Organ Superfoods – The Must Have Foods to Support Your Important Body Parts: Liver, Colon, Thyroid, Adrenals, and Brain.
We’re told we need to eat healthy, but do we really know what that means for our individual organs? Each organ in our body is responsible for specific functions, but when they get overloaded due to everyday living, symptoms can present themselves in different ways. The good news is many of these symptoms can easily be fixed by including specific foods in our diet.
When I was in nutrition school, one of the first things I learned was how food affects our body, and specifically our organs…so today I’m going to give you a “Holistic Nutrition 101” lesson.
Function: The liver is the master filter – it filters our blood, neutralizes toxins, detoxifies our bodies from the effects of alcohol and prescription drugs, and balances our hormones.
Symptoms of Dysfunction: We can tell when our liver is congested or sluggish. If you are experiencing dry eyes or blurry vision, acne, fatigue, or even hot flashes…it could be your liver needs a little extra help to do its job.
Liver Superfoods: Beets, carrots, green tea, grapefruit, sulfur-containing foods like onions and garlic, bitter greens, and lemons. A good thing to do every morning upon waking is to drink some warm water with a ½ a lemon. The citric acid helps to enhance the liver's function of filtering out unwanted toxins.
Raw green salad: Green leafy vegetables with carrots, beets, purple cabbage, onions, garlic, spinach, walnuts, and a liver tonic dressing (oil-free): 1/2 lemon juice, 1 tbsp sulfite-free Dijon mustard, 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar, teaspoon tahini, teaspoon raw honey, pinch of Himalayan salt = all of which help the liver detox and function properly.
TIP/AVOID: Something we need to consider when supporting our liver to eat organic as much as possible. Organic food doesn’t contain pesticides or herbicides used to grow or process the food so they’ll be easier on our liver since the liver has less to process and eliminate. Also, if you feel you’re liver needs some cleansing, you’ll want to cut out all oils – including the good ones like olive and avocado – just until your symptoms subside.
Function: The colon is part of the large intestine, and is the final part of the digestive system. Its function is to remove waste products from the body. It also plays a crucial role in immunity and mental health. 70-80% of our immune system resides in our colon and most of the neurotransmitter serotonin is made in the gut.
Symptoms of Dysfunction: We can tell when our colon is congested if we’re experiencing: gas and constipation, unexplained allergies, and food cravings.
Colon Superfoods: We’ve all heard about the importance of fiber, and for good reason! When it comes to our colon working properly, we need between 25 and 35 grams of fiber a day to help our body move waste along and to eliminate it. Another important nutrient for keeping the colon healthy is probiotics. Probiotics are important for keeping a proper balance of good to bad bacteria that in turn helps our digestion and strengthens our immune system. Eating fermented foods like kimchee and kefir are a good way to get your probiotics through food. Another food item that has been very trendy this year is bone broth. Bone broth contains minerals and collagen, both of which help to heal the colon and reduce inflammation. The collagen is also anti-aging, a nice added bonus. I make my own bone broth using marrowbones, carrots, celery, an onion, garlic, and good quality salt. You can drink it every morning and you’ll see an improvement in your digestion.
TIP/AVOID: White bread and pasta (they don’t have any nutrition or fiber).
Function: The thyroid is a small gland found at the base of our neck wrapped around our windpipe and it is the master conductor of all hormones. You have to have a healthy thyroid to have balanced hormones.
Symptoms of Dysfunction: We can tell if our thyroid is low if we gain weight or have a hard time losing it, we’re exhausted, we’re constipated, lack of sex drive, have cold hands and feet, and or feel depressed.
Thyroid Superfoods: Seaweed is a rich source of iodine – most of us are deficient in iodine and seaweed contains 100% of our daily-recommended value. Other food sources of iodine include: yogurt, turkey breast, and navy beans. Cruciferous veggies like kale, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and Bok Choy (help prevent thyroid cancer). There is a misconception that cruciferous veggies are goitrogenic – meaning that they contain goitrogens that may contribute to an enlarged thyroid. There isn’t enough research proving this and you would have to eat an overabundance of them for your thyroid function to be affected. Health experts agree that normal consumption of these veggies is perfectly safe.
