Liver Loving Recipes

Nourishing the Wood Element in 5 Element Cooking

The following recipes are nourishing to the wood element, or liver, in five element cooking. The liver is a remarkable organ with tremendous regenerative properties. It stores and nourishes our blood, assists digestion, and carries qi into our muscles and joints. The liver, along with our kidneys, is a major filtration system for toxins. Liver also impacts our hormones, vision, nails and skin. The Chinese consider the liver to be the “General” of the body, a leader from which much of our health...MORE or dis-ease can flow. Modern lifestyles place a tremendous load on the liver, as do fatty foods, drugs of all kinds, alcohol and a diet heavy in animal foods.
Liver is associated with the spring. Its peak season runs from March 21 to the summer solstice of June 21. Spring marks a miraculous bursting of energy. Sap, which is nature’s lifeblood, courses through the trees; new life pushes its way up from the depths of the earth, and we are surrounded by a bright sense of renewal and creativity. The color of the wood element is green, its flavor is sour, and the associated organs are gall bladder and liver. Wood dwells in the East. The hours for gall bladder are 11 p.m. to 1 a.m.; liver is 1 to 3 a.m.
Foods that enhance the wood element:
Grains and seeds: wheat, oats, rye, buckwheat, sourdough, flax
Vegetables: broccoli, parsley, lettuce, kale, collard greens, carrots, alfalfa, beets, leeks, zucchini, shiitake mushrooms, artichokes, all leafy greens, celery, beets, sauerkraut
Beans and Pulses: mung, Lima. green lentils, tofu
Fruits: limes, lemons, grapefruit, green apple, sour cherry, avocado, plums, quince, olives, kumquat, rosehips, pineapple, green apple, umeboshi plum
Animal foods: oysters, clams, mussels, trout, mackerel, whitefish, bee pollen, cod liver oil, crab, abalone, eel, cuttlefish
Herbs and spices: Jasmine, purslane, chrysanthemum, nettle, chamomile, cumin, fenugreek peppermint, rosemary, turmeric, dandelion, star anise
  • 01 of 21
    Steel oats with apples
    1MoreCreative / Getty Images
    This whole foods recipe for steel cut oats with flax and fruit is great for busy people, because you have the option of soaking them overnight and having breakfast ready for you in the morning. Steel cut oats are chopped whole oats, less processed than our more familiar oatmeal, and leagues ahead of the instant variety. Many people avoid steel cut oats because of the cooking time required, but with this painless recipe you can make a big pot and reheat them as needed.
  • 02 of 21

    Super Sunrise Citrus Smoothie

    Green smoothie
    Jasmina007 / Getty Images
    This recipe for my super sunrise citrus smoothie is perfect during the peak citrus months. It has a golden base of grapefruit, orange/tangerine and lemon, topped with apple, greens, ginger and a pinch of cayenne. This drink offers an ultra-energizing, liver-cleansing, refreshing sunburst to your day. I call this my peak performance wake-up drink during citrus season.
  • 03 of 21

    Mango Pineapple Green Smoothie

    Fruit smoothie
    Westend61 / Getty Images
    This Mango Pineapple Green Smoothie recipe is a luscious and buttery smooth green drink that should be made with ripe mangoes in season and golden pineapple for best effect. You can add some Meyer or regular lemon or a bit of fresh ginger root for extra zest. Please remember to use organic produce in any green drink!
  • 04 of 21
    Spinach smoothie
    Olesia Valentain / EyeEm / Getty Images
    This potent green drink smoothie recipe is full of liver cleansing greens, and is guaranteed to give you a pleasant rush of energy and to help move a sluggish digestive system. The banana is an optional addition for those who may not do well with a potent green flavor, as it “softens” the intensity of it. Make sure all of your ingredients are organic please!
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  • 05 of 21

    Provencal Carrot Salad

    Provencal Carrot Salad
    PoppyB / Getty Images
    This simple Provencal carrot salad is seen all over southern France. It is at its best when made with sweet, juicy, bunch carrots, but is good any time of year. It is often served alongside bowls of olives and other vegetable salads, and is a great palate cleanser when made without the garlic. Carrots are beneficial for the lungs, liver, indigestion, and acidic blood. They are one of the best sources of beta-carotene, as is parsley. In addition, parsley is rich in chlorophyll, vitamin C, magnesium and iron. It is excellent for kidney and adrenal function. Mint is excellent for digestion, and is an anti-bacterial herb.
  • 06 of 21
    Carrot salad
    Michael Piazza / Getty Images
    This exotic Middle Eastern carrot salad recipe is particularly good with tofu or white fish, and bitter greens. Carrots are beneficial for the lungs, liver, indigestion, and acidic blood. Raisins are rich in iron, and cinnamon and mint are excellent for digestion.
  • 07 of 21
    Moroccan spiced carrot salad
    Joan Ransley / Getty Images
    This lively Moroccan carrot salad recipe can be made with cooked or raw carrots, depending on your mood. Either way, carrots are excellent for the liver, lungs, and digestion, and are enriched by parsley’s abundant chlorophyll.
  • 08 of 21

