Beauty / Wellbeing

This year, love your liver

The liver is one of the largest organs in the body and plays many vital roles from building proteins, converting carbohydrates into glucose, processing nutrients to producing bile.  Undoubtedly, when we think of the liver, the term detoxification springs to mind. The liver is primarily responsible for detoxification within the body but is also supported by the bowels and kidneys to carry out this function. Detoxification is a process whereby not-so-beneficial substances (e.g. alcohol, medications, pesticides) are changed by the liver to less harmful substances in preparation for their excretion from the body.

Liver detoxification has a number of stages, all of which require certain nutrients, minerals and amino acids to ensure the process is carried out effectively. The healthiest way to support the liver and maintain liver health is to cut back on liver offenders such as alcohol, caffeine, trans fats, sugar, pesticides and chemicals while also supplying your liver the necessary resources - i.e. good nutrition - to carry out its critical functions.

“Bulk out your diet with vibrant coloured foods ... like beetroot, sweet potato, carrot, papaya and watercress.”

Foods to support the liver include:

Lean protein
The liver runs on amino acids from protein, which means it is important to consume protein regularly. If you are not vegan or vegetarian, consume a daily mix of both animal-based proteins and plant-based protein such as legumes, nuts and seeds, tofu and pea protein.

Raw foods at each meal
Raw foods are high in natural enzymes, which helps our body digest the foods we consume and absorb nutrients from foods. This in turn, causes less of a load on our digestive system and the liver. Try adding fresh watercress to salads, snacking on raw vegetables, adding herbs to your dinner plate or topping meals with a spoonful of sauerkraut.

Brassica vegetables
... Such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale and brussel sprouts contain the compound Sulforaphane, which is known to induce liver detoxification. Therefore, including such vegetables in your diet daily is a beneficial way to support the liver.

This is the active compound found in turmeric, and is a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory that protects liver health. It is also known to enhance the activity of the detoxification pathways called glutathionylation. Curcumin is best absorbed when prepared with a source of fat such as coconut or olive oil and pinch of black pepper.

An antioxidant-rich diet overall will be supportive to liver health. Bulk out your diet with vibrant coloured foods high in antioxidants like beetroot, sweet potato, carrot, pomegranate, tomato, red onions, grapes, papaya and watercress.

Zoe Bingley-Pullin is a nutritionist and chef.