Detox Your Liver for Vitality

Your liver is frequently under appreciated, yet is one of the most important organs in your body! The liver has hundreds of different functions, two of the primary being to store vital nutrients for your body and to filter and breakdown chemicals that would otherwise be harmful to our bodies. As our world has become more industrialized, we are now more commonly exposed to both natural and unnatural substances that our livers must filter. These substances can come from a variety of sources, be it chemicals (pesticides, industrial chemicals, solvents, toiletries etc.), drugs and medications, or poor diet (including alcohol, caffeine, and sugar). Exposure to these substances can lead to your liver being overburdened, and an overburdened liver can lead to chronic fatigue, allergies, improper digestion of food, body aches, headaches, brain fog, depression, and fatty liver disease. Some, including myself, argue that an overtaxed liver will result in a toxic body, promoting the ideal environment for almost all chronic diseases and disorders!

There are a number of options to consider when it comes to finding a protocol to help detoxify and cleanse your liver. Some protocols are more extreme than others, so always choose the option you feel most comfortable with. Small changes in your lifestyle can have a dramatic effect on how you feel and your quality of life. That being said, some of the more ‘extreme’ options can be more effective than other ‘less extreme’ options.

Diet and exercise are the foundation of a quality life and is one of the most important protocols for keeping your liver in tip-top shape. Processed foods lack essential nutrients your body requires to function optimally — this includes allowing your liver to work its magic and keep your body clean! Additionally, most processed foods contain preservatives in the form of chemicals, which put a great strain on your liver to eliminate. Usually, they also contain sugar, another substance your liver must eliminate. Keep your foods as simple and whole as possible to provide yourself with the most amount of nutrients, and test yourself for food intolerances and allergies — these foods can put an enormous strain on your entire body, not just your liver. Be sure to include high quality fats in your diet, such as olive oil, coconut oil, or even butter! Your liver works in conjunction with your gallbladder, the organ responsible for digesting fats. If you give your body the proper fats it needs, your gallbladder will release bile for digestion. The magic is that bile is actually created from the toxins your liver removes from your body! Limiting or eliminating alcohol, caffeine, and sugar consumption will also take tremendous strides in detoxifying your liver.

Milk Thistle

Herbs and cleansing foods are another facet to consider to detoxify your liver. Milk thistle is one of the most well known and well researched herbs when it comes to aiding and cleansing your liver. It contains numerous antioxidants and compounds that not only help your liver function more optimally, but also help prevent your liver from absorbing any dangerous compounds it filters while it works. Two other herbs include artichoke and dandelion, both which have been used for thousands of years to promote better digestion and aid the liver. These three herbs can be found at health food stores in whole, capsule, or tincture form, and are frequently placed together in various tonics. Adding specific foods known to help cleanse the liver can also be a great asset to liver detox. Such foods include dark leafy greens, including the three herbs above in their whole form, other green vegetables (such as cabbage and asparagus), garlic, turmeric, citrus fruit, carrots, beets, and apples in their various form. Apples contain two important substances for helping to detox the liver: pectin, a form of soluble fiber, and malic acid, which can help fat digestion and help break down gallstones in your gallbladder.

Dandelion

Liver cleanses and fasting are the more ‘extreme’ methods of detoxifying your liver, and different variations can also be more ‘extreme’ than others. Such variations can include the olive oil liver cleanse, coffee enemas, apple juice fasting, vegetable juice fasting, and water fasting. Each of these techniques deserves their own post, as each requires its own unique protocol while being conducted. Look for a series of upcoming articles beginning this week, starting with the olive oil liver cleanse!

Food Spotlight: Asparagus

Asparagus was once considered to be a member of the lily family of plants, and while it is now considered to be in its own family, it is still remarkably similar to other lilies such as garlic and onions. When we consume asparagus as a vegetable, we eat the young shoot of the plant. Once the bud at the end of the spear we consume opens, the plant creates a fern-like structure that would be too hard or ‘woody’ to eat. The exact origin of asparagus is unknown. We do know that it originates somewhere in the Mediterranean, where it has been consumed for thousands and thousands of years. It may have been consumed and cultivated to some degree as early as 20,000 BP in Egypt. It is depicted in ancient Egyptian friezes dating to approximately 3000 BC, and was consumed and cultivated extensively in Greece, Rome, Syria, and Spain. The vegetable was so prized by Emperor Augustus of Rome that he created an ‘Asparagus Fleet,’ whose sole duty was to haul the vegetable from the fields for the wealthy. The oldest surviving cookbook, De Re Coquinaria by Apiucius, which hails from Rome during the 4th or 5th century AD, contains a recipe for delicately cooking asparagus.

