Your liver is hard at work right this very moment cleansing your body of toxins, providing bile to break down the fat in your food so it can be used for energy and storing up glucose so you’ll have it available when you need some quick energy. In fact every single thing you eat or drink, including any medications you take, pass through your hard working liver.
These days we’re asking our livers to do more work than ever before. Our less than healthy eating habits, environmental toxins and stressful lives are putting a real strain on our livers, and it’s beginning to show with cases of liver disease and liver cancer reaching epidemic levels.
Now, more than ever, you need to do everything you can to protect your liver. Following are five surprisingly simple ways you can do just that by making a few minor, but delicious, changes to your menu.
An exciting new animal study has found that the delicious kiwi fruit could help us prevent the most common liver problem we see today, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Cases of NAFLD are skyrocketing, which experts say is linked to the rise in diabetes and obesity. So this news couldn’t have come at a better time.
Researchers at the University of Colorado fed obese mice PCQ, an antioxidant found in abundance in kiwi fruit. The antioxidant protected the mice’s offspring from developing fatty liver disease and reduced inflammation in the livers of adult mice shielding them from fatty liver even when fed an unhealthy Western-style diet.1
To get more PCQ in your diet eat more kiwi, parsley, papaya and celery.
2. Olive oil:
Research published in the journal Nutrition and Metabolism revealed that antioxidant rich olive oil may be able to protect our livers against oxidative stress and damage from toxins in our environment.2 According to Professor Hammami, a lead researcher on the study, both extra virgin olive oil and extracts appear to effectively reduce toxin damage.
Lab rats were fed an olive oil rich diet and then exposed to a toxic herbicide that’s known to deplete antioxidants and cause oxidative damage to the liver. The olive oil fed rats had a significant jump in their antioxidant enzyme activity and far fewer signs of liver damage than control mice that didn’t get the oil.
More research is needed but you can put olive oil to work protecting your own liver right away. Use extra virgin olive oil in your favorite dishes starting today.
A University of Illinois study found that including more broccoli in our diet could help protect us against deadly liver cancer and NAFLD.3 Broccoli is rich in bioactive compounds, such as sulforaphane, that experts say may help block the accumulation of fat in the liver.
When researchers fed obese mice on a Western-style diet (high in fat and sugar) broccoli, and then exposed them to a known liver cancer causing carcinogen, the number of cancer nodules in their livers plummeted. In other words, according to researcher Elizabeth Jeffrey, the broccoli protected the mice against fatty liver by both blocking too much fat from accumulating in their livers and increasing the amount of fat their livers released.
The best way to raise the amount of the cancer-fighting compounds you’re getting from broccoli is to eat the veggie raw or lightly steamed.
4. Coconut oil:
You already know we’re huge fans of coconut oil around here, and now there’s yet one more reason to make this delicious oil a staple in your own kitchen. The medium chain fatty acids in coconut oil may help protect your liver because they’re easily converted into energy. This cuts back on the work your liver has to do and reduces fatty build up too.
But that’s not the only way coconut oil offers protection. According to a preliminary study virgin coconut oil could help protect our livers against the damage that common drugs can cause.
When researchers gave lab rats a dose of a broad-spectrum antibiotic for a week signs of adverse effects on their livers shot up. One measurement—total bilirubin—skyrocketed 192 percent over the control groups, according to the study published in the Journal of Basic and Clinical Physiology and Pharmacology.4 But in rats that received the virgin coconut oil the levels stayed normal.
And in another study virgin coconut oil was able to help protect against the liver damage caused by the common NSAID pain reliever paracetamol, a known liver toxin.5
Researchers from the United Arab Emirates University say the delicious bright orange spice saffron, often used in Indian and Mediterranean dishes, may be able to help protect us against liver cancer. The active compound in the spice known as crocin was able to protect against chemically-induced liver cancer in lab experiments according to the study published in the journal Recent Patents on Anticancer Drug Discovery.6
If you haven’t tried cooking with saffron yet give it a go. A pinch in your favorite soups and stews will take those simple meals to a whole new level. And once you try it you’ll never want to serve seafood again without using a touch of saffron in the dish.
1. “Early PQQ supplementation has persistent long-term protective effects on developmental programming of hepatic lipotoxicity and inflammation in obese mice,” The FASEB Journal, 2016 Dec 22
2. “Effects of olive oil and its fractions on oxidative stress and the liver’s fatty acid composition in 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid-treated rats,” Nutr Metab (Lond). 2010 Oct 29;7:80
3. “Dietary Broccoli Lessens Development of Fatty Liver and Liver Cancer in Mice Given Diethylnitrosamine and Fed a Western or Control Diet,” J Nutr. 2016 Mar;146(3):542-50
4. “Virgin coconut oil protects against liver damage in albino rats challenged with the anti-folate combination, trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole,” J Basic Clin Physiol Pharmacol. 2014 May 1;25(2):249-53
5. “Hepatoprotective Activity of Dried- and Fermented-Processed Virgin Coconut Oil,” Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2011; 2011: 142739
6. “Saffron-Based Crocin Prevents Early Lesions of Liver Cancer: In Vivo, In Vitro and Network Analyses,” Recent Patents on Anti-Cancer Drug Discovery, 2015; 10 (999): 1
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