Wish you had more pep in your step and less jiggle in your middle? Then you may want to give your liver a little nudge. “Eating to improve liver function can boost energy, enhance overall wellness, and stimulate weight loss — often in less than two weeks,” reveals Ian K. Smith, M.D., host of TV’s syndicated The Doctors and author of a dozen bestselling diet books.
Our favorite part: Dr. Ian’s liver detox regimen simply calls for enjoying moderate portions of natural foods, with an emphasis on lean protein and veggies. “It’s easy to do and incredibly effective,” he promises. New research backs him up: While testing an approach similar to Dr. Ian’s, European scientists found that it quickly rejuvenates a stalled liver, prompting the organ to begin burning excess fat 16 times faster. No wonder Dr. Ian’s devotees transform their health as they shed pounds effortlessly!
Dr. Ian says our liver can do amazing things. “It filters everything that comes into our body, gets rid of the stuff that can harm us, makes nutrients and medications absorbable, helps regulate blood sugar and hormones, arms the immune system — plus literally hundreds of other roles,” he notes. Problem is, modern life puts so much demand on the organ, it often can’t keep up. And when the liver struggles, virtually every aspect of health suffers.
One particularly troublesome effect: Fat metabolism slows. As that happens, weight gain isn’t even the big issue. “The liver starts to become clogged with unburned fat, causing the organ to become inflamed and its function to slow even more,” notes Dr. Ian. “Symptoms like fatigue, weight gain and diabetes are often blamed on other factors, and the problem gets worse and worse.” Luckily, a few smart choices at mealtime can turn everything around.
The Liver Detox That Works
“Forget about supplement-based ‘liver detoxes’ you see on the internet. They’re unnecessary and may be unsafe. You’ll get much better results with ordinary supermarket food,” the doc insists. The first thing to put on your shopping list for Dr. Ians liver detox: protein. Choose plant sources, chicken, steak — any unprocessed variety you like. Experts have long known protein- rich foods boost metabolism and flood the body with healing amino acids.
And the latest findings from the German Institute of Human Nutrition show that diets with 30 percent of the calories from protein contain a perfect dose of compounds that bind with fat in the liver, making it dramatically more likely to be burned. “Larger studies are needed, but if these results are confirmed, this is a game changer,” says Dr. Ian, who shares his healthy-liver strategies in The Clean 20. To hit the protein sweet spot, let a free app like My Fitness Pal do the diet math for you. Or simply aim for a palm-size serving of protein at meals and small protein-rich snacks.
Dr. Ian loves beans, which blend high-quality protein with loads of fiber. “Fiber helps neutralize toxins, reducing the liver’s workload so it can heal,” he says. “You also want to stick to unprocessed foods, which put far less stress on your liver than processed junk.” And always eat your veggies, he adds. Most varieties are crammed with liver-enhancing nutrients. That’s especially true of broccoli, cauliflower and kale; they’re the richest food sources of indole, a substance so good at decreasing fat accumulation and inflammation in the liver, Texas A&M scientists recommend it as a treatment for liver disease.
Worth noting: Protein-rich dieters in the German study kept calories below 1,600 daily, a strategy Dr. Ian also recommends. Why? Because getting rid of excess fat just happens faster if you don’t overload your body with new fuel.
How to do Dr. Ian Smith’s Liver Detox
This liver-boosting twist on Dr. Ian’s Clean 20 plan is simple: All meals are about 400 calories and include a serving of lean protein, lots of non-starchy veggies and a little good fat (such as olive oil or avocado). Incorporate two daily servings of fruit, one to two small servings of whole grains and three protein-rich 125-calorie snacks. Drink plenty of water, plus moderate amounts of liver-boosting coffee and green tea. Aim to eat all your food between 9 AM and 7 PM daily. As always, get your doctor’s okay to try any new plan.
Breakfast — 1 cup 2 percent Greek yogurt layered with 1⁄2 cup of berries or any fresh sliced fruit and 2 Tbs. of your favorite nuts; if desired, drizzle with 2 tsp. honey.
Lunch — 1 pouch tuna, 1 cooked egg, 1 tomato, 1⁄2 cooked red potato, 5 olives, cooked green beans, onion and lettuce with 1⁄2 Tbs. olive oil, vinegar and herbs to taste.
Snack — Three times a day, enjoy a serving of something protein-rich — like 1 Tbs. nut butter, 1⁄2 cup edamame or 1 cup milk— with a serving of fruit or veggie sticks.
Dinner — 1 chicken breast and 2 cups veggies roasted with 1 Tbs. olive oil and optional 1 Tbs. pumpkin seeds; 1⁄2 cup brown rice and 1 Tbs. sour cream.
This article originally appeared in our print magazine.