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What Are Foods That Damage the Liver?

By Elle Jay
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A variety of foods and beverages can interfere with proper liver function, and none of them are typically considered part of a healthy diet. Foods that damage the liver include fast food and highly processed foods that tend to be extremely high in sodium, sugar, and chemicals that are not liver friendly. Eating foods that damage the liver can lead to serious health problems.

The liver acts as the body’s filter and metabolizes all of the food we eat and beverages we drink. Good health and longevity require proper liver function. A regular diet that includes drinks and foods that damage the liver may bring about deadly illnesses such as cirrhosis, hepatitis, and liver disease.

Most canned goods, such as fruit, soup, and vegetables, represent the type of processed foods that should be avoided. Processed meat or cold cuts, condiments, and some dairy products can also damage the liver. Reading food labels is an easy and efficient way to be aware of what is in food we buy. Words that seem impossible to pronounce and look unfamiliar frequently indicate a food item that is not a healthy liver food.

Besides food, a number of other substances should be avoided when trying to maintain a healthy liver. Caffeine, soda, and alcohol all contribute to poor liver function, but alcohol is the number-one culprit when it comes to liver damage. Alcohol can cause cirrhosis, one of the most severe liver diseases, by permanently destroying liver cells. This is not an easy thing to do either, because the liver can naturally regenerate itself. Up to 75 percent of the liver can be removed, and within a few weeks the missing cells will return and the liver can function normally again.

Acetaminophen, especially when mixed with alcohol, can cause damage to the liver. So can chemicals that are inhaled or absorbed through the skin. This football-sized organ is the largest in the human body, and it performs a number of important functions.

At the top of the list is metabolizing food, nutrients, and toxins before they move into the rest of the body. Everything we consume passes through the liver, including food, drinks, and drugs. The liver deals with airborne poisons, additives in food and water, and any number of toxins that are eaten, drunk, or absorbed through the skin.

Eating healthy food for the liver is one of the best ways to prevent liver damage. Fresh fruits and vegetables contain powerful antioxidants that help the liver do its job and keep it clean. Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower contribute to good liver health, as do high-fiber foods such as apples, brown rice, and strawberries. Garlic and onions provide a number of health benefits, and they can also be a flavorful salt substitute.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

By anon1004341 — On Jan 20, 2021

One thing is wrong here and in the comments: alcohol abuse only accounts for 6% of cirrhosis.

This is the fact: alcohol does serious damage in excess, we all know that, but what slips under the radar in this day and age is that processed rancid vegetable oils, sugar and all foods high in linoleic acid (LA) (and driving omega 6 levels sky high) such as non organic meat and grains are the "devils triangle" for human health.

Toxic vegetable oils and non organic olive oils (usually diluted with rapeseed and sunflower) are the no.1 cause of heart disease and liver damage, as said, 94% of cirrhosis is caused by modern processed foods which are exceedingly high in rancid toxic oils, trans fats, sugars, artificial sweeteners and linoleic acid. These are now believed by more and more health doctors and scientists as likely to be the leading contributing cause of virtually all chronic diseases we’ve encountered over the last century.

By Animandel — On Feb 14, 2014

Drentel - While processed foods can be damaging to the liver, alcohol is a much bigger risk. As mentioned in the article, isn't it remarkable that the liver can regenerate itself even when so much of it is damaged. This means there is hope even if we haven't always lived the healthiest lifestyle. The liver can recover when we give it a fighting chance.

By Sporkasia — On Feb 14, 2014
Drentel - Some years ago, I first read that canned vegetables were not particularly healthy as compared to fresh and frozen vegetables. At that point, I began substituting frozen vegetable for the canned ones. I was already buying fresh vegetables whenever possible.

Even though I changed my eating habits, I didn't know canned vegetables were linked to liver damage. I thought the canned items simply had fewer nutrients.

By Drentel — On Feb 13, 2014

I guess everyone knows drinking too much alcohol can damage the liver. Other than that, I didn't know foods and drinks could cause any significant damage. I knew some of the foods mentioned in the article were not good for me, but had no idea they hurt my liver.

I thought fast food was just bad because of all the fat and calories. Also, I eat my share of foods that comes from cans. I thought I was doing a good thing by eating canned vegetables and canned fruit.

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