The countdown is on and if like most, you are indulging in a little more food, prosecco, wine, mince pies or chocolates, then this post is a must read for you.
Your liver is your largest internal organ and largely responsible for vital metabolic functions such as breaking down substances and making toxins less harmful to the body. Your liver is a bit like the sorting office where it determines which nutrients should be processed, stored or eliminated via the stool/urine and what should go back to the blood. It is also involved in various other processes, some of which include storing extra blood glucose as glycogen and helping to break down old and damaged red blood cells, making bile and storing nutrients, such as copper, iron and more.
To simplify things as much as possible, the liver’s detoxification process involves 3 phases:
The first phase is all about oxidising substances, such as alcohol, caffeine, oral contraceptive pill and other medication, paint, fumes, etc. to make them less harmful to the body.
- Converting volatile toxins into smaller substances in order for them to be detoxified
- Making toxins water-soluble in order to enter Phase 2
This is where you want to increase antioxidant rich foods to combat the oxidation.
The second phase is all about conjugation, which uses 6 different pathways to take the water-soluble phase 1 metabolite out of your body through your bile, urine and stool.
- hooking up unwanted toxins and substances to small nutrient groups, each dependant on the six different pathways (glucuronidation, acetylation, esterification, amino acid conjugation, sulfation and glutathione conjugation)
This is where you want to increase cruciferous vegetables, onions, garlic, protein, etc.
The last phase is all about transporting the phase 2 conjugates to either your kidneys for further filtration, or out through your small intestine with bile to be eliminated via stool.
In order for this phase to work you need:
- adequate hydration
- a healthy functioning GI system, so good healthy poop!
So, when you enjoy your morning coffee/tea and your evening glass of Prosecco/wine, you will be activating Phase 1. The problem is that if you are lacking the key nutrients to support Phase 2, then you might be running into some difficulties as these ‘toxins’ might not be clearing out as intended, which can then result in headaches, fatigue, brain fog, hormonal imbalances and increase in hot flashes if you are going through menopause.
The key objective therefore is to ensure that you have all the right nutrients to support these different phases, antioxidants for Phase 1, cruciferous, garlic, onions, protein and more for Phase 2 and water for Phase 3. So rather than waiting till January when your liver might be feeling super sluggish, why don’t you start by incorporating my top five liver loving foods to give your liver a little helping hand over the festive season!
So here goes!
Cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli are amongst the vegetables that offer the most wide-ranging health benefits. They contain large amounts of the phytonutrient glucoraphanin, which is metabolised into its metabolically active form sulforaphane. Sulforaphane is known to induce phase 2 liver enzymes and therefore has the ability to improve detoxification. If this isn’t enough, this superfood is rich in powerful phytonutrients, vitamin A and vitamin C.
Additional benefits of broccoli:
- A good source of fibre
- Good for your bones (a wonderful source of calcium!)
- Helps to calm/support the nervous system (good source of magnesium)
- Optimises eye health (source of vitamin A)
- Antioxidant (selenium, vitamin C, E)
- Supports cardiovascular health
- Cancer prevention properties
TWJ Top Tip
Steam for 5 minutes and not much longer. You can also sprout broccoli seeds, which not only support detoxification, but also help to balance hormones.
Ancient Egyptians believed that Garlic enhanced the endurance and strength of the slaves that built the pyramids. Throughout the millennia garlic has been used for both its culinary and medicinal properties. Just a small amount of ‘stinking rose’ daily can help to activate liver enzymes as well as protect liver cells from toxic agents. When garlic is crushed or chopped, it produces organosulfur compounds known as allicin, alliin and ajoeine. These compounds are phytonutrients that contain anti-oxidant and anti-microbial properties.
Additional benefits of garlic include:
- lowering oxidative stress
- promoting anti-inflammatory support
- anti-bacterial/viral properties
- healthy weight control
- helping to upregulate certain key pathways in your liver
TWJ top tip
Let your chopped/crushed garlic stand for 10-15 minutes before adding it to your food as this helps to activate the phytonutrient, allicin.
I always like to think of beetroot as the liver’s best friend. Maybe it is the beautiful red pigment, that reminds me of the liver. Interestingly, the betalin pigment in beet is a wonderful antioxidant, making it the perfect support for Phase 1. Furthermore it also contains high concentrations of one of our most important amino acids, known as glutamine, thereby making it a great Phase 2 support, so a brilliant choice all round.
Additional benefits of beetroot:
- Antioxidant (good source of vitamin C and manganese)
- Anti-inflammatory (by inhibiting the activity of cyclo oxygenase enzymes: COX-1 and COX-2)
- Rich in phytonutrients (betacyanins)
- Supports healthy cardiovascular function (high in nitric oxide)
- Supports healthy cerebrovascular blood flow and thus cognitive function (due to the nitric oxide)
TWJ top tip
You can enjoy it raw, roasted, in a smoothie or juiced.
4. Green Tea
Produced mainly in Asia, green tea is one of the most popular drinks consumed worldwide and its potential health benefits have been widely studied. Green tea is rich in healthy promoting flavonoids such as catechins. The most abundant catechin in green tea is epigallocatechins-3-gallate, better known as EGCG, which plays a pivotal role in green teas antioxidant effects.
Additional benefits of green tea, especially EGCG:
- Decreases oxidative stress
- Anti-viral properties
- Protective against metabolic syndrome
- Enhances energy metabolism
- Can impact lipid metabolism and has been shown to decrease triglycerides and total cholesterol
TWJ Top tip
Aim for 2-3 cups each day, but remember that it does contain caffeine, so is best to be drunk before midday or 1pm, otherwise it could impact sleep.
Not for everyone and most certainly to be avoided if you are taking any pharmaceutical drugs. Compounds within the grapefruit impacts the normal detoxification and metabolism process and interferes with the body’s ability to breakdown and eliminate these drugs.
Having said that, if you are not taking any pharmaceutical drugs, then this is definitely a fruit that you should be including in your diet as often as possible. Grapefruit contain the phytonutrient lycopene, which provides protection against free radical damage. Grapefruits main function is to help flush toxins out of the body without them causing damage to the body. It is also believed to prevent damage to the liver through its antioxidant properties.
Additional benefits of Grapefruit:
- Antioxidant properties (high in vitamin C & A)
- Supports immune function
- May reduce the risk of kidney stones
- Cardiovascular benefits (fairly high in potassium)
TWJ Top Tip
When choosing a grapefruit, look for the ones that are heavier in weight for their size as this can indicate that they have thinner skin and therefore juicier flesh.
The TWJ top five liver loving foods are really easy to incorporate into your daily diet, so where possible make a concerted effort to include these over the festive period.