The liver is an incredible multitasker. You can think of this vital organ as a filter system. It helps your body get rid of toxins while also harvesting nutrients from the foods you eat.

When it comes to liver health, not all foods are created equal. This is especially true if you have a condition like cirrhosis or hepatitis C, which can make it difficult for your liver to filter nutrients and waste as it should.

Eating liver-friendly foods like the ones below can help lessen the damage caused by liver disease. Remember, before making any big changes to your diet, check with your doctor or a registered dietitian.

Avocados are staples in many cuisines. They’re technically a part of the berry family and offer many health benefits, including improved liver health.

Research from 2015 took a look at the role of certain foods in people with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). The researchers report that avocado may help lower blood lipids, or fats, and help prevent liver damage.

More research is needed to know for sure whether people with NAFLD can benefit from eating avocado.

What is known is that people who eat avocados are more likely to have a lower body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference. According to a 2013 study, they may also have higher levels of HDL (good) cholesterol.

It’s thought that some of these effects are related to the high fiber, healthy fats, and water content of avocados. A 2014 study in rats suggests that avocado oil may help the liver heal from damage. And eating fiber-rich foods is a good way to support liver health.

Your daily cup of coffee may play an even more critical role to your health than you thought.

When it comes to your liver health, some studies suggest that coffee reduces the risk of cirrhosis, cancer, and fibrosis in the liver. Regular, moderate amounts may even help slow the course of current liver diseases.

Research from 2021 indicates that drinking coffee could reduce your risk of developing liver disease or fatty liver disease by around 20 percent.

In the same study, drinking coffee lowered the risk of death from liver disease by 49 percent. All types of coffee — decaf, instant, and ground — had similar effects.

The key to such benefits is to drink coffee daily. For your overall health, it’s best to avoid adding sugars and artificial creamers. Instead, try swapping in dairy milk, unsweetened soy milk, almond milk, cinnamon, or cocoa powder.

Because coffee usually contains caffeine, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends a maximum of four to five 8-ounce (237-mL) cups per day, though the safe amount can differ from person to person.

In the 2021 study above, drinking more than 3 or 4 cups of coffee daily seemed to provide slightly less liver protection.

Fish may also provide some underlying benefits to your liver health, especially oily types of fish.

Oily fish such as salmon can help reduce inflammation and fat buildup in the liver while also promoting a lower overall BMI, according to research from 2015. Oily fish is also high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for heart and brain health.

The authors of this review found oily fish was beneficial in reducing blood lipids when consumed two or more times per week. If you can’t eat fish, fish oil supplements may be an option to discuss with your doctor or a registered dietitian.

A 2021 study found that a diet high in oily fish may reduce the risk of hepatocellular carcinoma, the most common type of liver cancer. People who ate oily fish at least twice a week had a 54 percent lower risk of liver cancer.

People who used fish oil supplements also appeared to reduce their risk of liver cancer by as much as 40 to 52 percent, depending on cancer type.

When consumed over a long period of time, olive oil has been found to improve heart health. A large 2020 study suggests that eating more than half a tablespoon of olive oil every day could lower your risk of cardiovascular disease by 14 percent.

A number of small studies suggest that olive oil can help reduce liver enzymes and liver fat that contribute to disease. Olive oil may also increase the amount of HDL (good) cholesterol in the blood, which could have benefits for your liver.

Olive oil is high in calories, so you may want to use it in moderation. You can sprinkle olive oil on salads in lieu of fatty dressings, sauté vegetables with it, or roast root vegetables in the oven with a drizzle of the oil. If you’re trying to reduce your calorie intake, olive oil can also make your meals more filling so that you’ll eat fewer calories.

Nuts, when consumed in small amounts, are nutrient-dense snacks that are also high in healthy fats. Aside from boosting cardiovascular health, nuts may also help reduce the incidence of liver disease.

Of all types of nuts, walnuts are amongst the most beneficial for reducing fatty liver disease. This is thanks to their higher antioxidant and fatty acid content. Walnuts have the most omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids, as well as polyphenol antioxidants.

In a 2021 study, participants were provided 28 grams (1 ounce) of walnuts every day as part of a Mediterranean diet. People who ate walnuts at least 5 or 6 times a week had significantly greater liver (intrahepatic) fat loss than those who ate walnuts less often. This fat loss was associated with overall anti-inflammatory and metabolic health benefits.

To get these potential benefits, try sprinkling walnuts on top of salads, oatmeal, or yogurt.

While your entire diet shouldn’t consist of carbohydrates, you do want to eat a balance of carbs, protein, and healthy fats.

Complex carbohydrates are better than simple carbs because they’re metabolized slower and prevent wide fluctuations in blood sugar. This is why it’s best for people with NAFLD to choose complex carbs over simple carbs, as the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) advises.

Nonrefined carbs also have essential nutrients like zinc, B vitamins, and higher fiber levels, which are all important for a healthy liver and metabolism. The key is selecting whole grain carbs, such as:

  • wild rice
  • whole wheat bread and pasta
  • brown rice
  • whole oats
  • rye
  • corn
  • bulgur

As a general rule, whole foods are best for your liver and the rest of your body. When it comes to adding foods to your diet, your doctor or a registered dietitian is your best resource for knowing the best foods for you.

Certain liver conditions may require a more specialized diet. In some cases, people with advanced liver disease may not be able to absorb the fats they eat and may have to limit oils and fatty fish.

Typically, it’s recommended for people with hemochromatosis to avoid consuming iron, while those with hepatitis C may need to limit their intake of iron and salt. Your doctor or dietitian can tell you more about which foods to eat and which to avoid.

Contact your doctor if you lose a lot of weight in a short amount of time despite eating liver-friendly foods. This could mean that your liver isn’t processing nutrients effectively. You may be referred to a dietitian who will advise you about any changes you may need to make to your diet.

In addition to consuming liver-friendly foods, your doctor may recommend losing weight if you have fatty liver disease or abstaining from alcohol if you have liver damage related to alcohol use.

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