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The #1 Best Eating Habit to Protect Your Liver, New Study Says

This type of food helps ward off cancer.
FACT CHECKED BY Kristen Warfield

It's common knowledge that vegetables can offer plenty of body-boosting benefits—such as helping to keep your heart healthy and prevent aging—which is why they should make up a fair share of your diet. Now, a study has found another reason to make sure that you're eating your veggies.

The NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study took a look at 470,653 participants who were between 50 and 71 years old when the research began. While noting the amount of vegetables each person was consuming, researchers also noted that 15 and a half years after the study had begun, 899 of the participants had developed liver cancer.

At the same time, 934 participants had succumbed to fatal chronic liver disease. The results showed that for those who had eaten more vegetables, the risk of developing liver cancer was reduced by a third.

broccoli, cauliflower cabbage-kale, and brussels sprouts

Related: The #1 Best Juice to Drink Every Day, Says Science

"A one-cup increase (8 oz or 225 g) in vegetable intake was associated with about 20% decreased risk of liver cancer incidence and chronic liver mortality," study lead author Long-Gang Zhao, MS, a graduate student at Harvard University, noted, according to Medscape.

The vegetables that were key to preventing cancers were lettuce, legumes, carrots, and cruciferous varieties such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, bok choy, and collard greens.

"It's not surprising to see that cruciferous vegetables, like cauliflower and broccoli, were included as the strongest cancer fighters because they contain sulforaphane, a compound found to have anti-cancer properties," Paulina Lee, MSHS, RD, LD, functional dietitian and founder of Savvy Stummy, LLC, tells Eat This, Not That!.

"Sulforaphane is a compound found in cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower, that has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer properties," Lee explains. "Cruciferous vegetables also have constituents that stimulate both Phase I and II liver enzymes such as indole-3-carbinol, considered a powerful anticancer compound."

Lee notes that "one recent study has found sulforaphane to be beneficial in alleviating insulin resistance, decreasing serum triglyceride, total cholesterol, and alanine aminotransferase (ALT) levels in connection to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease." Beyond that, "carrots also contain high amounts of carotenoids, known to have high antioxidant abilities."

To find out more about how vegetables can benefit your body, be sure to read Incredible Effects of Eating Vegetables Every Day, Says Dietitian.

Desirée O
Desirée O is a freelance writer who covers lifestyle, food, and nutrition news among other topics. Read more about Desirée
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