During the holidays, I find myself indulging in the sweetness of life with a little too many rich treats and inebriating drinks, like my mom’s famous persimmon pudding and my friend’s spiked kombucha cocktails. After the fact, I can’t help but wonder about how my body is managing these indulgences. As someone who is passionate about wellness and curious about how our magical bodies function, I set out to learn the best ways to help my organs do their internal clean up work from all my partying.

Livers do much of our body’s clean up work.
Livers do much of our body’s clean up work. (Lila Volkas)

First, I want to express gratitude to my liver, one of the hardest working organs in the body. I found out that the liver has three main functions: to help digest nutrients, to make proteins and to get rid of toxins. Everything we eat or drink has to be broken down into different chemicals before it can help (or harm) our bodies. The liver copes with the damaging substances we ingest or imbibe, such as preservatives, pesticides, and antibiotics by packaging them for safe disposal through urine or bile. The unfortunate truth is that alcohol and sugar are two of the hardest things for our livers to process, so when indulging, here are some foods that can naturally help our hardworking livers continue to thrive.

You’re the best, liver!
You’re the best, liver! (Lila Volkas)

Beets

Beets are high in plant flavonoids, a nutrient group that is known for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. These antioxidants help eliminate free radicals (or toxins) from our body. The richly red root vegetable is high in pectin, which can help flush out harmful substances that have been removed by the liver instead of allowing them to be reabsorbed by the body. I love beets on my salad, in a comforting bowl of beet borscht or in a juice blend.

Beets help detoxify the liver.
Beets help detoxify the liver. (Lila Volkas)

Lemons

Lemons are also full of antioxidants as well as vitamin C. They aid your liver in producing enzymes, which can increase energy and help digestion. With lemons’ alkalizing nature they also neutralize toxins, eliminate waste and kick-start the digestive process. Every morning, I sip on warm water with lemon to help finish off the work my liver has done overnight and get my digestive juices ready for breakfast.

Lemons aid your liver in producing enzymes, which can increase energy and help digestion.
Lemons aid your liver in producing enzymes, which can increase energy and help digestion. (Lila Volkas)

Avocados

Avocados promote our bodies’ production of glutathione, the mother of all antioxidants, which is used for the filtration and detoxification of damaging substances. One of many ways to experience this silky fruit (or vegetable depending on your definition) is in a colorful salad perfect for the holidays.

Avocados promote our bodies’ production of glutathione, the mother of all antioxidants.
Avocados promote our bodies’ production of glutathione, the mother of all antioxidants. (Lila Volkas)

Walnuts

Walnuts are another great source of glutathione as well as omega-3 fatty acids, which helps detoxify the liver of disease-causing ammonia. In fact, walnut hulls are often used in liver-cleansing capsules or tincture formulas because of their ability to oxygenate the blood. I enjoy adding walnuts to homemade granola for breakfast.

Walnuts are another great source of glutathione as well as omega-3 fatty acids
Walnuts are another great source of glutathione as well as omega-3 fatty acids. (Lila Volkas)

Garlic

Garlic helps to launch enzymes in the liver to assist in the process of digestion and eliminating toxins. It is full of selenium, a naturally detoxifying mineral and allicin which help fend off immune system enemies. This garlic soup is a perfect warming dish for the colder months.

Garlic helps to launch enzymes in the liver in assisting digestion and getting rid of toxins.
Garlic helps to launch enzymes in the liver in assisting digestion and getting rid of toxins. (Lila Volkas)

Leafy Greens

Greens are full of chlorophyll that assists in lightening the load on the liver by purifying the blood. Some of my favorites are kale, chard, arugula and collard greens. These nutrient dense veggies can also help neutralize the metal, chemicals and pesticides that are often in our foods. Leafy greens are a staple in my foodscape and I often sauté them. Here is a great basic recipe to get you started.

Greens are full of chlorophyll that assists in lightening the load on the liver by purifying the blood.
Greens are full of chlorophyll that assists in lightening the load on the liver by purifying the blood. (Lila Volkas)

Apples

Apples contain a high content of pectin that assists in flushing undesirable toxins from the digestive system. Fruit pectin is also helpful in removing heavy metals, such as mercury and lead from the body. Besides enjoying apples as a crunchy liver boosting snack, you can also try making apple butter to enjoy in yogurt or on toast!

Apples contain a high content of pectin that assists in flushing undesirable toxins from the digestive system.
Apples contain a high content of pectin that assists in flushing undesirable toxins from the digestive system. (Lila Volkas)

Dandelion Root

You know those yellow flowers that pop up in our gardens and grassy fields? Their roots are a fantastic digestive stimulant and toxin transporter. Dandelion root tea eases congestion in the liver and helps it purifies our blood. I often drink roasted dandelion root tea before a meal or in the morning when I take a break from coffee. I love its satisfying rich, roasty flavor.

Dandelion root tea eases congestion in the liver and helps it purifies our blood.
Dandelion root tea eases congestion in the liver and helps it purifies our blood. (Lila Volkas)

As I enjoy the outward manifestations of the holiday season with feasts, decorations, gifts and parties, I like to bring my awareness inside and celebrate my body for all of its magical inner workings. While there is no way for us to “un-do” the glasses of wine or sweet desserts that we’ve consumed, we can send our livers a present by eating some of these liver-friendly foods. Maybe some months after the holidays, when I am missing the festivities of celebration, I’ll throw my liver a party, and invite all my friends’ livers too and we can dance and drink a crazy juice concoction with all of these antioxidant-rich foods to honor our beloved organ.

Liver Partytime!
Liver Partytime! (Lila Volkas)
For The New Year: Celebrate Your Generous Liver With These 8 Cleansing Foods 9 December,2016Lila Volkas

  • Rebecca Patricia Roybal

    Thank you for posting this great information. Looking forward to a healthy year, 2016. Best wishes to you KQED and bay area bites as well.

Author

Lila Volkas

Lila Volkas is a Berkeley based writer and illustrator who has a deep love for wellness. She creates hand drawn and digitally colored illustrations that whimsically capture the essence of her subjects and are easily digested by readers. Much of her inspiration comes from her undeniable love for vegetables, as well as her deep devotion to our Earth. Lila has had several pieces published in KQED's Bay Area Bites as well as in Edible East Bay Magazine. She combines her fascination with the absurd and passion for health in her kombucha brewing workshops that she leads once per month around the Bay Area. For more of a taste of Lila, check out her website lilavolkas.com

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