Fresh, young, growing shoots of plants are some of the most nutrient dense foods, and asparagus is no exception. Asparagus is abound with the nutrient Vitamin K, an essential fat-soluble nutrient that helps your blood to clot properly, prevents calcification of your arteries, prevents bones from fracturing, aids bruising, and aids in preventing bone-loss. A single cup of uncooked asparagus contains approximately 70% of your recommended daily intake of Vitamin K! Asparagus is also rich in beta carotene, the precursor to Vitamin A, folate, iron, thiamin, copper, and manganese. One cup of uncooked asparagus contains only 27 calories, while containing 3 grams of protein, as well as 3 grams of dietary fiber!Asparagus has been so revered throughout the ages largely because of its medicinal properties. It is known as an excellent plant for detoxifying your system for numerous reasons. It contains large amounts of the amino acid glutathione, an important amino acid utilized by the liver as an anti-oxidant for cleaning up free radicals (toxins that create damage in your system). The large amounts of folate contained in asparagus have anti-inflammatory properties, helping to reduce pain and arthritis, as well as reduces your chances of heart disease and is essential for preventing birth defects for pregnant women. Additionally, asparagus has many diuretic properties, which help to aid constipation and keep you regular, as well as cleanse your liver and kidneys. Finally, asparagus contains inulin, a special form of fiber/oligosaccharide that help to feed beneficial bacteria in your intestines.

Asparagus can usually be found year-round with so many vegetables being imported from different localities and regions of the world. However, truly delectable and fresh asparagus is available only in the spring, when it is most abundant and thus also cheapest. Asparagus doesn’t face as many threats from pests as do some other plants, so it’s not absolutely necessary to get organic asparagus. That being said, the most nutritious and tasty asparagus can often be found only at a local farmer’s market because of freshness (where they tend to be less sprayed, anyway).

Asparagus is delectable simply steamed or baked, and is the perfect accompaniment to numerous dishes! Be sure to try Orange Roasted Tofu and Asparagus!

Orange-Roasted Tofu with Asparagus

Finding quick, easy, and healthy recipes that you can make over and over is an essential to optimal health. This recipe was suggested by a client of mine, and is an absolute breeze to make! Preparation time is negligible, just pop it in the oven and dig in! As with many recipes, the recipe itself can serve as a base. Always feel free to add extra ingredients that suit your own pallet.

This is an excellent recipe for the season, as asparagus is just luscious in the spring! I’ll have an article soon on all the benefits asparagus yields.

*This recipe is adapted from the EatingWell Cookbook.

Ingredients:

  • 1 14-oz package extra-firm tofu (Organic if possible, non-gmo if not)
  • 2 Tablespoons Red Miso
  • 2 Tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 Pound Asparagus, trimmed, and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 3 Tablespoons fresh Basil (1-2 Tablespoon dry if not fresh)
  • 1 Teaspoon Orange Zest
  • 1/4 cup Orange Juice (freshly squeezed if possible)
  • 1/4 teaspoon Sea Salt
  • (Optional) 1/2 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
  • (Optional) 1 Teaspoon Red Chili Flakes
  • (Optional) Freshly Ground Black Pepper
  • (Optional) 1 Teaspoon to 1 Tablespoon Coconut Oil

Preparation:

  • 1. Preheat oven to 450˚F. Coat a large baking sheet or baking dish with olive oil (coconut oil optional).
  • 2. Cut Tofu into 1/2 inch cubes, then pat dry. Mix 1 tablespoon miso, 1 tablespoon vinegar, and 1 tablespoon olive oil in a bowl until a smooth consistency. Optionally, mix cayenne pepper and/or red chili flakes with this mixture if you prefer a much spicier variation (if you would like less heat from the spices, mix spices in step 3 instead). Toss and coat mixture over tofu. Spread tofu evenly over baking sheet/dish, and roast for 15 minutes. Remove from oven, and toss asparagus with tofu; roast for an additional 10-12 minutes, until tofu is golden brown and asparagus is tender.
  • 3. While tofu and asparagus are roasting, mix remaining tablespoon of miso, 1 tablespoon vinegar, 1 tablespoon olive oil, basil, orange zest, orange juice, and optional cayenne pepper/chili flakes in a large bowl until smooth. Remove tofu and asparagus from oven and toss with remaining mixture. Optionally, add an additional 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon of coconut oil for extra flavor. Add freshly grand black pepper to taste. Let sit for a few minutes to cool. Serve, and enjoy!

This recipe makes an excellent main dish, so feel free to serve with whatever you may like as a side – rice, quinoa, extra vegetables – eat it alone, or even double the recipe! Makes 3 servings.