Alcohol has always been considered the liver’s worst enemy. But did you know that sugar can do just as much damage to your liver when consumed in excess?
There is a rising scientific understanding that one of the most common types of sugar called fructose can be extremely harmful to the liver. Fructose is what makes fruit sweet, but don’t let that stop you from eating your five a day, it’s fine in its natural form, so no excuses! It’s fructose that has been extracted, concentrated, and turned into added sugar that you need to avoid. Almost all added sugars contain significant amounts of fructose. Table sugar and even sweeteners that sound healthy, like organic cane sugar, have approximately 50% fructose.
Unlike glucose (the other type of sugar), which can be metabolized in every cell in the body, fructose can only be metabolized in the liver, as this is the only organ that can transport it.
Similarly with alcohol, a little added fructose, consumed with fiber-rich foods, is perfectly fine. It’s only when we frequently consume large quantities in concentrated form, that fructose becomes a health hazard.
How do you know if you have a liver problem?
You should start to be concerned if you or your children have a “sugar belly” or belly fat. If your waist is larger than your hips you should consult with your doctor and ask for a blood test to check your triglyceride levels.
A sugar belly is the result of more fructose than can be used by the liver and transformed into fat (triglycerides), some of which are exported into the bloodstream and accumulated around your tummy and internal organs.
Fat cells that build up around your middle send out disruptive hormonal messages that upset your body’s normal chemical balance. Scientists are studying how these hormonal imbalances become associated with a wider variety of diseases, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease.
How to detox for a healthy liver:
So, there’s no surprise that we suggest you cut down on sugar, especially added sugar, but what foods should you be eating for a healthy liver?
It may not be great for your breath, but it certainly is for your liver! Just a small amount of garlic (especially if raw) has the ability to activate liver enzymes that help your body flush out toxins. This pungent little bulb also holds high amounts of allicin and selenium, two types of natural compounds that aid in cleansing the liver.
Citrus fruits such as grapefruit, lemons, limes, and oranges are high in both vitamin C and antioxidants, which support the natural cleansing of the liver. An easy way to get in on this zesty action is by having a glass of freshly squeezed grapefruit juice, add water if it’s too sharp, and make it part of your daily routine. This will help boost production of the liver detoxification enzymes that help flush out carcinogens and other toxins.
Beetroot is extremely high in plant-flavonoids and beta-carotene. Eating beetroot can stimulate and support the overall liver function, plus they’re a very tasty and colourful addition to any meal. Get your kids to eat more beets by playing on the fact that it turns their food pink!
Finally a drink that our liver loves! Green tea is full of plant-based antioxidants known as catechins, compounds that assist liver function. Green tea is a healthy addition to any diet, but it’s worth noting that green tea extract does not offer the same benefits; so, keep it simple and stick with the drink.
Leafy green vegetables:
Eaten raw, cooked, or juiced, leafy greens such as spinach and kale are powerful allies when it comes to cleansing the liver. Greens are high in chlorophyll, which soaks up environmental toxins from the blood stream, and protects the liver.
Not only is avocado super tasty, it’s got even more super properties. This much loved superfood helps the body produce glutathione, a compound that is necessary for the liver to cleanse harmful toxins.
High in pectin, apples contain the chemical constituents that are necessary for the body to cleanse and release toxins from the digestive tract. This makes it easier for the liver to manage toxic load during the cleansing process. I guess an apple a day really does keep the doctor away!
Cold-pressed organic oils such as olive, hemp, and flaxseed are great for the liver when used in moderation. They help the body by providing a lipid base that can absorb harmful toxins in the body, thus taking some of the burden off of the liver.
These are all reasons to keep your intake of added sugar, and sugar in general, down to a minimum. Eat lots of fibre-rich foods, and keep your diet balanced, it’s OK to have a little sugary treat from time to time, but don’t overindulge.
If you’re keen to keep your body fit and healthy, and are interested in natural foods and products, why not check out our article on Sweeteners to Avoid & Healthy Alternatives, for tips and valuable information on living a healthy and natural lifestyle!