    Cleansing Salad of Spring Greens

    Spring greens salad
    David Marsden / Getty Images
    This light, bright cleansing salad of spring greens is chock full of liver cleansing and boosting ingredients. Lemon juice is not strictly macrobiotic, but is good for the liver and is used for its alkaline properties. This salad helps alkalize our systems and is full of live enzymes. Make sure that all of your veggies are organic.
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  • 09 of 21

    Salad of Bitter Greens with Roasted Squash

    Greens with Roasted Squash
    haoliang / Getty Images
    This recipe for bitter greens with roasted squash and nuts combines arugula,chicory and baby lettuce; herb roasted squash and toasted tree nuts for a well-rounded, nutritious entrée salad. The greens nourish and cleanse the liver; squash is strengthening for spleen and pancreas.
  • 10 of 21
    Golden beet salad
    Michael Piazza / Getty Images
    Sweet golden beets pair up with pungent baby mustard greens in this simple cleansing recipe. Baby greens are so tender they don’t need to be cooked, and mustard clears stagnant blood, lung and intestinal congestion. Beets cleanse the blood and nourish the liver, so this combination is perfect for spring.
  • 11 of 21
    Snow pea shoots
    James A. Guilliam / Getty Images
    The delicate young pea shoot is a sweet and welcome sign of spring. We love then tossed with baby greens, carrots and shredded daikon radish for a cleansing and nutrient rich salad. This combination provides ample amounts of vitamins C, A, K, potassium, folate, and folic acid. The salad is an excellent cleansing dish, as it supports liver and gallbladder purification, and rids the body of mucus. Carrots and daikon are also excellent lung foods. A simple gingery vinaigrette adds zest to this simple salad.
  • 12 of 21
    Kale broth
    Debby Lewis-Harrison / Getty Images
    Particularly good in the spring when young greens can be found in abundance, this quick broth-sauté is cleansing for the lymph system and liver. It is blood building and a great overall tonic for the digestive system as well. Try using mustard, dandelion, arugula, turnip, broccoli rabe, baby kale or baby collards.
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  • 13 of 21
    Sauteed broccoli rabe
    Vegar Abelsnes Photography / Getty Images
    This recipe of broccoli rabe, pine nuts, chilies and garlic is eaten all over Italy; is it coincidence that the ingredients also happen to be considered somewhat aphrodisiac? Broccoli rabe (or broccoli di rape) is a bitter green and can be an acquired taste, but this combination cooked in good olive oil is inspiring!
  • 14 of 21
    Sauteed broccoli
    Brian Yarvin / Getty Images
    This quick and easy whole foods sauté of broccoli, shallots, garlic and lemon is an excellent side dish for almost any meal, and is so tasty you’ll be going back for seconds. The broccoli is steam sautéed in less than 5 minutes, so this is a perfect side for busy cooks.
  • 15 of 21
    Chickpeas and greens
    Bill Boch / Getty Images
    This nutritious, tasty recipe for chickpeas with garlic and greens is fast and easy, and can be altered by the choice of greens, as well as by substituting white beans for the chickpeas.
  • 16 of 21
    Seared tofu
    Hale's Image / Getty Images
    This easy recipe for tofu with pea shoots and ginger can be made in 10 minutes. The delicate tendrils of sweet pea shoots are one of the first signs of spring, and combined with crisp pan-fried tofu are a delight to eat. Peas shoots are available in local farmer’s markets and Asian grocers. If you cannot find them, substitute watercress, baby bok choy, or other delicate, quick cooking green. Serve this quick, easy dish with brown rice or soba noodles.
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  • 17 of 21
    Soba noodles and vegetables
    William Reavell / Getty Images
    This simple soba noodle and vegetable recipe is nourishing for the kidneys and relaxing for the liver and gallbladder. It’s a great picnic dish, as it holds very well and is equally good whether hot, cold, or room temperature.
  • 18 of 21
    Soba Noodles with Maitake Mushrooms
    Jim Franco / Getty Images
    This recipe for soba noodles with maitake (hen of the woods) mushrooms is a meeting of great taste with great medicine. Maitake mushrooms are amongst the most popular culinary mushrooms in Japanese cooking, and have a rich, earthy, almost meaty flavor. They also happen to be very powerful medicinal mushrooms, and are used in oriental medicine as mineral rich immune enhancers and cancer fighters. If you cannot source maitakes, use shiitake mushrooms instead.
  • 19 of 21
    Soba soup
    DigiPub / Getty Images
    This light, broth soup is great any time of year, but especially during the spring and fall, when our bodies crave warmth but not necessarily density. Soba noodles and carrots nourish the liver, and the cabbage is great for digestion. The garlic, shallots, ginger and shiitakes all give an extra boost to the immune system, too.
  • 20 of 21
    Oysters Rockefeller
    sbossert / Getty Images

    This recipe for oysters Rockefeller revisits a classic that dates back over 100 years. Oysters are baked with a savory spinach and breadcrumb topping. Oysters and anise (in the Pernod) are 2 powerful aphrodisiac foods, and this dish, with its potent nutrients, is likely to get your energetic juices flowing.

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  • 21 of 21

    Crab Salad

    Crab salad
    Brian Hagiwara / Getty Images
    This crab or lobster salad recipe is a simple warm weather salad that requires good quality fresh or pasteurized crab meat (never canned) to be successful. It makes a stellar sandwich, entrée salad, or stuffing for baby tomatoes or cucumber rounds.