The 4 best vegetables for the liver, say dietitians: eat this, not that

The liver is an essential organ with a variety of functions that include aiding in the digestion and metabolism of food, storing vitamins and minerals, clearing toxins from the blood, and synthesizing proteins. Although the liver has the unique ability to regenerate itself after damage, it is not invincible and your food and drink choices can have a big impact on this organ.

There are many nutrient-rich foods that benefit the liver, and one particularly important food group is vegetables. Read on for the four best vegetables for your liver, and to learn more, don’t miss the best breakfast habits to reduce liver fat, dietitians say.

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Some may find the flavor of this vegetable a little too “earthy” and while it may not appeal to everyone’s palate, beets are packed with nutrients that support liver health. Research indicates that beet juice is a “health-promoting” and “disease-preventing” beverage and may be particularly helpful for liver health. One study specifically looked at the impact of beets on liver health and found that beet juice can help protect the liver against certain classes of carcinogens.

Although more is known about the impact of beets on the liver, current data suggests that certain antioxidants found in red beets, called betalains, have anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties. It’s important to note that this finding is specific to red beets, and other beet varieties, such as golden beets, may not have the same levels of antioxidants.

Eat this!: Roasting and pickling are the most popular ways to eat beets, while beet juice provides the highest concentration of nutrients found in beets.

broccoli
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Of course, all vegetables are good, but specific nutrients found in cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, seem to be especially helpful for liver integrity. A study in mice found that those fed broccoli had more positive liver metrics and a lower incidence of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and liver tumors. Although the exact mechanism for this result is not confirmed, it is likely that they are thanks to the unique plant compounds found in broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables.

Eat this!: Broccoli can be enjoyed raw or cooked, and can even be shredded to enjoy as a sausage. It can also be a complement to quiche and pasta dishes or added to a salad or served as a side dish; there are so many ways to incorporate broccoli into your meal plan.

RELATED: I Did a Broccoli Cleanse and It Changed My Body for the Better

Brussels sprouts
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Another cruciferous vegetable, Brussels sprouts have become a more popular vegetable in recent years, and for good reason. While Brussels sprouts can improve digestion and provide tons of vitamins and minerals, they also contain plant-based compounds that have been shown to aid liver function.

In one study, raw Brussels fed to mice appeared to increase the levels of detoxifying enzymes in the liver and lungs. These detoxifying properties appear to be higher in uncooked Brussels sprouts; however, research indicates that even when cooked, Brussels sprouts retain the ability to induce these detoxifying enzymes. Glucosinolates are a unique compound found in cruciferous vegetables that participate in enzymatic reactions that can detoxify the body’s carcinogenic compounds.

Eat this!: Brussels sprouts are most commonly enjoyed after being roasted, sautéed or steamed; however, it may be beneficial to incorporate more raw Brussels sprouts into your diet. Shaved Brussels sprouts can easily be added to a salad for added crunch and nutrients.

cabbage and spinach
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This group of vegetables includes kale, spinach and cabbage, which can be beneficial for overall well-being, including liver health. Like the other vegetables on this list, green leafy vegetables are full of antioxidants that protect the body from dangerous free radicals.

In addition to decreasing the impact of free radicals on the body, some green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, appear to provide more specific benefits for the liver. A recent study found that consuming raw spinach reduced the risk of NAFLD, and the more spinach participants consumed, the lower their risk of the disease. Although cooked spinach still provides many essential nutrients, such as fiber, in this study, cooked spinach was not found to have as significant an impact on reducing the risk of NAFLD.

Eat this!: Leafy greens can be added to a salad or smoothie to enjoy raw, or they can be cooked in a variety of ways. Although this study focused specifically on spinach, all green leafy vegetables contain chlorophyll, a compound that can help the liver neutralize toxic compounds and chemicals.

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