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What foods can damage the liver?

The liver is the largest organ in the body. It is responsible for helping the body digest food, store energy and eliminate toxins.

Their functions can be seriously affected by poor lifestyle habits, such as a poor diet. Here we review which are the most damaging foods for the liver and what you can do to strengthen it.


To function properly our body needs glucose, a sugar that comes from the food we eat, although it is also formed and stored within the body.

Glucose is the main source of energy for cells, and it is transported to all of them through the bloodstream. The liver is responsible for storing it and helps keep blood sugar levels balanced.

When we consume excess sugar, whether added or hidden in ultra-processed products, it can accumulate and end up turning into fat around the liver.

This situation increases the risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, the main characteristic of which is excess fat stored in liver cells.

Alcoholic drinks

An alcoholic beverage is considered to be any one that contains ethanol, also known as ethyl alcohol. This can be natural or acquired, the important thing is that it is equal to or greater than 1% of the volume of the drink.

When we drink alcohol, it immediately passes into the blood, where it is transported to the liver, which releases enzymes responsible for metabolizing and eliminating it.

This metabolism process can cause an increase in blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels, an increase in uric acid and a decrease in glucose levels.

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Toxins can also be released, increasing the risk of liver damage, such as cirrhosis, steatosis, liver fibrosis, or alcoholic hepatitis.

In no case is alcohol beneficial for health, but, in case of drinking it, the recommended consumption is up to 2 daily drinks for men and 1 for women.

One drink is roughly equivalent to a glass of beer, a glass of wine, or a measure of distilled beverage. The difference between the sexes is that men generally have more water in their bodies, therefore, if they drank the same amount, the concentration of alcohol in the blood for women would tend to be higher.

Red meat

Red meat is a good source of protein, which is essential for building or repairing bones, muscles, and other tissues in the body. However, professionals advise getting your protein from legumes, nuts, green leafy vegetables, or seeds, and limiting your consumption of red meat.

The reason? Decomposing red meat correctly is hard work for the liver, so if the consumption is excessive and constant, in the long run it can lead to the appearance of different problems in the body.

This is because if the meat is not broken down properly it can accumulate in the colon and release toxins. In addition, by concentrating on processing red meat, the liver cannot function properly to fulfill other of its tasks, such as how to designate the corresponding energy to the cells.

Red meats, especially processed ones, can also provide high levels of fats, which promote the accumulation of triglycerides and cholesterol in the blood.


Saturated fats are typically found in animal products, such as pork, chicken, or beef, whole milk, cheeses, ice cream, or butters.

When consumed in excess, they increase blood cholesterol levels, which impairs liver function and increases the risk of diseases such as fatty liver.

This does not mean that you should eliminate fats from your diet, since they are substances necessary for the body to function properly. You just have to know how to choose them.

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Opt for unsaturated fats, present in vegetables, such as avocado, nuts, seeds, or oils, such as olive, canola, almonds, or peanuts.

Ultra-processed products

Sugary drinks, candy, noodles, canned, dehydrated or packaged sauces or soups, cookies, ice cream, potato chips and other types of snacks are examples of highly processed or ultra-processed foods or edibles.

These are characterized by being made with industrial ingredients, that is, binders, preservatives, emulsifiers, stabilizers, or solvents. They usually contain little or no whole food.

They are difficult for the liver to digest, thus affecting its function and promoting the appearance of various diseases, such as skin disorders, obesity, kidney damage, and cardiovascular problems.


Although salt (sodium chloride) is necessary to fulfill certain vital functions, such as controlling the amount of water in the body and regulating blood pH, when consumed in excess it becomes a harmful substance.

This is because it can cause fluid retention, increase blood pressure, and affect liver function. The latter is because excessive levels of sodium are linked to an increased risk of deformation and death of liver cells.

How to strengthen the liver

Just as there are foods that can affect liver function, there are others that can stimulate its purifying function and facilitate digestion, such as oats, blueberries, citrus fruits, asparagus, raspberries, nuts, fish or grapes, among others.

Exercise is also important, as it helps you lose weight, and with it the liver and its enzymes can work better. You do not have to start with great efforts, a simple walk is a good start.

Water is another crucial aspect, since when there is not enough fluid in the body, activities such as metabolism and the breakdown of fats for cellular use are complicated. Drink between 2 and 2 ½ liters of water a day to promote proper liver function.

Finally, do not forget to do the medical check-ups. Liver diseases do not usually cause easily identifiable symptoms in the early stages, so this is the best way to anticipate their appearance or development.

Sources consulted: Comprehensive Natural Medicines Database, US National Library of Medicine, Mayo Clinic, National Institute for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

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