7 healthy meals and snacks to support your liver over the holidays
As the boozy brunches and end-of-year shenanigans increase over the festive season, your liver may strain under the weight of all these social engagements – not to mention the vino that is required protocol to navigate family holiday dinners!
We got in touch with Mbali Mapholi, a qualified clinical dietician, to get her expert advice on healthy foods to support this hepatic organ in its detox duties.
Try including oats and berries for breakfast. “Oats are packed with soluble dietary fibre and beta-glucans, which help reduce cellular inflammation and support immunity. More research is needed to support this, but beta-glucans can help reduce the amount of fats stored in the liver, which in turn can support maintaining good liver health,” says Mbali.
When it comes to berries, the darker the better. Strawberries, blueberries, cranberries and mulberries are all rich in polyphenols. This antioxidant helps fight free radical damage and may help protect the liver. And, no, we’re pretty sure boozy berry desserts don’t count.
Here are some recipes to try:
- No-knead walnut oat bread
- Earl Grey oat scones
- Refrigerator berries and chia seed jam
- Baked yoghurt and berries
- Bircher muesli with fresh berries
If you’re still looking for a treat for teatime, bake a batch of these oat biscuits with cranberries instead of cupcakes.
When it comes to sneaking in a healthy midday meal before the evening’s merriment, fatty fish and cruciferous veggies are your best bet.
Your liver is naturally good at detoxification so adding quick greens like Brussels sprouts and broccoli will just improve the blood levels of liver enzymes.
Fatty fish is packed with omega-3 fatty acids, a good fat that helps to reduce inflammation. Mbali explains: “Omega-3 fatty acids may prevent the build-up of excess fats and maintain good enzyme levels in the liver.” Good vegan options for omega-3s are seaweed/algae and edamame beans, which could not be easier to cook.
Try these lunch options:
- Braised brussel sprouts
- Try this prep method with any cruciferous veggies
- Spicy fish pancakes
- Baked salmon with mint and cucumber salad
- Honey and soy glazed salmon
- Fresh tuna summer salad (with green beans)
- Tuna fish cakes
- Smoked snoek sandwich
When it comes to snacks and refreshments to tide you over during the silly season, there are three heroes you can count on to reinvigorate the liver: green tea, grapefruit and nuts.
While it may be tempting to pivot towards coffee amid the hustle and mayhem, give your organs some green tea instead. Green tea has long been purported to hold liver-healthy properties: the plant compounds are packed with antioxidants that help protect the liver from free radical damage.
Why not make a pitcher of green ice tea with mint and lemon to rehydrate during the day?
Grapefruit is another easy hero to add to the mix. They’re rich in two particular antioxidants – naringenin and naringin (the flavonoid responsible for grapefruit’s bitter taste – which naturally protect the liver and help reduce inflammation, increasing the liver’s protective mechanisms.
- Potato salad with smoked salmon and ruby grapefruit (with the fatty fish bonus!)
- Grilled grapefruit with yoghurt
Mbali tells us all nuts – a festive season staple – are friends of our livers. “All types contain unsaturated fatty acids and antioxidants like selenium and vitamin E, which are important compounds and may help prevent non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and reduce inflammation and oxidative stress.”
Obviously for a quick snack, a drawer full of raw nuts is best. But with or without the espresso, these toasted nuts are a winner.
May you “liver” a little healthier this season!