Diet plays a key role in maintaining liver health. Many foods contain compounds that have been shown to help improve liver enzymes, protect against fat buildup, and decrease inflammation and oxidative stress.
The liver is responsible for things like producing proteins, cholesterol, and bile to storing vitamins, minerals, and even carbohydrates.
It also breaks down toxins like alcohol, medications, and natural byproducts of metabolism. Keeping your liver in good shape is important for maintaining health.
This article lists the 11 best foods to eat to help keep your liver healthy.
Including more nutrient-dense foods in your diet is a simple but effective way to improve the health of your liver.
This is because many foods contain compounds like antioxidants, which can support liver health by reducing inflammation, easing oxidative stress, and preventing cell damage (
Some foods are also high in fiber, which can help promote weight management and ensure that your liver is functioning properly (2,
Additionally, other foods may contain nutrients like protein or healthier fats, which could be beneficial for the treatment or prevention of other conditions associated with liver disease, such as diabetes (
Here are 11 of the best foods to help keep your liver healthy.
Coffee is one of the best beverages you can drink to promote liver health.
Studies have shown that drinking coffee protects the liver from disease, even among those who already have problems with this organ.
For example, studies have repeatedly shown that drinking coffee helps lower the risk of cirrhosis, or permanent liver damage, in people with chronic liver disease (
Drinking coffee may also help reduce the risk of developing a common type of liver cancer, and it has positive effects on liver disease and inflammation (
It’s even associated with a lower risk of death in people with chronic liver disease, with the greatest benefits seen in those who drink at least 3 cups daily (
These benefits seem to stem from its ability to prevent the buildup of fat and collagen, two of the main markers of liver disease (
Coffee also decreases inflammation and increases levels of the antioxidant glutathione. Antioxidants neutralize harmful free radicals, which are produced naturally in the body and can damage cells (
Tea is widely considered to be beneficial for health, but evidence has shown that it may have particular benefits for the liver.
One review of 15 studies found that green tea reduced levels of liver enzymes in people with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) (
Another study had similar findings, reporting that supplementing with green tea extract for 12 weeks significantly reduced liver enzymes alanine aminotransferase (ALT), and aspartate aminotransferase (AST) in people with NAFLD (
Furthermore, a 2017 review found that people who drank green tea were less likely to develop liver cancer. The lowest risk was seen in people who drank 4 or more daily cups (
A number of animal studies have also demonstrated the beneficial effects of various types of tea, including matcha, oolong tea, and dark tea (
Interestingly, one animal study even found that Pu-ehr tea extract improved the metabolism of fat in the liver and decreased inflammation in mice fed a high fat diet (
Nevertheless, some people, especially those with liver problems, should exercise caution and talk with a doctor before consuming green tea as a supplement.
That’s because there have been several reports of liver damage resulting from using supplements containing green tea extract (
Grapefruit contains antioxidants that naturally protect the liver. The two main antioxidants found in grapefruit are naringenin and naringin.
Several animal studies have found that both can help protect the liver from injury (
The protective effects of grapefruit are known to occur in two ways — by reducing inflammation and protecting cells.
Studies have also shown that these antioxidants can help reduce the development of hepatic fibrosis, a harmful condition in which excessive connective tissue builds up in the liver. This typically results from chronic inflammation (
Moreover, in mice that were fed a high fat diet, naringenin decreased the amount of fat in the liver and increased the number of enzymes necessary to burn fat, which can help prevent excess fat from accumulating (
Lastly, another animal study found that naringin could help improve the ability to metabolize alcohol and counteract some of alcohol’s negative effects on the liver (
Thus far, the effects of grapefruit or grapefruit juice itself, rather than its components, have not been studied. Additionally, almost all studies looking at the antioxidants in grapefruit have been conducted in animals.
Nevertheless, the current evidence suggests that grapefruit may benefit liver health by helping prevent damage and inflammation.
4. Blueberries and cranberries
Blueberries and cranberries contain anthocyanins, antioxidants that give berries their distinctive colors. They’ve also been linked to many health benefits.
Several animal studies have demonstrated that whole cranberries and blueberries, as well as their extracts or juices, can help keep the liver healthy (
Interestingly, one human study found that taking a cranberry supplement for 6 months improved hepatic steatosis, or fatty liver, in people with NAFLD (
Another study found that the types of antioxidants found commonly in blueberries slowed the development of fibrosis, which is the development of scar tissue, in the livers of rats (
What’s more, blueberry extract has been shown to inhibit the growth of human liver cancer cells in test-tube studies. However, more studies are needed to determine whether this effect can be replicated in humans (
Making these berries a regular part of your diet is a good way to help make sure your liver is supplied with the antioxidants it needs to stay healthy.
Grapes, especially red and purple grapes, contain various beneficial plant compounds that may benefit liver health.
Studies have found that grapes and grape juice can have various benefits, including (
- lowering inflammation
- preventing cell damage
- increasing antioxidant levels
A small 2010 study on people with NAFLD showed that supplementing with grapeseed extract for 3 months helped improve liver function (
That said, a newer 2022 study suggests that eating grape products doesn’t have a significant effect on liver enzymes and may not help improve liver function (29). More studies are needed before taking grapeseed extract to promote liver health can be recommended.
6. Prickly pear
Prickly pear, known scientifically as Opuntia ficus-indica, is a popular type of edible cactus. Its fruit and juice are most commonly consumed.
It has long been used in traditional medicine as a treatment for the following (
- digestive issues
- liver disease
A 2004 study of 55 people found that the extract of this plant helped reduce symptoms of a hangover.
