People with jaundice can consume foods and drinks that help improve digestion and metabolism, protect the liver from further damage, and improve liver health.

Jaundice is a buildup of bilirubin in the blood. Bilirubin is a yellow pigment released during the breakdown of red blood cells. Too much of this pigment causes the skin, eyes, and gums to turn yellow.

The liver typically filters bilirubin out of the blood, so jaundice indicates the liver is not working correctly.

This article discusses what people with jaundice can eat, drink, or avoid to help protect the liver.

A person’s diet plays a significant role in jaundice recovery and prevention.

During digestion, the liver produces bile that helps the intestine break down fats.

The liver is also responsible for processing or metabolizing most nutrients, toxins, and medications a person consumes.

All foods and drinks make demands on the liver. However, nutrients and chemicals in some foods are easier to metabolize than others.

Toxins, such as alcohol and some medications, can also damage liver cells during metabolism.

The American Liver Foundation recommends eating a balanced diet that includes food from all food groups. Foods containing fiber are particularly beneficial.

Learn more about what the liver does.

A doctor will provide an individualized treatment plan, including dietary suggestions, to someone with jaundice.

These suggestions will vary depending on the severity of a person’s condition and any underlying medical issues.

The following sections describe some foods and drinks to consume during jaundice recovery.


Staying hydrated is one of the best ways to help the liver recover from jaundice. Water not only helps ease digestion but also helps the liver and kidneys flush out toxins.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) 2020–2025 advises that water and drinks with beneficial nutrients and no added sugars, such as milk, should be the primary beverages people consume.

Although the DGA does not recommend drinking a specific amount of water daily, the United Kingdom’s National Health Service recommends 6–8 glasses.

If people find the taste bland, they can add a teaspoon or more of fresh lemon, lime, or grapefruit juice to water for an extra dose of antioxidants.

Fresh fruits and vegetables

Fresh fruits and vegetables contain powerful antioxidants and fiber that can help limit liver damage during metabolism and ease digestion.

Fruits and vegetables contain liver-friendly nutrients, but some varieties are especially beneficial for liver conditions. The Liver Foundation recommends eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, especially brightly colored ones, such as:

  • whole cranberries, blueberries, and grapes
  • citrus fruits, especially lemons, limes, and grapefruits
  • papayas and melons
  • avocados and olives
  • tomatoes
  • carrots, beets, and turnips
  • cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts
  • ginger and garlic
  • spinach and collard greens

Whole grains

Whole grain foods are an important source of dietary fiber and phenolic acids, which are natural antioxidants in plants. Whole grains include:

  • wheat
  • spelt
  • quinoa
  • rye
  • brown rice
  • oats

A large study published in 2021 looked at the whole grain intake of older adults and their risk of liver conditions. The researchers reported that those with a higher intake of whole grains had a lower risk of liver cancer and of dying from chronic liver disease.

Learn more about the benefits of whole grains.

Healthy fats

Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats are “healthy fats” that help maintain healthy cholesterol levels.

Nuts contain both types of healthy fats and are rich in antioxidants, including vitamin E and phenolic acid. They are also rich in fiber.

A 2019 study in China found that regularly eating nuts was associated with lower prevalence of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.

Oily fish, such as salmon and mackerel, contain polyunsaturated fats as well as omega-3 and zinc, which may help protect the liver and prevent conditions such as NAFLD and liver cancer.

Learn more about the benefits of fish oils and omega-3 oils.

Lean proteins

Lean proteins, including tofu, legumes, poultry, and fish, may benefit people with jaundice. The American Liver Foundation advises avoiding foods high in fat and salt, so lean proteins are preferable to processed or fatty cuts of meat.

Foods and drinks to avoid or limit during jaundice recovery include:


Alcohol is toxic to most internal bodily tissues, including the liver. Excessive alcohol use can cause chronic disease, including liver disease and heart problems.

Most people with jaundice or other liver conditions should try to avoid alcohol completely.

Refined carbohydrates

Soda, baked goods, white bread, and pasta all contain high amounts of refined sugar.

Too much sugar can contribute to several health conditions that impair liver function, including type 2 diabetes and obesity.

Learn more about refined carbohydrates.

Packaged, canned, and smoked foods

Many packaged, canned, or smoked foods contain preservatives, especially deli meats and canned vegetables.

These preservatives are usually forms of salt, such as nitrates and sulfates. Salt dehydrates the body, making digestion and metabolism more difficult and putting stress on the liver.

Saturated and trans fats

Fried, oily, and fast foods contain saturated and trans fats that are difficult to digest, particularly those prepared with partially hydrogenated vegetable oils.

These foods are also high in calories, so consuming them regularly may contribute to overweight or obesity, which can play a role in NAFLD and jaundice.

Learn more about saturated and unsaturated fats.

Raw or undercooked fish or shellfish

According to the World Health Organization, raw or undercooked fish and shellfish may contain bacteria and viruses, such as Hepatitis A. This can cause chronic liver disease.

Jaundice indicates poor liver health, which can have causes including excessive alcohol use and inadequate nutrition.

To improve liver health, people can include plenty of brightly colored fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats. Staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water or unsweetened beverages is also essential.

Foods and drinks to limit with jaundice include fried foods, refined carbs and sugary foods, alcohol, and highly processed foods.


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