Yesterday, October 4, was National Vodka Day. Did you celebrate? If so, listen up.
You may not feel it now, but eventually the happy hours, pub crawls and Sunday fun-days are gonna catch up with you. Sure, everyone's got a hangover remedy, a fix for the morning after, but what about the long run? What about your poor liver, you party animal? We've all heard that red wine is good for the heart as it contains some antioxidants, but it's not so great for the largest glandular organ in the human body. The liver has some pretty big responsibilities like making bile to help breakdown food, killing germs and removing toxic chemicals, according to the American Liver Foundation.
Since October is National Liver Awareness Month, here are our top 5 favorite foods that maintain and support liver function.
5. Broccoli & Cauliflower: Broccoli and cauliflower are packed with antioxidants and contain glucosinolates, which help the liver to produce enzymes required in the detoxification process. Whether steamed, drizzled with cheese or dipped in ranch, make sure you eat your cruciferous veggies! Dr. Oz recommends eating four servings a week, so if you're craving Chinese, opt for the beef and broccoli. Your liver will thank you.
4. Garlic & Onion:
Ever since my mom bought one of those ceramic graters for me at the Houston Ballet's Nutcracker Market, I put garlic in everything. Sure, I have to brush more often, but it keeps the vampires away. Garlic has natural antibiotic and antibacterial properties and can therefore remove potentially harmful substances from your body. Garlic also helps produce bile, which reduces fat levels in your liver. Onions, along with garlic, are members of the Allium family. The sulfur containing compounds aid in the liver's detox process. That's nothing to cry about.
3. Asparagus: While it might make your pee smell funny, it's doing wonders for your liver. A 2009 study found that asparagus bolstered the activities of ADH and ALDH, two enzymes that act as liver janitors, mopping up excess ethanol. Asparagus can even help take the edge off the brutal hangover, according to the Institute of Food Technologists. They say "the amino acids and minerals found in asparagus extract may alleviate alcohol hangover and protect liver cells against toxins." If you're planning on drinking, try to include asparagus in your lunch or dinner to get your body into toxic breakdown mode.
2. Beets: According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, beets are the richest source of betaine, a natural liver detoxifier and bile thinner which enables it to flow more easily through the liver and small intestine. Betaine may also help protect against harmful fatty deposits. I never really ate beets before I had them roasted in a salad with goat cheese and walnuts, and now, I'm a super-fan. As the beet song goes, "I'm a big old beet, I'm red but not embarrassed and I am good with meat..."
1. Artichoke: Artichoke is also a bile producer, along with garlic and onions, thanks to the chemical cynarin which increases the flow. It's also very high in antioxidants, according to a study found in the June 9, 2004 edition of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. Of the top 20 common foods with the most antioxidants, artichoke came in at No. 7 with a total antioxidant capacity per serving size (one cup of hearts) of 7,904.
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Whether you're an occasional or pretty regular drinker, try to incorporate these foods into your diet to help your liver carry out its very important functions. Be good to your liver; it loves you and works very hard.
What is your favorite way to cook broccoli? Do you like onions raw or caramelized? Are you a fan of the beet's earthy flavor? If a local pizza joint made a liver-detox pizza: garlic, onion, asparagus, beets and artichoke hearts on an olive oil-drizzled thin crust, topped with different cheeses...would you try it?