Foods That Are Good for Your Liver

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Overview: The Liver

Your liver is an important organ. It sits in the upper right part of the abdomen on top of your stomach and right kidney. It is beneath your diaphragm.

The liver only weighs about three pounds. But it is powerful. In fact, the liver has over 500 vital functions.15

The liver regulates your blood’s chemical levels and excretes bile to remove waste from your body. It also processes and breaks down the blood from your stomach and intestines to create nutrients. 

Some other liver functions include:15

  • Producing proteins for blood plasma
  • Producing cholesterol and special proteins to move fats
  • Converting excess glucose into glycogen to store energy
  • Regulating blood levels of amino acids
  • Controlling blood clotting
  • Flushing out bacteria from the bloodstream to fight infections 
  • Ridding the blood of toxins and poisonous substances
  • Processing hemoglobin and storing the iron content
  • Clearing bilirubin

Keeping your liver healthy is important. But certain vices like alcohol and unhealthy foods can take a toll on your liver.

10 Foods That Are Good for Your Liver

Here are some of the best foods to help keep your liver healthy:

1. Tofu

Tofu is good for your liver because it is made of soy. Soy can help reduce fat buildup in the liver.24

The liver works to process fats, and soy can make this process more efficient. Soy is also linked to a reduced risk of alcoholic fatty liver disease.24

Soy is a healthy protein alternative for people with plant-based diets. Other soy foods include edamame, tempeh, miso, soybean sprouts, soy nuts, and some non-dairy yogurts.  

2. Fruits

Not all fruits are created equal. But many fruits, in moderation, can help keep your liver healthy. For example, citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruits can help.

The Vitamin C in oranges also aids in the prevention of fat buildup in the liver.22

Meanwhile, the antioxidants in grapefruits (naringin and naringenin) have been shown to protect the liver. Naringenin has also been shown to reduce the amount of fat in the liver in some animal studies.

Other fruits like cranberries and blueberries have antioxidants like anthocyanins. These have been shown to help protect the liver from damage and slow the development of scar tissue in the liver. 

Blueberry extract may even slow the growth of liver cancer cells, but more research needs to be done.26, 27, 28

Grape seed extract is also linked to improved liver function. Again, more research is necessary to determine all of the benefits of grapes themselves.13

3. Oats

Oats are good for your liver because they are high in fiber. Plus, they’re antioxidant-rich.14

Fiber is known to speed up a healthy liver recovery. It has also been shown to slow down the death of damaged liver cells.14

Many other types of high-fiber foods benefit the liver, including grains, beans, and berries.

4. Coffee

Coffee, in moderation, can have some health benefits for your liver. It’s important not to drink too much, as excess caffeine can have adverse health effects.

Moderate coffee consumption is linked to a reduced risk of liver disease. Coffee-drinkers are less likely to develop cirrhosis than those who don’t drink coffee.15

5. Turmeric

Turmeric is a very popular supplement at health stores, and for good reason. It has anti-inflammatory properties and may help improve some stages of liver disease. The spice also reduces elevated liver enzymes.11

6. Beets

Beets are another antioxidant-rich food that you may want to incorporate into your diet. 

In some animal studies, beets have been shown to limit liver enzymes and reduce inflammation. More research needs to be done to replicate these studies in humans, but beets are definitely a superfood.5, 8 They also benefit your heart health. 

7. Cruciferous Veggies

It’s no secret that vegetables have many health benefits. They boost your immune system, help prevent chronic diseases, and enhance your mental health, among many others. 

Cruciferous vegetables are especially beneficial for liver health. These include veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, spinach, and more. They help detoxify the liver and balance enzymes.20, 23

A compound called indole2 found in cruciferous vegetables can also help prevent and fight nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Fatty liver disease can lead to other problems down the line.

Leafy greens like spinach are also packed with the powerful glutathione antioxidant. This can help improve liver function. 

8. Nuts

Nuts are an easy snack that can help to keep your liver healthy. They are rich in vitamin E and plant compounds. And they are linked to a reduced risk of alcoholic liver disease.6

Nuts like almonds are considered healthy fats that are also good for your heart. 

