Your liver is constantly breaking down toxins and poisons from your blood, Which are then released through your urine or stool. There are some dangerous toxins found in foods that cause inflammation and damage to the liver cells (hepatocytes). Eating too many of these over time causes the liver to become clogged up with fat (triglycerides). And eventually scar tissue can form (fibrosis & cirrhosis), which blocks the liver from doing its job. Causing a cascade of health problem such as excessive weight gain, high blood pressure, higher risk of stroke, diabetes, hormone imbalance and so much more.
Today we are exploring the 10 most liver damaging foods and ingredients, and suggesting some healthier replacements. Just a quick reminder this article is for educational purposes only, so do speak to your doctor if you have any medical concerns.
1. Soy Protein
One of the most dangerous liver damaging food additives is a powder called ‘soy protein isolates’. This is often added to protein bars, diet shakes, protein powders, veggie burgers, vegan meat substitutes and bodybuilding supplements. Soy protein is very cheap and is highly processed from soy beans, using a chemical solvent called hexane, which causes inflammation in the liver cells.
A heavy metal called aluminium is also used to separate the soy protein from the beans, which is also harmful for the liver, brain and bones. An average active human only needs around 100g of protein per day, so get it from whole foods like pasture raised eggs, wild salmon, grass fed beef and organic meats.
2. Vegetable Oils
Vegetable fats/oils are actually processed and extracted from grains and beans like soybeans, corn, cottonseed, canola, peanut, safflower etc.. These seeds are sprayed heavily with chemical pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides like glyphosate which are damaging to the liver. The high omega 6 content also makes these oils very fragile, so when you cook it, it oxidises easily and forms dangerous compounds like AGE’s. That can become sticky in your blood, and clog up the cells of the liver, the brain, the heart and other organs.
Vegetable oils are in snack foods like chips, crackers, popcorn, baked foods, fried foods, processed meats, salad dressings, margarine etc… To replace these I recommend cooking your own healthier meals at home using liver friendly oils like extra virgin olive oil, cold pressed avocado oil or raw coconut oil. For high heat cooking, consider using grass fed tallow/lard, as these saturated fats are cleaner, more stable and less likely to cause inflammation in the liver.
Alcohol is well known as one of the most dangerous things for the liver, triggering a build-up of fat inside known as fatty liver disease. When you drink alcohol it is transported through your blood to the liver where it is converted to a toxic compound called Acetaldehyde that harms the liver cells.
Alcohol prevents you from losing weight, as your body has to turn alcohol into fuel and burn it before it can tap into your fat stores. So stop consuming alcohol as much as possible, and when you do drink, do not binge because this puts excessive strain on your liver. Healthier alternatives that make you feel relaxed include passionflower tea and fermented foods like grass fed cheese, sugar free dark chocolate and kombucha tea.
Ketchup and other table sauces are often loaded with a sweetener called HFCS (high fructose corn syrup). Unlike glucose which is used by most cells in the body, fructose is directly sent to your liver to metabolise. A little fructose from natural fruits and berries is fine, however this processed corn syrup overloads the liver and has been shown to trigger fatty liver disease.
Unfortunately over 80% of packaged foods now contain a form of fructose as the sweetener especially soda drinks, beer and syrups. which is causing more people to gain weight, suffer from liver disease, diabetes and insulin resistance. Fructose also raises uric acid levels, which can trigger gout and kidney stones. So try to overcome your sweet addiction, and opt for healthier alternatives, like stevia sweetened soda, kombucha tea and homemade meat marinades.
5. Aflatoxins (Peanuts, Corn, Grains)
Aflatoxins are toxic compounds released by certain molds which can contaminate various foods such as peanuts, peanut butter, and corn. Consuming too many of these toxins can harm the liver, and has been shown to cause DNA damage, liver disease and an increased risk of cancer. To avoid aflatoxins, you can use organic Valencia or Jungle peanuts/peanut butter. Sprouting or fermenting corn, grains, nuts and legumes can also eliminate mold toxins making them much safer for your body.
Prepackaged foods and processed foods often use fillers, bulking agents, thickeners or preservatives to improve the texture. Maltodextrin & Dextrose for example are actually synthetically processed sugars, which are higher than table sugar on the glycaemic index. This means that they cause a surge in blood sugars which can damages the hepatocytes in the liver, leading to insulin resistance and excessive cravings for sugar.
These are often added to baby milk formulas, ready meals, beef jerky, medications and supplements, soups, chips, dry rubs, dressings, sauces, beer, cakes and puddings. Try to cook your own food with fresh ingredients. Eating Vitamin C rich foods like peppers, leafy greens and berries can help to reverse oxidative damage caused by these synthetic fillers.
7. Mercury (Fish)
Mercury is a heavy metal that can slowly accumulate inside the liver over time, which can disrupt the normal production of enzymes, It also causes cellular damage, inflammation and blocks the liver from detoxifying other harmful substances from the body.
Mercury is found highly concentrated in fish that are higher in the food chain such as shark, swordfish, king mackerel, tilefish, bigeye tuna and marlin. Limit your consumption of these high-mercury fish to once per month or less, and focus on eating fish lower in the food chain such as wild salmon, sardines, anchovies and cod. Pregnant/nursing mothers are often more sensitive to mercury, so it’s important to keep mercury out of the diet as much as possible.
8. MSG (Fast/Prepackaged Foods)
Monosodium glutamate is a flavour enhancer which is often used in fast foods and prepackaged foods to make them taste better. Although a little MSG doesn’t cause much harm, the fact that it is being hidden in most foods causes us to consume much more than we think. For example its hidden under different labels such as “modified food starch“, “natural flavouring“, “yeast extract“ “calcium glutamate“ and many others.
High amounts of MSG has been shown in studies to increase fat stored in the liver, and visceral fat around the organs. This leads to inflammation in the liver and excessive weight gain especially if you consider that it also causes you to eat more because of how it makes foods more mouth-wateringly tasty.
9. Energy Drinks (Sweeteners/Caffeine)
Nowadays energy drinks have become very popular to help improve mental focus and supply energy to the body. Unfortunately these drinks do not actually boost energy output from the mitochondria in your cells. Instead they rely on high amounts a caffeine, a stimulant which supresses the feeling of tiredness by blocking adenosine receptors. But it doesn’t actually give you more energy.
Unfortunately drinking too much caffeine from energy drinks causes dehydration, thickening the blood and raising the risk of developing fatty liver disease. Many energy drinks also boast high amounts of potassium, however the type of potassium used is usually acesulfame potassium, an artificial sweetener, Which can disrupt the normal balance of microbes in the body, and impair liver function.
Studies show artificial sweeteners like acesulfame and aspartame cause insulin resistance, weight gain and blood sugar problems. Quit the energy drinks, and find yourself a high quality electrolyte powder instead which contains at least 1000mg of potassium citrate and 100mg of magnesium citrate. These will actually help produce more electrical energy ATP in your cells.
Balancing Your Diet
Now it’s important that I explain. While it is impossible to eliminate all of these foods from your diet, you should be approaching your diet and lifestyle with a sense of balance. Becoming aware of what harms your body, is the first step into cutting these things back and replacing them with healthier alternatives. By introducing the right nutrients, antioxidants and whole food into your diet, you can support your liver by helping it to detoxify some of these poisons.
For example, eating a salad daily which contains organic none gmo-cruciferous vegetables can supply sulforaphane and dim, chemicals that clean out your liver, And help it to detoxify poisons. The liver is one of the only organs that can completely heal and regenerate, And there are actually many other foods and nutrients that you can focus on to help clean the liver out naturally.