Most people have a preferred taste, a food or flavor they will choose to eat above all other options. While some may prefer sweet foods, others may crave a salty or bitter taste. Regardless of your particular food preference, it’s important for those with liver disease to know and understand the crucial role that diet plays in the health of this critical organ. The food you eat can greatly impact the proper functioning of your liver.
While we may not realize the effect certain foods have on our bodies while they’re being consumed, it is important to pay close attention to the changes you feel shortly after eating. It’s a well-known fact that excessive salt intake causes water retention, and sweet flavored foods cause a temporary spike in energy. Each one of the five different flavors (sweet, salty, bitter, spicy, and sour) is responsible for a specific reaction in the body. These flavors can help aid proper organ functioning, but like everything else, moderation is the key to a successful diet. Too much of one flavor can cause an adverse reaction, and can do severe harm to the body.
According to research, foods with bitter and sour tastes, such as asparagus, escarole and citrus, have the most beneficial effects on liver health. They’re proven to be cooling and drying, and also have detoxifying properties. While this doesn’t mean you should only eat these two flavors, it does stress the need to have a healthy balance of all five flavors, with a slightly higher proportion of the bitter and sour tastes. By combining these flavors, you will provide the optimal ability for your liver to function properly.
For those people battling liver disease, understanding how the food you eat impacts your liver health will put you on the right track to a healthy, liver-friendly diet. Learn more about the effect certain flavors have on your liver’s capacity to function optimally by reading this entire article here.
In working with
clients one of the first things we frequently
address is their sweet cravings.
Perhaps I attract clients with sweet
cravings because I have a sweet tooth of my
own. It’s been there since childhood, when
my grandmother always kept our freezer
stocked with homemade cakes and cookies. What
In overcoming my
own sweet cravings, I have become an
expert at helping my clients and
workshop attendees break through theirs.
Does this mean I never eat cake or cookies?
Of course not. That wouldn’t be any fun! It
just means I don’t feel that need to have
them as frequently. That’s my goal for my
clients. I help them
tweak their diet so they aren’t always
fighting a desire to eat the more
refined sweets like candy, cookies, cake, and
See, when I work with
clients I don’t just say “stop having sweets,
they’re bad for you,” I say
“let’s figure out WHY you’re having the sweet
cravings.” This is where my approach varies
a bit from a traditional nutritionist. In my
experience, both personally and with clients,
a sweet craving is a sign that something is
out of balance. By
addressing the imbalance and therefore
reducing the craving, my clients can eat
healthy without feeling deprived.
One of the
reasons we all get sweet cravings
is because we don’t have enough sweet flavor
in our diet. Ideally, we want a balance of
sweet, salty, bitter, and sour tastes in our
diet. We typically don’t get sweet flavor in
our meals and so we look for a sweet treat
such as candy or cookies.
What would happen if
we added some healthy sweets to our meals?
I’ve experimented with this
personally and with my clients and it works
like a charm. When I talk about healthy
sweets I’m mainly talking about sweet
vegetables such as sweet potatoes, winter squash
such as butternut, beets, and
carrots (especially cooked
carrots). How often do you eat these foods? I
will frequently make a batch of one of these
sweet vegetables on the weekend and keep them
in the refrigerator so I have them on hand
when I want something sweet – either as part
of a meal or a snack.
If you cook them
right, they’re honestly like eating candy.
Plus, they are packed with
nutrients and fiber. Sweet potatoes are my
personal favorite. The trick is to bake (not
microwave) them at 450 degrees for one full
hour. Yes, an hour is a long time. Simply set
a timer and go watch TV or make some phone
While I’m certain
that eating more sweet vegetables will help
you with sweet cravings, there
may be other things going on that are causing
your cravings. Often when I work with
clients we find there is a combination of
three or four reasons behind the cravings and
we go step-by-step to address each one.
Food Focus: Beets
This once forgotten vegetable is making a comeback! Beets are such a good source of colorful anti oxidants that are needed for good health. They’re easy to cook and they are one of the sweet vegetables, mentioned in my last newsletter, that help reduce sweet cravings.
Beets have the highest sugar content of all vegetables, but they are also very low in calories. Aside from the sugar, beets contain powerful nutrients that help protect against heart disease, birth defects and certain cancers, especially colon cancer.
Cooking Beets with Only 5-Minutes of Active Time
While beets take a while to bake, they’re very low maintenance and take only 5 minutes of active time. Simply set a timer and go do something else.
1 bunch of beets (about 3)
1 TBS fresh lemon juice
1/2 TBS balsamic vinegar
1/2 TBS extra virgin olive oil
Preheat oven to 400°F. Wrap beets in foil. Place on baking sheet. Bake until tender, about 1 hour 15 minutes. Cool. Peel beets. Cut each into 8 wedges.
Place beets in a medium size bowl and toss with the lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and salt.
You can serve on a salad, over greens, or simply eat them on their own. Enjoy!
Once the beets have been cooked, the skin will literally slide off as you drag your hand across the beets. To avoid staining your hands, wear gloves or put olive oil on your hands before handling the beets.
There is a long list of “power foods,” and at the top of the heap you’ll find sweet potatoes and peanuts. Surprisingly the two have more in common than their popularity on the “hot” list. Both of the foodstuffs were studied by Dr. George Washington Carver who invented numerous uses for them. Carver was an African American botanist and inventor in Alabama during the early twentieth century. His life’s work focused on agriculture and these foods among others.
The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Panel recently released its report that will be used as the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and the Department of Agriculture (USDA) review the Recommended Dietary Guidelines for Americans (RDA), for the 2015 guideline update. The report advises:
- A higher consumption of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, and nuts.
- More plant-based foods that are generally lower in calories.
- Consuming those nutrients counted as shortfall nutrients, including vitamins A, D, E and C, along with folate, calcium, magnesium, potassium and fiber.
Peanuts and sweet potatoes fall into the groups of food choices that the panel advises are beneficial for good health.
Peanuts in reality are legumes; they are in the same family as beans and lentils. They are an excellent source of protein, carbohydrates, fiber, unsaturated fat, vitamins and minerals. Peanuts are high in vitamin E, and folate, other vitamins include thiamin, niacin, riboflavin. Minerals include calcium, iron, potassium, and zinc. They do contain fat; however it is unsaturated which is the better-for-you fat. Calories from eating nuts can add up quickly but remember moderation is the key. The recommended serving is one-ounce, or about 28 peanuts.
These groundnuts can be enjoyed as snacks, as an ingredient in other dishes, or processed into peanut butter (invented by Dr. Carver). For those on vegetarian or vegan diets, peanuts are an excellent option.
The sweet potato itself is low-fat-it’s the ingredients we add that can tilt the scales in the opposite direction. The sweet potato is high in beta carotene and vitamins A and C. It is a good source of manganese which helps control blood sugar. The tuber is also an excellent source of antioxidants, carbohydrates and fiber. Sweet potatoes are naturally sweet tasting however the sugars are slowly released which aids in maintaining a consistent source of energy and avoiding a “avoiding a sugar rush” which can lead to fatigue and weight gain.
Sometimes referred to as the super spud, sweet potatoes are very versatile—they can be served baked, boiled, mashed or fried. You can also serve them raw and sliced to pair with and served raw with other vegetables as a snack with a low-fat dip.
In counseling clients I include both peanuts and sweet potatoes-they are readily available, easy to add to any meal plan, and most people like them. When Dr. Carver worked with them, his focus was on their benefit to improve the health of the soil where they were grown. Today we recognize the bonus of his work in boosting the health of both farmland and people.