The liver is called the chemical factory of the human body. It is also the largest internal organ, weighing as much as three pounds in an adult. It is unique in many ways, like it gets oxygenated blood from the hepatic artery and much nutrient-rich blood from the portal vein. It also has excellent regenerative properties.
It is such a vital and unique organ that much can be said about it. Thus, it has hundreds of body functions, from storage and production to detoxification. At any given time, it stores about 13% of the total blood in the human body.
The liver has hundreds of functions, from detoxification to processing nutrients and the production of many vital compounds. For example, most drugs are metabolized in the liver and then removed from the body via urine. The liver has more than 500 known functions. Some of the important liver functions are:
- Bile production and thus digestion of fats
- Production of many important proteins
- Cholesterol production
- Conversion of excess glucose to glycogen and its storage
- Regulation of blood level of many nutrients, especially amino acids
- Stores iron, vitamins
- Removes toxins from the blood like poisonous ammonia by converting it to urea
- Clearing the body of medications and poisons
- Regulating blood clotting
- It plays a vital role in immunity
- Regulation of bilirubin in the blood
Foods that are good for liver health
Many foods are pretty good for liver health. Here are some commonly available foods that are especially beneficial for liver health. Include them in your regular diet to maintain a healthy liver.
- Coffee- Most benefits of coffee are due to its content of caffeine; however, it also contains many antioxidants and other phytocompounds. Four cups of coffee a day is relatively safe and good. Studies show that regularly drinking coffee can reduce the risk of fat accumulation in the liver and considerably reduce the risk of cirrhosis.
Coffee also helps reduce the risk of liver cancer and may lower hepatic inflammation. In addition, it appears that it increases the level of an intrinsic antioxidant called glutathione, which is a potent free radical scavenger.
- Greens- Green vegetables like collards, spinach, or kale are loaded with antioxidants and thus can protect liver cells from damage. Additionally, they are also high in dietary fiber, which may also help boost liver health.
- Turmeric- In recent years, turmeric has gained much attention due to its ability to suppress inflammation. It mainly works due to its content of curcumin. Studies show that it can help prevent NAFLD. Not only that, it may lower liver inflammation when consumed daily for about eight weeks.
- Garlic- Garlic has many health benefits and is quite good for cardiovascular health. In addition, it is an excellent source of selenium that can stimulate the production of various liver enzymes, thus promoting detoxification.
- Beetroot- In recent years, beetroot has gained much attention as a superfood and even as a pre-workout supplement. It is rich in antioxidants and nitrates and boosts the production of NO. It can also improve blood flow to organs. In addition, it reduces liver damage and increases the production of detoxification enzymes in the organ.
- Fish- Not just any fish, but fatty fish like trout, salmon, and sardines, can help protect the liver due to their high content of omega-3 fatty acids. Moreover, fatty acids in fish are much more bioavailable than those in chia seeds or flaxseeds. Additionally, fish is an excellent source of amino acids.
- Beans- Studies suggest that beans are especially good for preventing liver fat build-up. Thus, they can help prevent non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). NAFLD is among the leading causes of severe liver failure and liver cancer. Additionally, beans promote detoxification and are a good source of dietary fiber.
Food to avoid for optimal liver health
Although the liver is quite good at regeneration and resistant to toxins, some foods are more likely to cause harm to the liver.
- High-fat foods- Avoid foods high in fats, as they accumulate in the liver over time, causing NAFLD. This may cause severe liver inflammation, failure, and even cancer.
- High sodium intake- Table salt is not just bad for the liver. It is quite harmful to the cardiovascular system. The problem is not just table salt, but the salt added to so many foods. Thus, it is vital to know more about the hidden sources of salt like bacon, sausages, canned vegetables, chips, processed foods, packed snacks, various sauces like soy sauce, and even soups.
- Alcohol- Studies suggest that even drinking alcohol for just a few days may result in the build-up of fat in the liver. However, prolonged alcohol consumption may lead to alcoholic fatty liver disease. It is worth noticing that it may not have any symptoms in its early stages.
The human liver is a very robust organ with immense regenerative capabilities. Thus, it only gets hurt by prolonged substance abuse, wrong dietary choices, and exposure to toxins. Fortunately, one can reverse many ill effects caused to the liver during life by making healthy choices and using liver health supplements.