsaturated fatty acids, vitamin E, and antioxidants. Bear in mind they can be quite calorie high. My mum has loads left over from Christmas so that’s my plan!
Avoid nuts on a bar. That’s another hygiene blog!
Number Four – Plant Foods
Now this one really came from my dietitian who was truly brilliant but again some of these foods could be deemed expensive and posh. Yep you have guessed it Avocados are in there and aren’t they always in lists.
So the evidence came from Complementary and Alternative Medicine that plant foods may be helpful for the liver in general. Maybe this is the thing to spur me on to become a full veggie!
So it’s obvious really we know but figs really ? Anyhow here it is!
- beets and beet juice
- brown rice
- figs ( no way…)
- greens such as kale and collards
Some of these can be cheap in terms of what foods keep a liver healthy, some just won’t be in your cupboard!
I don’t know if you have even tried beet juice but I wanted to throw up and yet I actually like beetroots! Plus I thought my liver had exploded and ended up peeing red for a few days. Oh well!
Number Three Fatty Fish
Now I wish I could do this but I live in an apartment and boy does it smell, it also not that cheap. However, we know things like sardines are good for you so maybe I need to go the extra mile on this.
The irony is if I was on holiday in Spain, I would not think twice about having grilled mackerel on the beach.
I am going to label this under do much better!
Number Two – Garlic
This one is a no brainer for me, anything that helps people through the bubonic plague in London is good enough for me. This is so easy to do, and who cares what you smell like. I chuck a whole clove into my chili and it tastes great.
So what does it do? Well basically it stimulates the liver.
A 2016 article in the Advanced Biomedical Research says garlic reduces body weight and fat content in people with liver issues without eating into the all important lean body mass. With liver disease this is key as I know from experience.
Without regular healthy food your body starts eating into the muscle. Off putting but true. I was once labeled an extreme marathon runner by a taxi driver. I have never run one in my life!
So a well-deserved number two place for what foods keep a liver healthy! Garlic got my thumbs up.
Number One – Its good old coffee
So this is my number one! It seems that coffee can be a very clear winner.
Coffee seems to be good for the liver as it is claimed that it protects against issues such as fatty liver disease. Now given I have high level liver disease I was also interested to note if may help reduce the risk of chronic liver disease.
It may also protect the liver from damaging conditions, such as liver cancer and I have to get checked very often for this. I was listening and reading carefully.
So it seems coffee influences liver enzymes which helps reduce fat buildup in the liver and provides protective antioxidants. So here a win win!
What foods keep a liver healthy – these certainly don’t
Top of my list is alcohol. Now alcohol is not your friend and it certainly was not mine. You can read my review of zero alcohol beers here, or maybe you fancy a low alcoholic free gin option. Read my reviews and decide for yourself.
Now to a big list which was my guide when I was in the hospital, most of these are obvious but I would love to know what you think?
- Fatty foods: These include fried foods, fast food. Snacks, chips, and nuts which are high in fat in some cases but maybe good overall.
- Starchy foods: Breads, pasta, and cakes.
- Sugar: Cereals ( read the label you might be shocked! ) baked goods, sweets.
- Salt: It is a no for me and it maybe for everyone. Just watch out for that red coding system.
- Alcohol, yep its a no.
I would love you to leave a comment on what foods keep a liver healthy? Are you just keeping an eye on your liver or have you suffered a live scare like me?
I always respond so please do leave a comment. Your stories make the blog as I always get great feedback about them. Do you think we make options too difficult for people in terms of cost and choice and what role does exercise play in all of this?