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HEALTH: 8 Great Foods for Detoxing the Liver

8 Great Foods for Detoxing the Liver

Nicole Cutler L.Ac.

Food is medicine – eating the right ones are essential for a liver detox diet.

Many people have heard of a liver detox diet or a liver flush, but few realize that a variety of foods can accomplish this feat naturally. All too often, highly stressful, stationary professions are paired with great quantities of processed, fatty food and topped off with inactive leisure activities. This common modern lifestyle overloads the liver, hampering its ability to detoxify the bloodstream. Luckily, increasing physical activity and eating liver detox foods can stimulate the liver’s natural ability to cleanse the blood by helping remove contaminants from the body.

The liver acts as a fine sieve, filtering toxins and waste products out of the bloodstream. When there is an overabundance of pollutants to filter – or – if the sieve is clogged, the waste backs up and may spark a variety of health problems. Inefficient liver detoxification can lead to:

  • Fatigue
  • Pain in the right upper abdominal area (over the liver)
  • Headaches
  • Joint pain
  • Increased sensitivity to environmental irritants
  • Acid reflux/heartburn
  • Trouble digesting fatty foods
  • Itchy skin
  • Abdominal bloating
  • High blood pressure
  • Mood swings and depression

There are dozens of types of food that benefit the liver’s health. Here are eight of the most respected for helping the liver with detoxification:

  1. Grapefruit* – High in Vitamin C and glutathione, grapefruit increases the natural cleansing processes of the liver. More specifically, one grapefruit contains over 70 mg of glutathione, a protein that boosts the production of liver detox enzymes. In addition, grapefruit contains a special kind of pectin that appears to lower cholesterol – a notorious liver sieve clogging fat. *Make sure to check the insert on any medications you take because grapefruit interferes with certain drugs.
  2. Broccoli and/or Cauliflower – These cruciferous vegetables increase the amount of glucosinolate in the body, organic sulfur compounds that work with chemicals such as folate, flavonoids, and Vitamin C to cleanse the body of free radicals and other toxins. By amplifying detox enzyme production in the liver, glucosinolates help flush carcinogens and other toxins out of the body, aiding the liver with detoxification and lowering the risk of cancer.
  3. Walnuts – These nuts have high amounts of arginine, an amino acid that helps the liver detoxify ammonia – a toxic waste product of protein metabolism. In addition, walnuts are high in glutathione and omega-3 fatty acids, both of which support detoxification.
  4. Seaweed – Sea vegetables contain sodium alginate (algin), which absorbs toxins from the digestive tract. Kelp is a type of seaweed that is particularly rich in algin and green seaweed is rich in chlorophyll, a green pigment containing special fibers that bind to and remove toxins from the body.
  5. Apples – Apples contain fiber, vitamins, minerals and many beneficial phytochemicals such as D-Glucarate, flavonoids and terpenoids – all of which are used in the detox process. One apple flavonoid, Phlorizidin (phlorizin), aids the stimulation of bile production, which helps the liver get rid of some toxins through the bile. In addition, apples are a good source of the soluble fiber pectin, which helps eliminate metals and food additives from the bloodstream. Because conventionally grown apples contain a great deal of pesticide residue, experts suggest consuming only organic apples.
  6. Avocados – Avocados help the body produce the antioxidant glutathione, an extremely valuable compound needed for the liver to filter out harmful materials. Glutathione is the primary antioxidant your liver needs during both phases of detoxification. Avocados are also a good source of monounsaturated fats and have been shown to lower liver-clogging cholesterol levels when eaten regularly.
  7. Lemons This yellow, citrus fruit stimulates the release of enzymes and helps convert toxins into a water-soluble form that can be easily excreted from the body. Lemons are also rich sources of Vitamin C, which helps to thin and decongest bile, enabling the liver to more effectively break down fats. Many detox diet plans begin by squeezing fresh lemon into a glass of water and consuming it first thing in the morning.
  8. Garlic – Raw garlic has many health benefits; one is its assistance to liver detoxification. Garlic is loaded with allicin and selenium, two compounds that help liver cleansing. It also contains sulfur, a mineral that helps rid the body of toxins. Additionally, garlic helps reduce cholesterol and triglyceride levels, which contribute to unclogging the liver’s sieve.

As pronounced by Hippocrates, the so-called father of Western medicine, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” The idea that food can play a major role in our health is not new, but many of us have a hard time grasping how much of an impact what we eat has on our bodies. Those with a toxic, sedentary, fat-filled or chemical-laden lifestyle are likely to have some level of difficulty with detoxification, a problem that can be turned around by making these eight detox foods part of a regular diet.

*Editor’s Note: Some medications interact with grapefruit. It’s important to read all labels. While the following article, “Update: What You Need to Know About Grapefruit and Hepatitis C,” does not have a complete list, it does show some drugs that interact with grapefruit.