9. Green Tea

Green tea has substantial health benefits. For one, it is linked to better liver health.

Specifically, green tea can improve levels of liver enzymes, cut back on oxidative stress, and reduce fat in the liver.12

People who drink green tea consistently are also associated with a lower risk of developing liver cancer.21

10. Fatty Fish

Unhealthy fats (like saturated and trans fats) are not good for the liver — but fatty fish are. Wild caught salmon and sardines are some of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Eating two to three servings a week can help prevent deficiencies. 

Omega-3 fatty acids, in moderation, can contribute to improved liver function. People with cirrhosis damage tend to have lower levels of it. But getting more of it can aid in recovery. 

Omega-3 fatty acids also have anti-inflammatory properties.17


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6 Foods That Are Bad for Your Liver

Here are some foods you should avoid to keep your liver healthy:

1. Alcohol

Heavy alcohol use is linked to liver disease. Alcohol misuse impairs liver functioning over time and even causes irreversible damage.9

2. Fast Foods

Greasy and fatty foods are very damaging to the liver. This includes foods that are high in saturated and trans fats. Your liver has to break down and process these fats, which takes more time and effort.18

So stay away from fast foods like fries, burgers, pizzas, and hefty sandwiches. 

3. Candy

Candy and other sweets that are high in sugars can also hurt your liver. High-fructose foods are linked to fatty liver disease. This includes candy, pastries, and other foods containing refined sugars. 

Part of the liver’s function is to turn sugar into fat. So giving your liver too much sugar to convert makes its job harder. 

So stick to healthy foods instead of candy. The sugar in fruit is not the same as the sugar found in candy. 

4. Seriously Salty Snacks

Consuming too much salt is bad for your liver. In fact, high-salt diets are linked to liver damage in adults, as well as in developing embryos.25

If you are going to snack, stick to healthy options that are low in salt.

5. Processed Meats

Processed meats like bacon and hot dogs are high in saturated fats, preservatives, and salt. 

Lean meats are a much better option. Or you can swap for plant-based proteins like the soy options mentioned above.

6. Soda

Soda is often loaded with sugar, which your liver has to work to convert to fat. Drinking too much soda is hard on your liver. 

How Alcohol Damages the Liver

Alcohol use disorder is a serious health condition that refers to dependence.1 Some signs of alcoholism include:

  • Cravings for alcohol
  • Tendency to drink often and heavily
  • A high frequency of drinking alone
  • Difficulty cutting back on or quitting alcohol
  • Alcohol-induced health complications
  • Mood swings and irritability
  • Depression

Binge drinking and heavy alcohol use are different. Binge drinking refers to a drinking pattern that raised the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 percent.7

Heavy drinking refers to consuming more than four drinks per day (more than 14 per week) for men. For women, it refers to drinking more than three alcoholic beverages per day (more than seven per week).7

About 61 million Americans are considered binge drinkers, and 16 million were classified as heavy alcohol users in 2014.3

Regular binge drinking, heavy alcohol use, and alcohol use disorder can all do significant damage to the liver. Alcohol-induced liver damage is linked to liver cancer and can lead to alcoholic liver disease.2

Alcoholic liver disease happens in three stages:2

  1. Alcoholic hepatitis: Alcoholic hepatitis is the first stage. It refers to the severe swelling and inflammation of your liver.
  2. Fatty liver disease: Heavy alcohol use can also lead to fatty liver disease, which refers to excess fat buildup in the liver.
  3. Cirrhosis: Prolonged heavy alcohol consumption can lead to scarring of the liver. Severe scarring is called cirrhosis, which includes scar tissue.

Alcoholic liver disease is common in people who are between 40 and 50 years old. But men are more likely to have it than women.4

While some liver damage can be repaired, severe liver damage may be irreversible.

