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A fatty liver is a condition in which the organ stores too much fat. If not treated, your liver can ultimately fail. But you can prevent or treat a fatty liver with healthful eating. You may need to focus on certain foods and avoid others.
The two types of NAFLD are:
- Non-alcoholic fatty liver (NAFL), where fat collects in the liver without inflammation, though enlargement of the liver may lead to pain
- Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), which is accompanied by inflammation, and can lead to cirrhosis and liver failure if left untreated.
In a healthy body, the liver removes toxins and produces bile, a greenish-yellow fluid 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
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.
Coffee also appears to lower the
2. Greens to prevent fat buildup
Compounds found in spinach and other leafy greens may help fight fatty liver disease.
Interestingly enough, the study focused on raw spinach, as cooked spinach did not have the same strong results. This could be because cooking spinach (and other leafy greens) may result in lowered polyphenolic content and antioxidant activity.
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.
Consumption of legumes may even help lower blood glucose and triglycerides in individuals living with obesity. In addition, a 2019 study found diets rich in legumes specifically helped lower the likelihood of NAFLD.
Most likely this is because soy contains a high content of the protein β-conglycinin — noted for its ability to help lower triglyceride levels and possibly protect against visceral fat buildup.
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 one reason 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
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.
Avoid when possible
- Alcohol. Alcohol can be a major cause of fatty liver disease as well as other liver diseases.
- Added sugar. Stay away from sugary foods such as candy, cookies, sodas, and fruit juices. High blood sugar increases the amount of fat buildup in the liver.
- Fried foods. These are high in fat and calories.
- Added salt. Consuming too much salt can increase the risk of NAFLD. It’s
recommendedto limit sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrams per day. People who have high blood pressure should limit salt intake to no more than 1,500 mg per day
- White bread, rice, and pasta. White flour is typically highly processed, and items made from it can raise your blood sugar more than whole grains, due to a lack of fiber.
- Red meat. Beef and pork are high in saturated fat. Highly processed meats in general (sausage, pepperoni, bacon, etc.) should be limited as well, as they are high in both sodium and saturated fat
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
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 manage your cholesterol and triglyceride levels. If diet and exercise aren’t enough to lower your cholesterol, ask your doctor about medication.
- Manage 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, lean or plant-based 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.