Green tea, whole grains and fruit support a healthy liver

12 Foods That Help Support Liver Detox

Published: March 2022

You may not think about your liver often, but it deserves a standing ovation! Your liver is your body's second largest organ, and it serves as your body's natural filtration system. From helping to convert toxins into waste, keeping your blood healthy, and even helping metabolize alcohol, your liver performs over 500 tasks to keep your body in tip-top shape.

Your liver works hard for you, so shouldn't you return the favor? Liver detoxification is essential to maintaining overall health, but is there anything that can help keeping it working optimally? Can you cleanse your liver?

Do liver cleanses work?

While the internet is saturated with many different methods for staying at your best, it's important to be wary of anything that claims it's a "liver cleanse." Those don't exist, and there's no substantial scientific support for many things that claim to be a liver cleanse.

You can, however, make sure your liver is in the best possible shape to support its detox efforts! And as we covered, the liver is the MVP of detoxing itself. While there are lifestyle choices that will help keep your liver in tip-top shape, maintaining proper nutrition is at the top of the list.

12 foods support that support liver detox

Woman blending fresh vegetables for liver detox

While there's strictly no such thing as a "detox liver diet," or foods that will cleanse the liver, there are specific foods that can support your liver detox efforts.

  1. Cruciferous vegetables

    —When you were told as a child to "eat your vegetables," chances are at least a few of them were cruciferous vegetables. A diverse group that includes cabbage, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts, cruciferous vegetables are rich in nutrients, including vitamins C and K, and carotenoids. They also contain compounds called indole-3-carbinol and sulforaphane that are well studied for specifically supporting liver health.

    In fact, clinical studies have found that indole-3-carbinol supports liver health and a healthy inflammatory response by helping stimulate liver detoxifying enzymes to help flush out toxins.

  2. Green tea

    —If you're stressing, you may try and get your zen on with the calming effects of antioxidant-rich green tea. Though it's known for its beneficial impacts on mood, green tea is also a powerful option for keeping your liver healthy.

    Green tea contains catechins, primarily epigallocatechin-3-galate (EGCG), which are compounds with potent antioxidant properties that have been shown to be beneficial to overall health. In one clinical study, 17 patients consuming 700 ml of green tea that contained >1 g of catechins each day over 12 weeks helped fight oxidative stress, as well as promoted liver health and a healthy inflammatory response.

  3. Leafy greens

    —Odds are leafy greens like kale, spinach and parsley were also on the menu when you were told to eat your vegetables. But hopefully all of that coaxing did some good, and they're now one of your healthy lifestyle staples. Leafy greens are nutrient dense vegetables that contain chlorophyll (what makes your leafy greens, well, green!) and also contain a variety of healthy vitamins and minerals in addition to strong antioxidant properties. Why is this important? Chlorophyll, in an animal study, was found to help enhance the liver's ability to detoxify.
  4. Nuts

    —Time to go nuts for nuts! A clinical study of over 4,500 subjects found consumption of nuts as a part of the Mediterranean diet helped maintain healthy insulin response, already-healthy cholesterol, and even helped maintain a healthy weight, due in part to their high fiber and fatty acid content. While all of these nuts confer health benefits, walnuts are among the most beneficial for liver health, as they're high in both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids as well as polyphenol antioxidants. Plus, they're known for their neutral flavor, making them a great addition to salads, or as a quick snack.
  5. Olive oil

    —Olive oil, in addition to being a staple of the Mediterranean diet, is a great source of healthy fats and is known for promoting healthy liver enzymes. It's also liver protective due to its ability to fight oxidative stress, promote a healthy inflammatory response and healthy insulin response. While it's great in sautés, incorporating olive oil in meals (like this liver detox recipe) is a great way to ensure you're getting enough.
  6. Salmon

    —Another staple of the Mediterranean diet that places emphasis on lean fats, salmon is not only a great protein option, but it's also a great source of omega-3 fatty acids. And while fatty acids are known for their heart healthy profile, they have positive effects on liver health as well. Across a meta-analysis of 18 studies, omega-3 intake was shown to support liver health. Just be mindful of how often you consume salmon in your diet, as fish and shellfish can contain higher concentrations of mercury content, a heavy metal that can impact your health.
  7. Berries

    —You can be very liver healthy with the proper nutrition as support. But you can also be berry healthy and do some good for your liver in the process! Berries are high in flavonoids, which have been shown to promote healthy liver function and detoxification. In a 2021 study of about 2,700 adults, a positive correlation was found between high flavonoid intake and a healthy liver.
  8. Citrus fruits