Participants experienced less nausea, dry mouth, and lack of appetite. They were also half as likely to experience a severe hangover if they consumed the extract before drinking alcohol, which is detoxified by the liver (
The study concluded these effects were due to reduced inflammation, which often occurs after drinking alcohol.
Another study in mice found that consuming prickly pear extract helped reduce fat buildup in the liver and reduce inflammation (
Furthermore, a test-tube study showed that certain antioxidant compounds found in prickly pear could protect against liver damage caused by alcohol (
More human studies are needed, especially using prickly pear fruit and juice rather than extract. Nonetheless, the studies thus far have demonstrated that prickly pear positively affects the liver.
7. Beetroot juice
Beetroot juice is a source of nitrates and antioxidants called betalains, which may benefit heart health and reduce oxidative damage and inflammation (
It’s reasonable to assume that eating beets themselves would have similar health effects. However, most studies use beetroot juice. You can juice beets yourself or buy beetroot juice from the store or online.
Several animal studies have shown that beetroot juice helps reduce oxidative damage and inflammation in the liver (
However, while animal studies look promising, more studies are needed to confirm the benefits of beetroot juice on human liver health.
8. Cruciferous vegetables
Cruciferous vegetables are known for their high fiber content and distinctive taste. They’re also rich in beneficial plant compounds.
Some examples of cruciferous vegetables include:
- Brussels sprouts
Studies suggest that cruciferous vegetables contain certain compounds that alter the detoxification process and protect against harmful compounds (
One animal study also found that broccoli was able to help prevent the development of fatty liver in mice (
Another 2016 study found that mice fed broccoli developed fewer tumors or fatty liver disease than their counterparts in the control group (
Though human studies are limited, cruciferous vegetables look promising as a beneficial food for liver health.
Nuts are rich in several key nutrients, including (
- healthy fats
- vitamin E
- beneficial plant compounds
This composition is responsible for several health benefits, especially for heart health, but also potentially for the liver (
A 2019 study found a diet higher in nuts to be associated with a decreased risk of NAFLD (
Similarly, a study of nearly 24,000 people showed that those who regularly consumed nuts had a lower risk of developing NAFLD than those who ate nuts less frequently (
While more high quality studies are needed, preliminary data points to nuts being an important food group for liver health.
10. Fatty fish
Fatty fish contain omega-3 fatty acids, which are healthy fats that help reduce inflammation and have been associated with a lower risk of heart disease.
A 2016 analysis found that omega-3 fatty acids helped lower liver fat and triglycerides in those with NAFLD or nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (
While consuming omega-3-rich fatty fish appears to be beneficial for your liver, adding more omega-3 fats to your diet is not the only thing to consider.
The ratio of omega-3 fats to omega-6 fats is also important.
Most people exceed the intake recommendations for omega-6 fats, which are found in many plant oils and butter. An omega-6 to omega-3 ratio that’s too high can promote the development of liver disease, according to some animal studies (
Therefore, in addition to adding more heart-healthy omega-3 fats to your diet, it may also be a good idea to reduce your intake of omega-6 fats that promote inflammation.
11. Olive oil
Olive oil is considered a healthy fat because of its many health benefits, including positive effects on the heart and metabolic health (
However, it also has positive effects on the liver (
According to one study, following a Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil could be associated with a reduced risk of fatty liver in older adults (
Several other studies have found similar effects of olive oil consumption in humans, including less fat accumulation in the liver and improved blood levels of liver enzymes (
Fat accumulation in the liver is part of the first stage of liver disease. Therefore, olive oil’s positive effects on liver fat, as well as other aspects of health, make it a valuable part of a healthy diet.
In addition to making changes to your diet, there are several other steps you can take to keep your liver healthy.
A few examples include (51):
- Reach and maintain a moderate weight: Being overweight or having obesity can increase the risk of NAFLD. Therefore, maintaining a moderate weight may help support liver function.
- Stay active: Exercising regularly can help burn triglycerides and reduce liver fat.
- Moderate your alcohol intake: Consuming high amounts of alcohol can negatively affect liver function and cause liver damage. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends limiting alcohol intake to 1 drink per day for women and 2 drinks per day for men (
- Practice good hygiene: Washing your hands after using the bathroom and before eating or preparing food can help prevent certain infections that can damage the liver, including hepatitis.
- Use barrier methods: Having sex without a condom or other barriers can increase the risk of hepatitis B or hepatitis C.
How can I strengthen my liver?
Following a balanced diet, maintaining a moderate weight, and staying active are a few effective ways to help keep your liver healthy. Incorporating nutrient-dense foods into your diet — such as fruits, vegetables, and nuts — may also be beneficial (51).
What foods are good for liver repair?
Many foods contain specific compounds or antioxidants that have been shown to support liver function. A few examples include grapefruit, blueberries, cranberries, fatty fish, olive oil, and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli or Brussels sprouts.
What can I drink to flush my liver?
Though it is not possible to “flush” or detoxify the liver, there are many antioxidant-rich beverages that can help support liver health. In particular, some studies in humans and animals suggest that tea, coffee, and beetroot juice may help promote liver function (
Your liver is an important organ with many essential functions, and it’s recommended that you do what you can to protect it.
The foods listed above have demonstrated beneficial effects on the liver. These benefits include the following:
- a lowered risk of liver disease and cancer
- higher antioxidant and detoxification enzyme levels
- protection against harmful toxins
Incorporating these foods into your diet is a natural and healthy way to help keep your liver functioning at its best.