Eat the Best and Leave the Rest
If you stopped someone on the street and asked how you may improve your liver health, most people would simply advise you cut back or eliminate alcohol. While doing so is certainly helpful, it is not the only piece of the liver health puzzle. Nutrition makes a large impact on your liver health.
In fact, an estimated 7 million Canadians are currently being affected by a liver disease that occurs without the influence of alcohol; non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). NAFLD is caused in-part by consuming foods that are high in sugar and fat and by living a non-active lifestyle. In addition, NAFLD has been linked to other detrimental health risks including insulin resistance, high blood pressure and type II diabetes.
Since your liver regularly doses out energy you need to stay alert and active, it’s safe to say that reconsidering which nutrients enter your body and which substances can keep out will make a big difference on your overall health.
Contrary to popular belief, diets or cleanses will not give your liver a ‘clean slate’ as advertised. If you already have liver disease, you may already have to limit or even avoid certain foods or ingredients (for example, salt). If you are otherwise healthy, however, every healthy choice you make – like having a bowl of oatmeal and fruit for breakfast versus a high-fat muffin and coffee filled with cream and sugar—will be a significant step in the right direction towards an overall healthy life.
Follow these great tips today so that you can eat the best and leave the rest:
- Eat small regular meals. Do not skip meals or over-eat.
- Drink 6 to 8 glasses of fluids (preferably water) a day.
- Regularly choose a variety of whole foods including fruits and vegetables, protein sources (legumes, lean meats), whole grains (quinoa, wild rice), dairy (low-fat yogurt, milk and cheese) and sources of healthy fat (nuts, avocado, fatty fish).
- Increase your intake of fresh of fruits and vegetables, especially brightly coloured ones with deep bright pigments such as oranges, yellows, reds and greens. Fruits and vegetables are high in antioxidants, which are vital for overall liver health.
- Maximize consumption of raw vegetables with high sulphur content (i.e. broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, garlic and onions).
- Wash fruit and vegetables right before use to remove pesticides. Avoid washing too far ahead to reduce sweating or spoilage.
- When cooking vegetables and fruits, steam or bake them. This retains more nutrients than boiling.
- Moderate your consumption of saturated fat and simple sugar, as high intakes of sugar (fructose) sweetened beverages and fatty foods high in saturated fat have been associated with an increased risk for developing a fatty liver.
- Consume vitamin D fortified dairy products, and vitamin D fortified plant-based foods to ensure your vitamin D needs are met. This is important to promote liver health and a healthy body weight.
- Choose whole-grain products over white/bleached/refined products
For some suggestions on healthier choices, you can take with you when you’re in the grocery store, download our printable Liver-Healthy Shopping Guide. Learn more about how you can reduce your risk of developing liver disease.