Strange as this may sound, one of the things I remember the most about my two years in Barcelona is a campaign alerting the population about the risks of liver disease. This is an unlikely memory considering that I was surrounded by much more appealing sights, like the Mediterranean Sea and the fairy tale-esq Gaudi buildings. However, the posters spread throughout the city’s subways showing the face of a shockingly bruised man were so effective that they lingered in my memory and forever changed the way I thought about my liver.
“If you could look at your liver in the mirror, you wouldn’t treat it the way you do,” it read.
So true. People spend hundreds of dollars on weight loss and skin products, yet neglect their vital organs, taking them for granted. That is how many diseases come to be.
So let’s talk about the liver. Why and how should we take care of it?
As I mention in my book Detox Juicing: 3-Day, 7-Day, and 14-Day Cleanses for Your Health and Well-Being, the liver is one of the body’s hardest working organs, second perhaps only to the heart. In Chinese medicine, it’s considered the “General” of the body’s army, telling of its irreplaceable role in our health. Some of the things the liver does is remove toxins from our body, help with digestion, regulate cholesterol, and fight infections and diseases.
Hispanics in the US are at a 50% higher risk of suffering from liver disease than non-Hispanic whites. These alarming numbers are evidence that we need to learn more about this organ and its proper care.
Avoiding things that are bad for the liver, such as alcohol and sugar, are as important as eating nourishing foods that will help replenish this organ. Bitter foods such as arugula, dandelion, watercress, radishes, and artichokes are particularly good at healing and strengthening it. In fact, many home cooks in Peru drink the water in which artichokes are cooked for its medicinal properties, and most detox products contain this vegetable.
Artichokes are in season right now, so it’s the perfect time of the year to use them as often as we can in our cooking! The easiest way to use this vegetable is to buy a jar of baby artichokes and add them to your salads, pasta sauces, or rice dishes. Here is an example.
Paella-Inspired Rice with Artichokes
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 40 minutes
Total: 1 hour
1/2 white onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 red bell pepper, sliced
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 cup canned organic whole tomatoes
1 cup brown basmati rice
2 cups fresh fava beans
1 jar baby artichokes in water
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 lemon, cut in wedges
- In a large skillet, sauté the onion and garlic in olive oil over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
- After two minutes, add the bell pepper and cook, stirring for two more minutes.
- Add the salt, pepper, paprika, thyme, and oregano, and stir for another minute.
- Pour the tomatoes into the pan, stir well, and softly crush them with a wooden spoon or with whatever you’re using to stir the veggies. Bring to a boil.
- Add the rice, two cups water, and increase the heat until the water boils. When this happens, stir once more, cover the skillet with a lid, and bring the heat down to low.
- Simmer like this for about 40 minutes, until the rice is soft but not mushy. If the water evaporates too soon, add some more. When it’s ready, let it sit covered for ten minutes.
- While the rice is cooking, bring a small pan of water to a boil and cook the fava beans for eight minutes. Run under cool water, peel, and set aside.
- Cut the artichokes in half.
- When the rice is ready, add the artichokes, fava beans, and parsley. Mix well and taste, adding more seasonings as needed.
- Serve this rice as a vegan entrée or as a side dish, with lemon wedges on the side so each person can squeeze as much lemon juice on it as they want.
Morena Escardó, Food Contributor