1. Reduce or eliminate processed foods.1 of 7
Pick up anything that comes in a box—frozen meals, pizzas, microwave dinners, mac and cheese—and look at the ingredients. Most of the things you can't pronounce are toxins that must be filtered out by your liver. The more foreign substances you ingest, the more your liver health is compromised.
Our liver was biologically designed to filter naturally occurring metabolic byproducts out of our blood, not all the chemicals and preservatives we are now eating through processed foods. These chemicals significantly reduce liver health and cause it to be ineffective at its other functions.
TIP: When grocery shopping, try walking the perimeter of the store first instead of weaving through the aisles. All of the fresh foods are usually located on the perimeter, while the processed foods fill up the aisles.
2. Monitor meat and dairy intake.2 of 7
The digestion of meat and dairy are taxing on the liver when over-consumed. Eat them in smaller quantities to avoid overwhelming this important organ. Because the liver works like a filter, it can become clogged when we eat too much, too fast. The digestion of meat and dairy in particular produces byproducts that the liver must filter and eliminate from our bodies.
If we are eating poor quality meats, or dairy from animals that have been fed antibiotics or hormones, the liver must also filter those foreign chemicals out of our bodies. If it is ineffective and cannot keep up, we may become sick and gain weight.
TIP: Try replacing cow's milk with almond milk and choose grass-fed products. Instead of meat, use legumes like black beans or chickpeas as well as root vegetables like carrots and beets. Mushrooms are a great meat substitute since they can have a similar consistency, and they're both flavorful and filling. Instead of eating meals where meat is the main dish, make soups or stews or chili. With these dishes it is easy to cut back on some meat and throw in more vegetables instead.
3. Manage stress.3 of 7
When we are under stress, our entire digestive system shuts down. This means our liver health is drastically reduced. Eating under stress is a detrimental combination for someone trying to lose weight because the food is not being broken down, absorbed or metabolized efficiently.
TIP: Make sure you eat all your meals in a seated position and in a calm state of mind. Never eat on the run and try taking a couple of deep breaths before a meal. Chew your food approximately 15 times with each bite. It should be pulp before you swallow. This will help you eat less, feel more full and access more of the nutrients your body needs.
4. Avoid eating out.4 of 7
Fast food meals and even "healthy" restaurant foods are not only higher in calories, but full of additives and flavorings that your liver must process out of your blood stream. We also tend to eat more when we eat out, which is an additional burden on the liver. Preparing food and eating at home is cheaper, healthier and more fulfilling.
TIP: Preparing meals at home is most enjoyable when the chores are shared. Use meal preparation as an opportunity to spend time with your kids or your partner. Cooking can be a fun and intimate activity that bonds people together.
5. Do a gentle liver detox.5 of 7
The following two liver cleanses are safe enough to use daily. Choose one to incorporate into your daily routine.
Gentle Liver Cleanse I: Squeeze half a lemon into a warm or lukewarm glass of water first thing in the morning and drink it 20 minutes before breakfast. Cold water requires more time to process because calories must be used to warm it up before it can get to your liver. Warm or lukewarm water will access your liver much sooner. The lemon will act as a cleaning agent and can help to unclog your liver filter.
Some people can work their way up to a whole lemon a day, but that takes time. This may initially act as a diuretic because it stimulates the toxins in your liver to be released from your body. If this becomes uncomfortable or if you experience a headache (also due to toxins being dislodged from your liver and released into your bloodstream), reduce the amount of lemon you are using. Over time, as your liver becomes used to this cleanse, you will be able to use more lemon and cleanse more thoroughly.
Gentle Liver Cleanse II: Mix one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in a glass of warm or lukewarm water. Drink it 20 minutes before any meal. The vinegar will work similarly to the lemon. If you forget to take it, it is still useful during or after a meal, but it will have the greatest effect on your liver 20 minutes before you eat.
Bonus Tip: Eat leafy greens.6 of 7
The most liver friendly foods are dark, leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale or swiss chard. Most of these have a bitter taste when raw and are more commonly enjoyed steamed.
Throw them into your everyday dishes for an added boost of nutrients and enjoy the benefits of great liver health.