It's widely known, in nutrition communities at least, that drinking alcohol is harmful to your liver. Alcohol affects the chemicals in your body that are responsible for breaking down scar tissue, making them less effective. As a result, those who consume copious amounts of alcohol often end up with a serious buildup of scar tissue in their liver. That tissue takes the place of normal, healthy cells, and eventually can lead to the organ's failure.
So, yes, drinking alcohol is detrimental to your liver and overall health. But what if, by drinking other substances, you could actually improve your liver health? We spoke to a few dietitians about the best drinking habits for a well-functioning liver. Here's what they had to say, and for more drinking tips, here are 6 Drinking Habits For a Healthy Gut As You Age.
Load up on daily water intake.
This one may seem basic, but it's crucial. Water is important for overall nutrition, but according to Jamie Feit, MS, RD, owner of Jamie Feit Nutrition, LLC, and an expert at Testing.com, it is especially key for liver health by improving bodily functions and lowering your risk of disease. Drinking water or even seltzer will do the trick, Feit says. However you choose to get your water intake, Feit advises making sure to aim to drink half your weight in ounces of water per day.
Don't shy away from coffee and green tea.
Dr. Rashmi Byakodi explained that, according to studies, coffee is believed to have pretty amazing hepatoprotective properties—in layman's terms, that means that coffee has the ability to protect your liver. The research shows that coffee consumption may prevent liver malignancy and chronic liver disease, and it's also been shown that coffee can reduce the risk for hepatic fibrosis and cirrhosis.
If you're not a coffee fan, though, don't worry—thanks to the catechins in green tea extract, the tea also has been shown to improve liver fat content and inflammation. It does so by reducing oxidative stress. Start sipping!
Try beetroot juice.
Could beetroot be the next big juice fad? We're not sure about that, but the experts we spoke to are sure that beetroot juice is a powerhouse player in the quest for a healthy liver.
Dr. Dimitar Marinov, who specializes in nutrition and dietetics, says that beetroot juice is "arguably the most antioxidant-dense drink you can find."
It is full of a very specific type of antioxidant called betalains, which are known to promote liver health and reduce oxidative damage and inflammation.
Dr. Byakodi echos Marinov's suggestion, adding that beetroot juice has been shown to actually alter indicators related to the types of liver damage that are caused by alcohol.
Choose alcohol-free drinks.
There is one thing that water, coffee, green tea, and beetroot juice all have in common: they're non-alcoholic.
As Dr. Marinov explains, "contrary to what we have always believed, there is no safe amount of alcohol, and drinking alcohol in moderation is definitely not healthy."
He cited a new study published by JAMA Network, which confirmed that any alcohol at all is unhealthy—subverting the belief that alcohol in moderation could be linked to a longer lifespan. The study also reiterated that the liver is definitely one of the most negatively affected organs when alcohol is consumed.
Pick drinks that are low in sugar or sugar-free.
Alcohol isn't the only enemy of the liver. Dr. Marinov points to sugar as another main factor in liver malnutrition. When you consume too much of the sweet carbohydrate, it cannot be stored effectively and the liver begins to transform the glucose into fat. When those fats start to build up in the liver, the organ can become diseased. So even if you are cutting alcohol, that sugary mocktail could still cause liver functioning issues.