Your liver is your very own chemical processing plant. It receives 30% of the blood circulating in your system every minute – performing chemical reactions to remove harmful toxins and distribute and store essential nutrients. This vital process is called ‘metabolism’ and cells in the liver, known as hepatocytes, are put to work to keep your body working at its best. Essentially, your liver loves and cares for you.
Every time you feed, your liver feeds you. Once food is digested, nutrients enter the blood, which are taken straight to your liver for processing. Depending on how low or plentiful these nutrients are in your body, the liver cells will either release the goodness to when it’s needed or store it for when your body needs a boost.
We all know we need carbohydrates for energy. But did you know that it’s your liver that does the job of managing the release of this vital energy source?
Once carbs have been broken down into glucose in your gastrointestinal tract, the glucose enters the blood stream and is taken straight to your liver to regulate and maintain healthy levels. Your liver also stores excess glucose in the form of glycogen, ready for converting back into glucose when levels drop between meals, during exercise or when you’re fasting.
And here’s the really clever thing. Your liver can also convert non-sugars, such as amino acids, into glucose to keep levels healthy. It does some pretty impressive things with fats too.
We’re all guilty of overindulging sometimes, but loading up on calories forces your body into overdrive as it tries to undo the damage done by the harmful free radicals produced as you digest food. (Free radicals attack cells and can promote the development of chronic conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer.) And, of course, the more we eat the more free radicals we produce.
Here’s the good news: recent research suggests that there’s a (delicious) way to rebound from the damage of a rich meal and reduce free radicals…add these items to your menu!
1. Drink Orange Juice
Flavonoids, the antioxidant-like compounds in OJ, may offset the heart-damaging effects of a calorie- and fat-laden meal, suggests a 2010 study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. In the study, people who drank orange juice with a high-fat, high-calorie breakfast (51 grams fat, 900 calories) had lower levels of harmful free radicals and other inflammatory markers associated with heart disease after the meal than participants who drank plain water or sugar water and ate the same breakfast.
2. Eat Fruit
If you’ve indulged in a decadent meal, follow it with fruit. Eating antioxidant-rich fruits—including berries, grapes, kiwi and cherries—helps minimize the harmful free-radical damage that occurs after a meal. Eating caloric meals without antioxidant-rich foods like fruits and vegetables can have harmful effects over time.
3. Add Spices To Your Meals
Adding spices to your meal may help to lessen the negative effects of overeating. In a small 2011 study in The Journal of Nutrition, participants who ate a meal that included about 2 tablespoons of spices (a blend of rosemary, oregano, cinnamon, turmeric, black pepper, cloves, garlic powder and paprika) had lower triglyceride and insulin levels and higher antioxidant levels after eating a high-fat, high-calorie meal compared to when they ate a nearly identical meal that lacked spices. Researchers think the spice blend may help slow fat absorption—and the antioxidants help mop up harmful free radicals produced when you overeat.