The Nutritionist: Love Your Liver

Christmas

Another countdown to freak us out a bit: 38 days 'til Christmas! Now be honest - how many days out of those 38 are you likely to have a drink? Pick a category: 1-5, 6-10, 11-15, 16-20 (really?), 21-25 (how are you still working?) or 26+ (!?).

And if maths has never been your strong subject, out of those 38 days there are six Fridays and five Saturdays so that's 11.

I'm doing some guesswork here, but I think most of you are going to be higher than 11. So I'm calling in a love-your-liver campaign!

Your liver is an amazing organ and with more than 500 functions definitely one that can multitask. One of the most important functions of the liver is to break down all that delicious food and drink, convert it into energy, and clear out the body of all those nasty waste products and toxins.

In case you didn't know, alcohol is a drug and a toxin, and in order for your liver to break down alcohol into a safe substance, it produces an enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH). Research suggests the level of ADH in our body actually differs by gender, which explains why it's so hard for females to keep up with their male drinking buddies. Excess alcohol can cause high blood pressure, irritation of the gastrointestinal lining, central nervous system disorders, depression and anxiety, and much more. I'm painting a black picture here, but I think you get it. And let's not forget all the hangover food you tend to eat after a night out in town. It puts more strain on your liver, less cash in your wallet (Christmas shopping!), and more fat around your waist.

Now my pre-Christmas love-your-liver campaign involves three key parts.

  1. Limit your intake of alcohol so you can fit into one of the lower drinking days categories above. (And this doesn't mean drinking the same amount over fewer days.)
  2. Top up your diet with at least five portions of liver-loving foods per day important to support the liver detoxification process.
  3. Cut down your intake of liver-hating foods (and swap for liver-loving-foods).

A and C are pretty simple. The killer question is B. What shall you eat to specifically support your liver?

 

So here are my top 10 liver-loving-foods. One portion equals 80g or ½ - 1 cup.

  1. Broccoli and broccoli sprouts
  2. Garlic
  3. Onions
  4. Ginger
  5. Green leafy vegetables (like spinach, kale)
  6. Fruits (like pears, berries, mangos)
  7. Watercress
  8. Cabbage
  9. Lemons
  10. Sesame seeds

And while you're including more of these, why not also decrease some of the non-liver-loving foods, like caffeine, sugar, processed foods, chocolate, mince pies, foods high in saturated and trans-fats (bacon butty?) and, of course, alcohol.

 

Your liver, your wallet and your waistline will benefit. You'll look and feel great - and have more money for Christmas shopping!