Broccoli may help protect against non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and liver cancer. Numerous studies have shown that consuming broccoli three to five times a week can reduce the risk of many different types of cancer. NAFLD has been associated with a high-calorie diet and an unhealthy diet full of sugar and fat. If progresses, NAFLD can lead to cirrhosis of the liver or liver cancer.
Professor of nutrition Elizabeth Jeffery explained, “The normal story about broccoli and health is that it can protect against a number of different cancers. But nobody had looked at liver cancer. We decided that liver cancer needed to be studied particularly because of the obesity epidemic in the U.S. It is already in the literature that obesity enhances the risk for liver cancer and this is particularly true for men. They have almost a fivefold greater risk for liver cancer if they are obese.”
The average American diet is full of saturated fats and added sugar, which are stored in the liver, causing illness and disease.
Prof. Jeffrey added, “We wanted to look at this liver carcinogen in mice that were either obese or not obese. We did not do it using a genetic strain of obese mice, but mice that became obese the way that people do, by eating a high-fat, high-sugar diet.”
The study revealed that in mice on an average Western diet, the number of cancer nodules and the size of these nodules in the liver increased. When the broccoli intake in mice was increased, the number of cancer nodules decreased, while the size was not affected.
“That was what we really set out to show. But on top of that, we were looking at the liver health. There are actually two ways of getting fatty liver: one, by eating a high-fat, high-sugar diet and the other by drinking too much alcohol. In this case, it is called non-alcoholic fatty liver, because we didn’t use the alcohol. And it is something that is becoming prevalent among Americans. This disease means you are no longer controlling the amount of fat that is accumulating in your liver,” Prof. Jeffrey explained.
“We found that the Westernized diet did increase fatty liver, but we saw that the broccoli protected against it. Broccoli stopped too much uptake of fat into the liver by decreasing the uptake and increasing the output of lipid from the liver,” she continued.
Although adding broccoli did not reduce body weight or make the mice thin, it did bring liver under control, making it healthier. The study stresses the importance of increasing the intake of broccoli in one’s diet for a healthy liver.
Diet and liver disease: Foods to eat with a fatty liver
Whether you already have a fatty liver or just want to prevent it, the below foods are great options to eat for boosting your liver health.
- Cruciferous vegetables – broccoli, cabbage, bok choy, etc.
- Dark leafy greens – kale, spinach
- Sea vegetables
- Sprouted seeds, nuts, beans, and grains
- Onions, shallots, and leeks
- Prebiotic-rich foods – asparagus, leeks, root vegetables
- Cultured foods – kimchi, sauerkraut
- Hemp seed
- Chia seeds
- Coconut oil
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Whey powder protein
- Vegetable protein
- Marine-based protein
- Land-based protein – beans, chickpeas, lentils
As you can see, the products that support a healthy liver are wholesome foods, meaning, none of these items are processed and contain artificial sugar. Making these foods an integral part of your diet will not only help your liver stay healthy, but will make you feel better overall.