Recipe/Meal Suggestion: Sushi, grass-fed dairy topped with strawberries (also contain iodine), baked potato, Navy bean salad.
TIP/AVOID: Avoid processed forms of soy. Research has shown the isoflavones in soy can interfere with thyroid function (and it is also considered a goitrogenic food). The issue isn’t so much with soy itself but rather that we consume too much of it – as isolates and ingredients in food, as well as supplements. In addition, a lot of soy is genetically engineered.
Function: The Adrenals sit above your kidneys, one of each side. They play a huge role in how our body responds and deals with stress. So if we are very stressed-which most of us are-we exhaust our adrenals and they become fatigued.
Symptoms of Dysfunction: How do we know if our adrenals are fatigued? We are physically exhausted, we’re irritable, moody, we gain weight gain (especially around the belly because of cortisol), and we crave salt and sugar to give us energy or perk us up.
Adrenal Superfoods: A key to nourishing our adrenals is eating regular meals and mini-meals. This helps to keep our blood sugar balanced and cortisol levels in check. Lean proteins eggs, chicken and turkey are great for breakfast and lunch as they help to stabilize blood sugar levels, seeds (pumpkin, chia and flax), good quality salt (they recharge our batteries), avocado, walnuts, and filtered water. We should drink half your weight in ounces each day. Dark chocolate, olive oil, garlic, and berries help to lower cortisol levels. They are high in antioxidants, are anti-inflammatory, and reduce oxidative stress.
Make an adaptogenic* herb tonic using:
- Eleuthero / Siberian ginseng
- Astragalus root
- Rhodiola rosea
- Licorice root
Or take an adrenal support supplement that has adaptogenic herbs in it. *Adaptogens are a unique class of healing plants: they help balance, restore and protect the body.
TIP/AVOID: The key is managing our cortisol levels. If you’re waking up at 3am it’s because you’re cortisol levels are peaking at the wrong time. Cortisol follows the circadian rhythm – it should start to rise at 6am, peak at 8am and then fall from there. Certain foods like caffeine; alcohol and sugar tax the adrenals and raise cortisol levels because they are inflammatory.
Function: Overall body function, memory, and mental acuity.
Symptoms of Dysfunction: If your head is feeling foggy, you’re memory isn’t as good as it used to be, or you’re having trouble concentrating, you could benefit from eating these brain superfoods.
Brain Superfoods: Curcumin (the yellow pigment in turmeric) is one of the most widely researched ingredients when it comes to brain health. Its anti-inflammatory agents have been shown to help with Alzheimer’s and other neurological disorders.
Coconut oil, which is high in good fat, is also being studied for brain health. Our brains are mostly made up of fat (60% by weight), and the good fat in coconut oil gives our brain the energy it needs to function properly and helps with memory and depression as well as anxiety (due to its antioxidants).
Omega 3’s, research show omega 3’s are important for brain health because it is a healthy fat. Take a fish oil supplement or eat foods high in omega 3’s like walnuts, chia seeds, and hemp seeds.
Recipe/Meal Suggestion: Golden Milk: Coconut milk, turmeric, raw honey and coconut oil. See our recipe here.
TIP/AVOID: Golden Milk makes for a great breakfast for 3 reasons: It contains turmeric which is important for brain health and function, it contains coconut oil which gives us good fat and energy, and it will hydrate us. Dehydration causes our brains to shrink so staying hydrated is important for focus, short-term memory and decision-making. Research shows kids who eat breakfast can focus better in class and improve their memory. Avoid MSG and artificial sweeteners. They cause the neurons in our brain to fire rapidly and repeatedly which can destroy brain cells (also known as excitotoxins they are highly addictive).
Check out this infographic for foods to support all of your organs: