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.
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.
Best foods to eat for your liver
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 health concerns related to this organ.
Drinking coffee may also help reduce the risk of developing a common type of liver cancer, according to a 2016 research review. It also has positive effects on liver disease and inflammation.
The researchers found that it’s even associated with a lower risk of death in people with chronic liver disease. The greatest benefits are seen in people who drink at least 3 cups of coffee daily.
These benefits seem to stem from its ability to prevent the buildup of fat and collagen, the 2016 review suggests. Fat and collagen are two of the main markers of liver disease.
Tea is widely considered to be beneficial for health, but evidence has shown that it may have particular benefits for the liver.
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.
Nevertheless, some people, especially those with liver problems, should exercise caution and talk with a doctor before consuming green tea as a supplement.
Grapefruit contains antioxidants that naturally protect the liver. The two main antioxidants found in grapefruit are naringenin and naringin.
The protective effects of grapefruit are known to occur in two ways — by reducing inflammation and protecting cells.
According to a 2023 analysis, studies have also shown that these antioxidants can help reduce the development of hepatic fibrosis. Hepatic fibrosis is a harmful condition in which excessive connective tissue builds up in the liver. This typically results from chronic inflammation.
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, according to the 2023 analysis.
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, which are antioxidants that give berries their distinctive colors. They’ve also been linked to many health benefits.
One 2021 study found that taking a cranberry supplement for six months improved hepatic steatosis, or fatty liver, in people with NAFLD.
What’s more, blueberry extract has been shown to inhibit the growth of human liver cancer cells in test-tube studies. But 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.
A 2020 study in rats suggests that grapes and grape juice can have various benefits, though it’s unclear whether the results of animal studies mean the same in humans.
Benefits may include:
- lowering inflammation
- preventing cell damage
- increasing antioxidant levels
Yet, a 2022 study suggests that eating grape products doesn’t have a significant effect on liver enzymes and may not help improve liver function.
More studies are needed before taking grapeseed extract to promote liver health can be recommended.
6. Prickly pear
It has long been used in traditional medicine as a treatment for the following conditions:
- digestive issues
- liver disease
A 2016 study found that the extract of this plant might help manage symptoms of a hangover.
Prickly pear might also protect the liver from alcohol toxicity, with its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
More human studies are needed, especially using prickly pear fruit and juice rather than extract. But studies so far have demonstrated that prickly pear positively affects the liver.
7. Beetroot juice
Beetroot juice is a source of nitrates and antioxidants called betalains.
Animal studies have shown that beet juice may help reduce oxidative damage and inflammation of 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.
In a 2016 study, mice that were fed broccoli developed fewer tumors or fatty liver disease than the mice 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
These nutrients are responsible for several health benefits.
A 2019 study found a diet higher in nuts to be associated with a reduced risk of NAFLD.
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 one animal study.
So, 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.
It also positively affects the liver.
According to a study from 2018, 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. That’s why olive oil’s positive effects on liver fat, as well as other aspects of health, make it a valuable part of a healthy diet.
What else can you do to keep your liver healthy?
In addition to making changes to your diet, you can keep your liver healthy in other ways.
A few examples include:
- Reach and maintain a moderate weight: Being overweight or having obesity can increase the risk of NAFLD. Maintaining a moderate weight may help support liver function.
- Stay active: Exercising regularly can help lower 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 one drink per day for women and two 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.