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Four Recipe Substitutions That Favor Liver Health

Replacing four ingredients with other kitchen staples will make a big impact on the fat, sugar and preservatives your liver must process.

Have you ever watched a cooking show and wished the host would make a dish healthier? Or salivated over a bakery confection dreaming that it wouldn’t harm your liver? Sometimes the most delicious looking and sounding recipes are on the losing end of the liver health spectrum. Because liver health suffers from excessive quantities of fat, sugar and preservatives, finding decent substitutes in our recipes can go a long way in supporting the liver’s well-being.

Whenever an ingredient in a familiar dish is swapped for something else, the end result is likely to have a different taste than you are accustomed to. However, the four suggestions listed below have been repeatedly touted as tasty alternatives. It just might take a little bit of time for your taste buds to get used to your new and improved liver-friendly culinary creation.

  1. Ground Turkey Breast– Swapping ground turkey breast for ground beef saves a substantial amount of saturated fat in your recipes. Whether cooking tacos, meatballs, burgers, meat sauce or meatloaf, this swap can save your liver from a lot of unnecessary fat. In general, regular ground beef contains up to 30 percent fat, ground chuck contains 15 to 20 percent fat, ground round and ground sirloin contain 10 percent fat, regular ground turkey contains 8 percent fat and ground turkey breast has less than 1 percent fat. This swap is essential for those with excessive quantities of fat in their liver.
  2. Unsweetened Applesauce – Forget thinking of applesauce as mushy baby food, because this staple has some surprisingly healthful culinary applications. Because it is sweet and moist, applesauce can be used in place of sugar in sweet baked recipes. One cup of unsweetened applesauce has about 100 calories and 24 grams of sugar. On the other hand, one cup of sugar has over 770 calories and 200 grams of sugar. Since applesauce is moist, the amount of liquid can be reduced by about ¼ cup in a standard baking recipe. In addition, applesauce can replace oil or butter in a sweet baked recipe in a 1:1 ratio. In one cup of unsweetened applesauce there is about .1 g of fat, while one cup of butter yields about 184 g of fat. If using applesauce as a fat and sugar substitute, experimentation with the quantity may be required.
  3. Boiled, Organic Chicken Breast – Simply boiling organic chicken breast and using this lean source of protein in place of sliced deli meat can take a tremendous burden off the liver. Deli meats are usually full of preservatives and fat, both of which challenge the liver’s health. Boiled organic chicken breast does not contain the preservatives common in salami, ham, bologna and other common deli meats. In addition, one cup of boiled chicken has about 2 grams of fat while one cup of salami has about 29 grams of fat. However, be aware that the lack of preservatives means that boiled chicken has a relatively short shelf life.
  4. Plain, Non-Fat Yogurt – Creamy and tangy, plain, non-fat yogurt is a great substitute for mayonnaise or sour cream. Combined with tuna fish, plain, non-fat yogurt plus a squeeze of lemon will make a delicious tuna salad. A recipe calling for sour cream, such as a dip or salad dressing, is usually very high in fat. Mixing plain, fat-free yogurt with reduced fat cottage cheese gives many recipes a similar cream and tang. This combo saves the liver from a lot of fat because ½ cup of sour cream has about 23 grams of fat while ¼ cup non-fat plain yogurt mixed with ¼ cup of reduced fat cottage cheese will have only about 1 gram of fat.

The four ingredient swaps described above are not necessarily exotic or unheard of substitutions. Nonetheless, few people take advantage of them. As the drastic health improvements represented by changing out sugar, butter, ground beef, sour cream, mayonnaise and deli meat are realized, the recipe alterations described above will become the liver-friendly norm., 83 Healthy Recipe Substitutions, Retrieved December 16, 2012,, 2012., Healthy Recipe Substitutions, Elizabeth Burt, RD, LD, Retrieved December 16, 2012, Meredith Corporation, 2012., Salami, Retrieved December 16, 2012,, 2012., Boiled chicken breast, Retrieved December 16, 2012,, 2012.

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About the Author

Nicole Cutler, L.Ac., MTCM, Dipl. Ac. (NCCAOM)®

Nicole Cutler, L.Ac., MTCM is a long time advocate of integrating perspectives on health. With a Bachelor's degree in Neuroscience from the University of Rochester and a Master's degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine from Five Branches Institute, Nicole has been a licensed acupuncturist since 2000. She has gathered acupuncture licenses in the states of California and New York, is a certified specialist with the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association, has earned diplomat status with the National Commission of Chinese and Oriental Medicine in Acupuncture and Chinese Herbology and is a member of the Society for Integrative Oncology. In addition to her acupuncture practice that focuses on stress and pain relief, digestion, immunity and oncology, Nicole contributes to the integration of healthcare by writing articles for professional massage therapists and people living with liver disease.

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