The liver is responsible for managing all the fats, protein, and carbohydrates that people ingest. It also controls the production of numerous other fats and proteins important for bodily functions. There are many foods and drinks that a person can consume to help protect the liver.

Liver health is crucial for overall health. Having an unhealthy liver can lead to liver disease and metabolic disorders. Type 2 diabetes is the most common cause of liver disease.

Although it may be impossible to manage all risk factors, consuming certain foods and drinks may help promote liver health.

This article will cover the best foods for liver health, including their beneficial effects on the organ, and some foods to avoid.

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Some of the best foods and drinks that are good for the liver include the following.

1. Coffee

One 2014 review suggests that over 50% of people in the United States consume coffee daily.

Coffee appears to be good for the liver, especially because it protects against issues such as fatty liver disease.

The review also notes that daily coffee intake may help reduce the risk of chronic liver disease. It may also protect the liver from damaging conditions, such as liver cancer.

A 2014 study suggests that the protective effects of coffee may be due to how it influences liver enzymes.

Coffee, it reports, seems to reduce fat buildup in the liver. It also increases protective antioxidants in the liver. The compounds in coffee also help liver enzymes rid the body of cancer-causing substances.

2. Oatmeal

Consuming oatmeal is an easy way to add fiber to the diet. Fiber is an important tool for digestion, and the specific fibers in oats may be especially helpful for the liver. Oats and oatmeal are high in compounds called beta-glucans.

As one 2017 study reports, beta-glucans are very biologically active in the body. They help modulate the immune system and fight inflammation, and they may be especially helpful in the fight against diabetes and obesity.

The review also notes that beta-glucans from oats appear to help reduce the amount of fat stored in the liver in mice, which could also help protect the liver. More clinical studies are necessary to confirm this benefit in humans, however.

People who are looking to add oats or oatmeal to their diet should look for whole oats or steel-cut oats rather than instant oatmeal. Instant oatmeal may contain fillers such as flour or sugars, which will not be as beneficial for the body.

3. Green tea

One 2016 review suggests that green tea may help reduce the risk of liver cancer in female Asian populations. However, the study notes that more research is necessary.

It is important to note that drinking green tea may be better for health than taking a green tea extract, as high dose extracts may damage the liver rather than heal it.

4. Garlic

A small 2016 study suggests that supplementing the diet with garlic powder capsules can reduce body weight and body fat in people with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), with no loss of lean body mass.

Weight loss is beneficial for many people, as being overweight or having obesity is a contributing factor to NAFLD. More studies in humans are necessary to determine whether or not eating garlic would have the same effect.

5. Berries

Many dark berries — including blueberries, raspberries, and cranberries — contain antioxidants called polyphenols, which may help protect the liver from damage.

A 2013 study in rats suggests that blueberry juice supplements could increase antioxidant capability in the liver. The study also suggests that blueberry juice could help alleviate liver fibrosis. However, more human studies are necessary to verify this benefit.

6. Grapes

One 2014 study suggests that grape seeds, as well as the skin and pulp, contain a significant amount of antioxidants. These antioxidants seem to be associated with protection from some causes of liver damage.

Eating whole, seeded grapes is a simple way to add these compounds to the diet. A grape seed extract supplement may also provide antioxidants.

7. Grapefruit

Grapefruit contains two primary antioxidants: naringin and naringenin. These may help protect the liver from injury by reducing inflammation and protecting the liver cells.

A 2019 study suggests that naringin may protect against alcohol-induced liver steatosis by reducing oxidative stress.

However, several medications that are metabolized in the liver can interact with grapefruit, so people should check with a doctor before adding grapefruit or grapefruit juice to their diet.

8. Prickly pear

The fruit and juice of the prickly pear may also be beneficial to liver health. A 2014 study in rats with obesity suggests that compounds in the fruit may be beneficial in the treatment of NAFLD. However, human studies are necessary to confirm this.

Most research focuses on extracts from the fruit, however, so studies that focus on the fruit or juice itself may also be necessary.

9. Plant foods in general

One 2015 study reports that a large number of plant foods may be helpful for the liver.

These include:

  • avocados
  • bananas
  • barley
  • beets and beet juice
  • broccoli
  • brown rice
  • carrots
  • figs
  • greens such as kale and collards
  • lemons
  • papayas
  • watermelons

People should eat these foods, if possible, as part of a whole and balanced diet.

10. Fatty fish

Consuming fatty fish and fish oil supplements may help reduce the impact of conditions such as NAFLD.

Fatty fish is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are the good fats that help reduce inflammation. These fats may be especially helpful in the liver, as they appear to prevent the buildup of excess fats and maintain enzyme levels in the liver.

11. Nuts

Eating nuts may be another simple way to keep the liver healthy and protect against NAFLD.

Nuts generally contain unsaturated fatty acids, vitamin E, and antioxidants. These compounds may help prevent NAFLD and reduce inflammation and oxidative stress.

12. Olive oil

Eating too much fat is not good for the liver, but some fats may help it. Replacing less healthy fats with olive oil may help reduce oxidative stress and improve liver function. This is due to the high content of unsaturated fatty acids in the oil.

However, the clinical data on olive oil benefits for people with NAFLD are currently scarce.

In general, finding balance in one’s diet will keep the liver healthy.

However, there are also some foods and food groups that the liver finds harder to process. These include:

  • Fatty foods: These include fried foods, fast food meals, and takeout meals from many restaurants. Packaged snacks and chips may also be surprisingly high in fats.
  • Starchy foods: These include low fiber, highly processed breads, pastas, cakes, and baked goods.
  • Sugar: Cutting back on sugar and sugary foods — such as cereals, baked goods, and candies — may help reduce the stress on the liver.
  • Salt: Some simple ways to reduce salt intake include eating out less often, avoiding canned meats or vegetables, and reducing or avoiding salted deli meats and bacon.
  • Alcohol: Anyone who is looking to give their liver a break may wish to consider reducing their intake of alcohol or eliminating it from the diet completely.

The liver plays an important role in the body. Although it primarily takes care of itself, a person can help maintain liver health by consuming certain foods and drinks.

There are also many foods and food groups that may harm the liver. A person may wish to avoid these.

Choosing foods that are good for the liver can help a person avoid potential health issues in the future.