Back in biology class, we learned that every organ has a job: The heart pumps blood around the body, the lungs provide oxygen and the kidneys excrete waste. But when we got to the liver, things got more complicated. “The liver has many jobs,” explains celebrity nutritionist, detox diet guru, and bestselling author Haylie Pomroy. “It’s the chemical processing plant of the body. It takes cholesterol and converts it into hormones. And it dictates whether we store fat or burn it for fuel.”
Needless to say, the liver works hard — but for many women over 40, it’s not working optimally. “Sadly, the liver tends to get tired with age, especially if you’re under stress or carrying excess fat,” explains Christine Gerbstadt, M.D., R.D., a nutritionist and physician at the National Institutes of Health. “You can think of it like a partially clogged drain: It’s still working, but at a much slower pace.” The result: By the age of 40, up to 90 percent of women are battling excess pounds caused by an exhausted liver that struggles to process medications, sugar, alcohol, excess hormones, and other toxins.
What happens when the liver gets overwhelmed?
“When the liver is bombarded by must-process chemicals, the body says, ‘We need more garbage bags to store all this garbage.’ Those garbage bags are fat cells,” explains Pomroy. The body stores the “bags” in places like the belly, hips, knees and thighs. But when the liver gets really overloaded, it can’t even be bothered to deposit fat in your trouble zones: Instead, the liver shifts to storing fat within the gland itself, and that starts to dramatically clog the works.
When the liver reaches this stage of bogged-down and clogged-up, it can’t keep producing the hormones that help burn fat. “It slows down the production of the hormones cortisol, testosterone and estrogen, which direct the breakdown of body fat for fuel,” says Dr. Gerbstadt. The body holds on to that fat instead. “And it holds on tight,” adds Pomroy. “As your hormones become increasingly imbalanced, the body becomes increasingly weight-loss resistant.”
How to Heal Your Liver
Luckily, easy detox diet tweaks can heal and unclog the liver. “Of all the organs, the liver is the most affected by what you eat. So if you nourish it with the right fats, amino acids and phytonutrients, it can regenerate,” promises Pomroy. Indeed, a study from the National University of Natural Medicine in Portland, Oregon, found that subjects who followed a seven-day detox diet improved liver function by 53 percent, plus reported a 44 percent reduction in toxin-related symptoms like fatigue, brain fog, and insomnia. And a Brazilian review concluded that diet modifications, including avoiding simple carbs and saturated fat, reduced risk factors for liver disease by 50 percent and lowered fat accumulation in people with liver disease by 236 percent. Says Dr. Gerbstadt, “If you’re eating the right foods, you’re giving your liver exactly what it needs to go ahead and produce fat-burning hormones.”
And speedy fat burn is just the beginning. “When the liver is working optimally, you have fewer blood sugar–regulation issues and far fewer sugar cravings,” explains Pomroy. Other benefits include sunnier moods, younger-looking skin, thicker hair, and increased energy. Keep scrolling for Pomroy’s simple 10-day plan that will unclog your liver and uncover a whole new you!
A-List Celebs Who Love Haylie Pomroy’s Detox Diet
Actors, athletes and other famous faces are fans of Haylie Pomroy’s metabolism-boosting plans. Golden Globe winner and 9-1-1 star Angela Bassett, 61, credits Pomroy’s Fast Metabolism detox diet with keeping her slim and radiant. “A lot of diets deprive and take so much away, but this one doesn’t deprive,” Bassett shares. “You end up having everything.”
While prepping for her historic Super Bowl LIV Halftime Show performance last February, Jennifer Lopez, 50, relied on advice from Pomroy, her longtime nutritionist. “I’ll have a salad or some fish with veggies,” said the singer and actress, who also enjoys sweet potatoes, quinoa and nuts. “And I drink lots of water throughout the meal.”
The incomparable Cher, 74, has been a superstar for decades—and she’s showing no signs of slowing down. To maintain her energy levels and impressive physique, she favors a clean diet. “Most of the things that I like are healthy,” says the singer, who has worked with Pomroy. “It can get exhausting being Cher… but I still have a great time.”
“I call the liver a metabolism superhero,” says celebrity nutritionist and bestselling author Haylie Pomroy, author of Cooking for a Fast Metabolism ($16.19, Amazon). Indeed, nourishing the often-overworked organ with liver-supporting foods can jump-start fat burning in just 10 days. Pomroy explains, “Each nutrient you put into your body triggers the release of a different compound that allows the liver to function optimally.”
