Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is one of the most common causes of liver disease in the United States. It’s a condition in which excess fat is stored in the liver, and can lead to cirrhosis and liver failure if left untreated. NAFLD is more common in people who are living with certain conditions like obesity and type 2 diabetes — and unlike alcohol-related liver disease, NAFLD is not caused by heavy alcohol use.
In a healthy body, the liver removes toxins and produces bile, a protein that breaks down fat into fatty acids so that they can be digested. Fatty liver disease damages the liver and prevents it from working as well as it should, but lifestyle changes can prevent it from getting worse.
In general, the diet for fatty liver disease includes:
- fruits and vegetables
- high-fiber plants like legumes and whole grains
- significantly reducing intake of certain foods and beverages including those high in added sugar, salt, refined carbohydrates, and saturated fat
- no alcohol
The amount of weight that you should lose to treat NAFLD will depend on the amount of excess body fat that you have. Your healthcare team can help you decide on an appropriate weight loss goal based on your overall health. A nutrient-dense, whole-food-based diet rich in fiber, protein, and unsaturated fats
Here are a few foods to include in your healthy liver diet:
1. Coffee to help lower abnormal liver enzymes
Your daily cup of coffee could help protect your liver against NAFLD.
2. Greens to prevent fat buildup
Compounds found in spinach and other leafy greens may help fight fatty liver disease.
3. Beans and soy to reduce the risk of NAFLD
Both beans and soy have shown promise when it comes to reducing the risk of NAFLD.
Additionally, tofu is a low-fat food that serves as a good source of protein, making it an ideal choice if you’re trying to limit your fat consumption.
4. Fish to reduce inflammation and fat levels
Fatty fish such as salmon,sardines, tuna, and trout are high in omega-3 fatty acids.
5. Oatmeal for fiber
6. Nuts to help reduce inflammation
A diet rich in nuts is associated with reduced inflammation, insulin resistance, and oxidative stress, and a lower prevalence of NAFLD.
7. Turmeric to reduce markers of liver damage
8. Sunflower seeds for antioxidants
While most research around NAFLD and vitamin E focuses on supplements, a 100-gram serving of sunflower seeds has about
9. Increase unsaturated fat intake
Swapping out sources of saturated fat — like butter, fatty cuts of meat, sausages, and cured meats — for unsaturated fat sources — like avocados, olive oil, nut butter, and fatty fish — may be helpful for those with NAFLD.
This is why the
10. Garlic to improve overall health
This vegetable not only adds flavor to food, but small experimental studies also show that
When it comes to whole food consumption, a
6 types of foods to avoid if you have fatty liver disease
If you have fatty liver disease, your doctor may recommend avoiding certain foods — or at least eating them sparingly. These foods generally contribute to weight gain and can increase blood sugar.
What does a diet plan for fatty liver disease look like?
If you’ve been diagnosed with fatty liver disease, your doctor may recommend working with a dietitian to come up with a meal plan. Here’s what a typical daily menu might look like.
|breakfast||• 8 oz. hot oatmeal mixed with 2 tsp. almond butter, 1 tbsp. chia seeds, and 1 cup mixed berries|
• 1 cup black coffee or green tea
|lunch||• spinach salad with balsamic vinegar and olive oil dressing|
• 3 oz. grilled chicken
• 1 small baked potato
• 1 cup cooked broccoli, carrots, or other vegetable
|snack||• 1 tbsp. peanut butter on sliced apples or 2 tbsp. hummus with raw veggies|
|dinner||• small mixed-bean salad|
• 3 oz. grilled salmon
• 1 cup cooked broccoli
• 1 cup cooked quinoa
• 1 cup mixed berries
Additional ways to treat fatty liver disease
In addition to modifying your diet, here are a few other lifestyle changes you can make to improve your liver health:
- Get active. Exercise, paired with diet, can help you lose weight and manage your liver disease. Aim to get at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise on most days of the week.
- Lower blood lipid levels. Watch your saturated fat and sugar intake to help keep your cholesterol and triglyceride levels under control. If diet and exercise aren’t enough to lower your cholesterol, ask your doctor about medication.
- Control diabetes. Diabetes and fatty liver disease often occur together. Diet and exercise can help you manage both conditions. If your blood sugar is still high, your doctor can prescribe medication to lower it.
If you have NAFLD or are at risk for developing this condition, certain lifestyle and dietary changes can help improve the health of your liver and reduce the risk of NAFLD.
Studies show that following a well-rounded, nutritious diet rich in fiber, protein, and healthy fats is the best way to improve liver health, lower disease risk, and promote healthy weight loss. If you have NAFLD, or are worried you may be at risk, work with a trusted healthcare professional to come up with a treatment plan that includes dietary changes as well as lifestyle modifications like increasing physical activity, improving sleep, and reducing stress.