    —Citrus fruits are known for being high in vitamin C and for their immune health benefits, but did you know that they also contain bioactive polyphenols that can help support liver health? These polyphenols can help inhibit inflammation to promote liver health. The antioxidants in citrus can also help protect against oxidative stress.
  1. Purple sweet potatoes

    —You may be familiar with the vibrant orange of sweet potatoes, but have you heard of purple sweet potatoes? Turns out they may be key in supporting healthy liver detox! A preclinical animal study found that the anthocyanins in purple sweet potato helped fight oxidative stress in the liver, and promoted healthy liver function.
  2. Beetroot juice

    —When you think about juices you like to drink, beetroot juice probably isn't the first—or second— thing that comes to mind. But, you may want to consider adding it to your routine. It comes with multiple health benefits—liver health and detoxification, and supporting a healthy weight were among them! A preclinical study in rats fed a high-fat diet that were given beetroot juice had healthy liver fat, maintained a healthy weight and supported already-healthy cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
  3. Whole grains

    —As complex carbohydrates, whole grains contain essential nutrients like zinc, B vitamins, and fiber, which are associated with a healthy liver. In one clinical study of 12 patients over 12 weeks, researchers found that consumption of whole grains were associated with healthy liver fat and liver enzymes. Some whole grain staples to incorporate into your diet if you haven't already include brown rice, whole oats, and whole wheat bread and pasta.
  4. Coffee

    —Coffee is probably as much a part of your morning ritual as waking up. Or maybe you grab a cup of Joe for a midday pick-me-up. But did you know that it does more than just help put that extra pep in your step? It can give help energize the liver as well! Coffee's antioxidant capacity helps the liver filter out toxins and keep out what it doesn't need.

Which foods should you avoid when detoxing the liver?

Now that you know all about liver detoxifying foods, what about the stuff to stay away from? It goes without saying that maintaining a healthy diet is key to supporting overall health, so avoiding a high-fat diet is a smart idea, whether you're trying to detox the liver or not. It's also important to avoid high sugar foods as well as overly processed food.

Remember to also avoid alcohol in high concentrations as it can impact the liver. If you can, avoid it altogether and go for non-alcoholic options. But if you do choose to consume, remember to do so responsibly. Resveratrol-rich red wine is a good option! And remember to hydrate as often as possible when drinking.

Is food enough to support my liver health?

Man running for exercise to detox liver

While there's no one size fits all approach to liver health, eating food that supports liver health is a good idea, though that's only one part of the equation. To best support the liver's natural detoxification efforts, follow these healthy tips:

  • Stay hydrated

    —Though the liver is the body's built in filtration system, water is one of the liver's best friends. It lends a helping hand to the liver by helping it metabolize what it doesn't need and eventually help the kidneys move toxins and other wastes from your body. Try and drink at least 64 ounces of water a day to get the most health benefits.
  • Break a sweat

    —It should come to no surprise that exercising and keeping yourself at a healthy weight is important for overall health. But it also helps your liver keep doing what it does best. Much like water, sweat from exercise induced elevated heart rate helps detoxify the body and flush out toxins to maintain optimal health.
  • Catch those ZZZs

    —The very nature of getting proper sleep is to help your body restore itself and replenish your energy to best prepare you for another day. And that includes giving your liver the rest it needs to get back to work in the morning.
  • Supplement

    —While there are plenty of great options in terms of nutrition, diet can't do the heavy lifting on its own. These liver supporting supplements are great options for healthy liver detox:
    • Milk thistle

      —A plant extract known for its positive influence on liver function, milk thistle contains an active ingredient called silymarin, which is believed to have antioxidant properties. Not only does it help support healthy liver function, it's also been studied to promote healthy digestion.
    • Green tea

      —Good news for those who aren't a fan of green tea's taste. It's conveniently available in supplement form! Available caffeinated or decaffeinated, a quality supplement can provide more of the polyphenol EGCG (a plant compound that supports healthy metabolic function) than drinking several cups of green tea.
    • Curcumin

      Curcumin is a standout spice for being a whole-body health superstar. From supporting a healthy inflammatory response to being immune supporting, curcumin's reputation as the magic golden spice is well earned. It supports a healthy liver by protecting against oxidative stress.
    • NAC

      —We can't forget about the mighty NAC! An antioxidant powerhouse, N-Acetyl-Cysteine, or NAC, promotes healthy glutathione levels, which helps keep that hard working liver running on all cylinders.

References

By: Holly Denton, Health & Wellness Writer

Holly Denton got her degree in English Literature from Florida State University and spent a few years working in English education (building English as a Foreign Language curriculums, as well as teaching abroad) before joining Life Extension as a Proofreader.

Scientifically Reviewed By: Michael A. Smith, MD