Many foods and drinks can help protect the liver, such as oatmeal, green tea, berries, olive oil, and garlic. In contrast, fatty, salty, and sugary foods are harder for the liver to digest.

Liver health is crucial for overall health. Having an unhealthy liver can lead to liver disease and metabolic disorders.

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 for the liver include the following.

1. Coffee

A 2021 study analyzed data from 494,585 people in the United Kingdom to learn how different types of coffee might affect the risk of chronic liver disease, including decaffeinated, instant, and ground coffee.

The authors suggest that all types of coffee link to lower risks of chronic liver disease and its complications, though ground coffee had the largest effect among decaffeinated coffee types.

They suggest 3–4 cups daily offered the maximal protective effect and that the protective effect may occur due to more than one active ingredient.

Another study from 2021 associates coffee with lower liver stiffness. Regular, long-term coffee consumption may also have a protective effect on liver enzyme levels in people with and without liver disease and people with chronic alcohol consumption.

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 may help reduce the risk of diabetes and obesity.

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

People 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

A 2020 research review highlights research that associates moderate green tea consumption with lower levels of two enzymes: alanine aminotransferase (ALT) and aspartate aminotransferase (AST). Both enzymes may increase due to liver injury.

In rare cases, green tea extract may cause an increase in these enzymes or of acute liver injury. In these cases, stopping green tea extract consumption typically induced liver recovery.

A 2020 systematic review suggests that green tea effects may depend on the health status of the individual, offering moderate benefits to people with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) but increasing liver enzymes in people without NAFLD.

4. Garlic

A 2020 randomized clinical trial found that 800 milligrams (mg) of garlic powder over 15 weeks significantly improved fat-build ups and comorbidity risk in people with NAFLD.

A 2019 population study of adults in China suggests that raw garlic consumption may also reduce the risk of liver cancer.

According to a systematic review from 2020, garlic supplementation may also lower AST levels but does not impact ALT levels. However, they highlight that more research is necessary to confirm this effect.

5. Berries

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

Several animal studies have investigated the effect of berries on the liver. For example, a 2023 study suggests that blueberry and cranberry polyphenols reduced liver damage in rats.

A 2019 study suggests that blueberries reduced liver fibrosis in rats, lowering the rate of liver weight gain and liver enzyme activity.

A 2022 study also suggests that blueberries may help to manage age-related liver disease and dysfunction in rats.

However, further research is necessary to determine the effect of berry polyphenols on the liver in humans.

6. Grapes

A 2022 study suggests a compound in grape skin and seeds alleviates symptoms of severe liver problems in rats, including liver enlargement, inflammation, and fat buildups.

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, some medications 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 2022 article suggests that prickly pear extracts show beneficial effects on the liver in animal studies.

However, more research is necessary to determine the bioactive compound that causes these effects, the most appropriate dose, and whether the effects apply to human models.

9. Plant foods in general

A 2023 review associates plant-based diets with a lower risk of NAFLD and liver fat content. Plant foods they group as healthful include:

  • whole grains, such as whole meal bread, whole wheat couscous, and brown rice
  • vegetables, including carrots, broccoli, and lettuce
  • nuts
  • legumes, including broad beans, peas, and green beans

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.

A 2021 population-based cohort study also associates regular fish oil supplementation with lower risks of liver cancer.

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. A 2019 study suggests olive oil, as part of the Mediterranean diet, 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, doctors will recommend a balanced diet for overall health. However, there are also some foods and food groups that the liver may find 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, choosing low sodium canned meats or vegetables, and reducing or avoiding salted deli meats and bacon.
  • Alcohol: Anyone looking to give their liver a break may wish to consider reducing their intake of alcohol or eliminating it from the diet completely.

The following are answers to commonly asked questions about liver health.

What foods are good for liver cancer?

No individual foods can prevent or cure liver cancer. However, some foods that can promote overall liver health include oatmeal, berries, garlic, green tea, and coffee.

What foods should you avoid with liver cancer?

Some foods that are harder for the liver to process include highly processed and fatty foods, sugary foods, and alcohol.

What is the best way to fight liver cancer?

The best way to fight liver cancer is to follow the advice of one’s doctor or oncologist. While certain dietary choices can promote liver health, nutrition alone cannot fight liver cancer and is not a replacement for treatment.

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 a balanced diet.

There are also many foods and food groups that may harm the liver, including fried food, highly processed starches, and takeout food. 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.