Medically Reviewed by Neha Pathak, MD on October 25, 2021
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Keep Your Liver Happy

Your body's largest internal organ is an important player. It helps turn food into nutrients. It also filters toxins and breaks them down so your body can get rid of them.  You can make your liver's job easier -- and yourself healthier -- if you eat the right things. A balanced diet with whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and lean protein is a good start.

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Leafy Greens

Free radicals are molecules that can damage your cells and cause problems, including liver disease. Substances called antioxidants can help get rid of them. Leafy greens like spinach, kale, and collards are loaded with antioxidants. They're also packed with fiber, and other things your liver needs.

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Grapefruit

This citrus favorite has powerful antioxidants that may help protect your cells and ease the inflammation that can lead to liver disease. But be careful with it if you take certain medicines for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or mental health. Grapefruit can affect how they work. Talk with your doctor first if you're on meds for any of those things.

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Oatmeal

Foods high in fiber, like this breakfast favorite, can help protect your liver from inflammation. They also may help keep your blood sugar and electrolytes in line. Other good sources of high-fiber whole grains include:

  • Brown rice
  • Unbuttered popcorn
  • 100% whole wheat bread
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Apples

Studies have shown that fruits high in fiber, like apples, may help people who have fatty liver disease, especially those who are obese. Make sure you leave the skin on. That's where most of the fiber is. Other fruits with lots of fiber include:

  • Bananas
  • Oranges
  • Strawberries
  • Raisins  
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Skinless Chicken Breasts

Your body needs protein to build up your organs -- including your liver -- and keep them healthy. But your liver doesn't need a lot of fat. Lean poultry (without the skin) can be a good way to get the protein you need. Grill it or bake it. Don't fry it.

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Salmon

It's loaded with protein, but that's not all. This popular fish also has omega-3 fatty acids, which may lower your cholesterol, ease inflammation, and help you stay at a healthy weight. All of those things help your liver. Aim for two to four servings of salmon a week.

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Walnuts

Nuts can be a good snack choice for your liver. Walnuts, in particular, are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and fiber. But a little goes a long way. Aim for only about 10 walnuts a day. The fat and calories can add up if you munch on too many.

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Beans

You don't have to eat meat to get protein. You can get it, and plenty of fiber, from beans. And they don't have the “bad” saturated fats found in some protein that comes from animals.

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Healthy Oils

Take unhealthy saturated and trans fats, like butter and margarine, out of your diet. Sub in better choices. For example, go with extra-virgin olive oil and canola oil for cooking and baking. Watch the amounts, though. A light touch may be enough.

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Coffee

Your morning habit may not just get your day going, it might also help keep your liver healthy. Scientists aren't sure why, but studies show that a few cups a day may lower your chances of liver cancer. Researchers are also looking into whether certain chemicals in coffee may help slow down conditions like cirrhosis, liver fibrosis, and other types of chronic liver disease.

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Green Tea

This trendy favorite has antioxidants and other chemicals that may help protect your liver from cell damage and inflammation. Drinking it regularly may lower your chances of fatty liver disease, hepatitis, cirrhosis, and chronic liver disease. But avoid supplements of green tea extract because of reports of liver damage.

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Water

This makes up 73% of your liver, so it's important to make sure you have enough in your system to keep it working the way it should. A lack of water can hurt your kidneys, too. That can take a toll.

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What Not to Eat

Along with eating the right foods, it's also important to stay away from the wrong ones. The biggest threats to your liver include foods that are:

  • Fried
  • High in saturated fat
  • Processed

Keep an eye on alcohol. In general, women should have no more than one adult beverage a day, and men no more than two. But talk to your doctor about what's right for you.

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Don't 'Detox'

A “cleanse” might sound like a good idea, but there's no proof that any special diet will help get toxins out of your liver. Your liver does a good job of that already. And some “detox” diets can cause side effects like cramping, nausea, or dehydration. They can also keep you from getting enough vitamins or minerals. If you're looking for a healthy change of pace, you could take “bad” fats and sugar out of your diet or cut out alcohol.

Show Sources

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SOURCES:

PubMed Health: “How Does The Liver Work?”

American Liver Foundation: “Liver Disease Diets: How You Should Eat If You Have …,” “Alcohol and Your Liver.”

National Library of Medicine: Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine: “Plants Consumption and Liver Health.”

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: “How To Get Your Kids To Eat Dark Leafy Greens,” “In a Nutshell.”

Institute For Liver Health: “3 Great Foods For Your Liver.”

Harvard Health Publishing: “Grapefruit and Medication: A Cautionary Note.”

FamilyDoctor.org: “Fiber: How to Increase the Amount in Your Diet.”

Advances In Nutrition: “Impact of Dietary Fibers on Nutrient Management and Detoxification Organs: Gut, Liver, and Kidneys.”

PubMed.gov: “Fruit Fiber Consumption Specifically Improves Liver Health Status in Obese Subjects under Energy Restriction.”

Mayo Clinic: Nutrition and Healthy Eating: “Chart of High-Fiber Foods,” “Do Detox Diets Offer Any Health Benefits?”

Kids Health: “Learning About Proteins.”

Love Your Liver: “Diet.”

World Journal of Gastroenterology: “Oily Fish, Coffee and Walnuts: Dietary Treatment for nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease.”

American Heart Association: “The Benefits of Beans and Legumes.”

Cleveland Clinic: “Health Essentials: Heart-Healthy Cooking: Oils 101.”

British Liver Trust: “Coffee Consumption and the Liver – the Potential Health Benefits.”

National Library of Medicine.

International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Medicine: “The Effect of Green Tea Intake On Risk of Liver Disease: A Meta Analysis.”

EDWCA: “Hydration.”

The Hepatitis C Trust: “Diet.”