The first step: Eat breakfast within 30 minutes of waking up in the morning. “When you wake up, your body shifts from a rest and restoration phase to a fat-burn phase,” says Pomroy. But in order for the liver to start making this switch, it needs fuel in the form of micronutrients. “The quicker you can add these to the mix, the more effective the liver can be.”
Following breakfast, Pomroy suggests eating every three or four hours to ensure that the liver is constantly fueled. For example, at around 11 AM, you’ll have a midmorning snack of tea or a smoothie (liquid snacks ensure speedy nutrient absorption, she says), followed by lunch at 2 pm, a smoothie or soup at 5 pm, and dinner at 7 pm. In building your meals, you’ll fill up on vegetables, lean animal proteins, healthy fats, and low-sugar fruit to fuel the liver, while avoiding processed foods, grains, beans, corn, sugar, and dairy, which inhibit the liver’s production of fat-burning hormones.
You’ll also aim to drink half your body weight in ounces of water every day. Pomroy says this helps the liver eliminate toxins. “Water also fills you up,” adds NIH nutritionist and physician Christine Gerbstadt, M.D., R.D. “So it helps regulate calorie intake in addition to keeping the liver healthy.”
But your secret weapons are the foods that support the liver and help it eliminate fat and toxins, says Pomroy. She advises rotating these seven superstars into your detox diet:
• Grapefruit delivers a compound (d-limonene) that activates key detox enzymes, improving the liver’s ability to flush harmful toxins and burn fat by 30 percent. Says Pomroy, “Grapefruit also contains unique phytonutrients that burn fat and help intensify liver metabolism.” Snack on one whole grapefruit to get the benefits.
• Mushrooms are high in fiber, which Pomroy calls “kindling for the metabolism,” plus they contain compounds that help restore and strengthen the liver. According to scientists at Georgetown University, eating mushrooms can kick-start fat burn within 48 hours and help you shed up to five extra pounds of belly fat per month. Pomroy recommends enjoying at least 1⁄2 cup.
• Sunflower seeds help the liver banish stubborn fat. “The seeds have very high levels of natural lecithin, which is one of the compounds the gallbladder uses to dissolve and break down fat,” Pomroy explains. The result: speedy liver cleansing and optimized fat burning. To get the perks, you can snack on sunflower seeds by the handful or blend 1⁄4 cup into a smoothie.
• Coconut oil is made up of medium-chain fatty acids — the liver’s favorite kind of fat. The proof: Medium-chain fatty acids have been shown to increase metabolism by 56 percent. To get the perks, cook with 1 tsp. of coconut oil or add it to smoothies.
• Eggs deliver lecithin to help the body break down and utilize cholesterol. These gems are also rich in choline, a nutrient that prevents fat accumulation within the gland itself. British scientists say adding two eggs to your daily diet can help you shed up to 17 additional pounds and trim an extra 3 inches off your waist.
A Sample Day on the Detox Diet
These meals are packed with Haylie Pomroy’s go-to liver-healing foods to jump-start fat burning!
- Ham omelet: Fold 1⁄4 cup sautéed mushrooms and onions and 2 oz. sliced ham into a two-egg omelet. Serve with a side salad.
- Lettuce wraps: Toss 1⁄2 cup each diced chicken, shredded carrots and mushrooms with 2 Tbs. soy sauce. Divide among three large lettuce leaves.
- Tropical smoothie: In a blender, combine 1⁄2 cup mango, 1⁄4 banana, 3⁄4 cup coconut milk, 1 tsp. turmeric and 1 Tbs. sunflower seeds.
- Salmon dinner: Serve 4 oz. steamed salmon alongside roasted mixed veggies, like fennel, broccoli, carrots and green beans.
- • Fennel stimulates the production of bile to help speed the breakdown of fat. All told, regularly eating bitter foods like fennel can increase metabolism by up to 53 percent. Pomroy suggests adding 1⁄2 to 1 Tbs. of fennel to meals, saying, “Fennel is especially good at eliminating lumpy, bumpy fat and cellulite.”
- Turmeric is best known as a potent anti-inflammatory, but it can also help the liver break up fatty deposits in the body. That’s why Pomroy recommends getting at least 1 tsp. of turmeric a day. “Warming spices like turmeric increase blood flow, helping break up fat deposits.” The payoff: Turmeric has been shown to whittle waistline fat by 30 percent.
For more tips and recipes, pick up Haylie Pomroy’s newest book, Cooking for a Fast Metabolism ($16.19, Amazon).
This article originally appeared in our print magazine.