By Myfoodformula Nutritionist Tamzin Motion
Our livers are an important organ in our bodies. They look after us by working hard to keep other processes in the body running smoothly, and our overall health in check. So why is this time of year especially important to give our livers a little more TLC? The answer: Silly Season. With Christmas just around the corner and the end of year work dos penciled in, the amount of wine, beer and rich food is about to increase. Not to mention we also want to feel and look our best for hitting the beach, and looking out for our livers is key for weight management and glowing skin. Life’s about balance, but our livers can only take so much. Especially if we aren’t doing anything to help them out. So, let’s be real, our livers are going to take a toll this season with all the upcoming festivities. Here’s how we can help these guys out, and maintain a healthy weight whilst delighting in seasonal festivities.
What does the liver do?
The liver is a part of many functions in the body, however, detoxification most commonly springs to mind when we think about what the liver does. The liver is the main organ responsible for ridding our body of the toxins and wastes that are made internally, and that enter via food, drinks and the environment we live in. The detoxification process can have a huge effect on our energy, immune system, and weight. When the liver is functioning sub-optimally, we need to be weary of how the detox process is affected. If the liver isn’t ridding the body of any toxins, then a build-up will occur, which can compromise the immune system, place the body into a state of inflammation, and cause an accumulation of stored fat. We begin to feel tired, sluggish, and our bodies won’t be absorbing the maximum amount of nutrients they could from our diets.
So what can we do to keep our livers in tip top shape this silly season?
1. Drink water…
Keep it simple. Drink water. It’s something we’ve had drummed into us since day dot, yet we often overlook it as a remedy for good health. It’s crucial for so many processes, not to mention over half of our bodies are made up of water! But high quality H2O is also key in cleansing the liver, and helping the kidneys do their part in removing wastes from the body.
Not only is it essential during the day, water is absolutely key during a night out. For those times when we are enjoying a few wines or beers, one glass of water (or treat yourself to more!) between each drink will take a load off your liver and help it to process any alcohol. To be able to excrete alcohol, the liver must first convert it to acetaldehyde. Keeping well hydrated will help the liver flush away the acetaldehyde, alongside keeping the blood thin so filtration through the liver and kidneys is easier. Your liver will be thankful, and in turn your future self will be too for the lack of hangover the next day. An option that our livers prefer over beer and wine, is the likes of a vodka, water and lime. Less sugar for your liver to process, less calories consumed, plus the added hydration factor. Or opt for sparkling water with fresh lemon and mint, as a non-alcoholic alternative. Not only will you be keeping hydrated, the lemon will kick start the detoxification process by stimulating bile to be made, which in turn will break down fat. Too easy!
Tip: As a daily habit, drink around 2-3L of water per day as a benchmark. You’ll notice a difference in energy levels from your blood moving freely around your body and being further oxygenated. That way we stay alert, energetic, and on track with our health and goals.
2. Go green…
For overall health, the aim is to always eat a diet full of real, whole foods. This mean lots of vegetables, fruits, legumes, lean meats, and as few refined foods as possible. Now when we are thinking of our livers, a light needs to be shone on green vegetables. It’s not just a coincidence that our beautiful NZ landscape is full of shades of green. The colour is just as attractive for the health of our livers. Super greens are a must to include in our diets, with nutrient powerhouses such as spinach, kale, alfalfa sprouts, celery, brussel sprouts, asparagus and cucumber. Green veggies are high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents that nourish and protect our livers. Spinach in particular is high in vitamin E, which provides another helping hand in flushing out toxins.
Cruciferous vegetables are also what our livers love. Think broccoli, bok choy, cauliflower and cabbage. These vegetable types are high in chlorophyll, which is key for liver detoxification. Chlorophyll helps rid the body of toxins by neutralizing them, and it also oxygenates and purifies the blood at the same time. In short, go and load that plate up with greens!
Tip: Try to steam vegetables with as little contact to water as possible. Often when vegetables are boiled in water, a lot of the nutrients are leached out from the water contact. Steaming will help retain precious nutrients!
3. Go local, and know where your food is coming from…
We need to consider where the food in our lives is coming from. Where has it be grown? What’s been sprayed on it whilst growing? Not to mention how long has it been sitting on the supermarket shelves, and what’s been put on it to preserve it for that time from farm to shelf? Who would you trust more over Gerald from your local farmer’s market, or the big suppliers delivering to Countdown? Many of the fruits and vegetables at our supermarkets have been sprayed with herbicides and pesticides, and it’s easy to forget that these sprays are toxic to our bodies! Go spray-free, and buy from your local growers as much as you can. You can have a conversation with the farmers to ask about how their crops are grown, and we can begin to minimize our exposure to these chemicals that make our liver work unnecessarily harder to keep our bodies in good health.
4. Get sweaty…
Don’t forget that food and physical activity go hand in hand for when we are working towards a healthy weight. Staying active not only keeps our physical health in check, it also provide benefits to our liver. Getting a good sweat on is another way to help the liver eliminate toxins from the body. Explore different types of exercise too. Aerobic exercise will strengthen blood flow around the body, while weight training will prevent the fat build up that can cause fatty liver. Always remember to stay well hydrated while exercising to assist the liver in flushing away unwanted substances while that blood is flowing.
5. Try to avoid this stuff…
These are just a few of the things that load up our livers. They slow down the detoxification process, causing the liver to work harder to cleanse itself, and generally are just more damaging to the liver. Ponder your usual day or week and see how many of these may come into play. From there begin to minimize consumption, or better yet, cut them out completely.
• processed foods, plus foods high in sugars and trans fats
• chemicals from sprays on fruits and vegetables
Own your diet and lifestyle this silly season by eating and drinking your way to great health and a happy liver. Enjoy a glass or two and all the festive gatherings, and do so guilt-free by supporting your liver with a nourishing diet. For further questions and advice, don’t hesitate to reach out to Tamzin and the rest of the Myfoodformula team! Happy holidays.