Other Ways to Keep Your Liver Healthy

Here are some other simple ways to heal your liver and keep it healthy:

  • Drink plenty of water
  • Limit your alcohol intake
  • Take your daily vitamins
  • Maintain a healthy diet
  • Get regular exercise
  • Stay well-rested to maintain better overall health
Updated on November 11, 2021
28 sources cited
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  3. Alcohol: Balancing Risks and Benefits.” The Nutrition Source, 12 Nov. 2020.
  4. Alcoholic Liver Disease.” Mount Sinai Health System.
  5. Beetroot Supplementation.” Beetroot Supplementation on Non - Alcoholic Fatty Liver.
  6. Chen, Bing Bing, et al. “Association between Nut Intake and Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease Risk: A Retrospective Case-Control Study in a Sample of Chinese Han Adults.” BMJ Open, BMJ Publishing Group, 4 Sept. 2019.
  7. Drinking Levels Defined.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
  8. EJ;, Clifford T;Howatson G;West DJ;Stevenson. “The Potential Benefits of Red Beetroot Supplementation in Health and Disease.” Nutrients, U.S. National Library of Medicine.
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  10. How High Fructose Intake May Trigger Fatty Liver Disease.” National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 22 Sept. 2020.
  11. JY;, White CM;Lee. “The Impact of Turmeric or Its Curcumin Extract on Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease: A Systematic Review of Clinical Trials.” Pharmacy Practice, U.S. National Library of Medicine.
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  14. Lai HS;Lin WH;Chen PR;Wu HC;Lee PH;Chen WJ; “Effects of a High-Fiber Diet on Hepatocyte Apoptosis and Liver Regeneration after Partial Hepatectomy in Rats with Fatty Liver.JPEN. Journal of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition, U.S. National Library of Medicine.
  15. Liu F;Wang X;Wu G;Chen L;Hu P;Ren H;Hu H; “Coffee Consumption Decreases Risks for Hepatic Fibrosis and Cirrhosis: A Meta-Analysis.” PloS One, U.S. National Library of Medicine.
  16. Liver: Anatomy and Functions.” Johns Hopkins Medicine.
  17. Lu, Wenxia, et al. “Effects of Omega-3 Fatty Acid in Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease: A Meta-Analysis.” Gastroenterology Research and Practice, Hindawi Publishing Corporation, 2016.
  18. Luukkonen PK;Sädevirta S;Zhou Y;Kayser B;Ali A;Ahonen L;Lallukka S;Pelloux V;Gaggini M;Jian C;Hakkarainen A;Lundbom N;Gylling H;Salonen A;Orešič M;Hyötyläinen T;Orho-Melander M;Rissanen A;Gastaldelli A;Clément K;Hodson L;Yki-Järvinen H; “Saturated Fat Is More Metabolically Harmful for the Human Liver than Unsaturated Fat or Simple Sugars.” Diabetes Care, U.S. National Library of Medicine.
  19. Madrigal-Santillán E;Madrigal-Bujaidar E;Álvarez-González I;Sumaya-Martínez MT;Gutiérrez-Salinas J;Bautista M;Morales-González Á;García-Luna y González-Rubio M;Aguilar-Faisal JL;Morales-González JA; “Review of Natural Products with Hepatoprotective Effects.” World Journal of Gastroenterology, U.S. National Library of Medicine.
  20. Natural Compound in Vegetables Helps Fight Fatty Liver Disease.” ScienceDaily, ScienceDaily, 7 Feb. 2020.
  21. Ni CX;Gong H;Liu Y;Qi Y;Jiang CL;Zhang JP; “Green Tea Consumption and the Risk of Liver Cancer: A Meta-Analysis.” Nutrition and Cancer, U.S. National Library of Medicine.
  22. Oliveira, Claudia P M S, et al. “Vitamin C and Vitamin E in Prevention of Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) in Choline Deficient Diet Fed Rats.” Nutrition Journal, BioMed Central, 7 Oct. 2003.
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  24. Soy Protein Alleviates Symptoms of Fatty Liver Disease, Study Suggests.” ScienceDaily, ScienceDaily, 22 Apr. 2012.
  25. Too Much Salt Could Potentially Contribute to Liver Damage.” ScienceDaily, ScienceDaily, 24 Feb. 2016.
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