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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.

Nonalcoholic 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.

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.

The two types of NAFLD are:

  • Nonalcoholic fatty liver (NAFL), where fat collects in the liver without inflammation, though enlargement of the liver may lead to pain
  • Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) 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.

The first line of treatment for overweight or obese individuals with NAFLD is gradual weight loss through a combination of calorie reduction, exercise, and healthy eating.

In general, the diet for fatty liver disease includes:

A nutrient-dense, whole-food-based diet rich in fiber, protein, and unsaturated fats is generally recommended for people with NAFLD.

Here are a few foods to include in your healthy liver diet:

Your daily cup of coffee could help protect your liver against NAFLD.

A 2021 review found that regular coffee consumption is associated with a lowered risk of developing NAFLD, as well as a decreased risk of the advancement of liver fibrosis in those already diagnosed with NAFLD.

Coffee also appears to lower the number of abnormal liver enzymes in people at risk for liver diseases.

Compounds found in spinach and other leafy greens may help fight fatty liver disease.

A 2021 observational study found that eating spinach specifically lowered the risk of NAFLD, possibly due to the nitrate and distinct polyphenols in the leafy green.

Interestingly, 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 lower polyphenolic content and antioxidant activity.

Both beans and soy have shown promise in reducing the risk of NAFLD.

A scientific overview of diet and liver disease points out that legumes such as lentils, chickpeas, soybeans, and peas are not only nutritionally dense foods but also contain resistant starches that help improve gut health.

Consumption of legumes may even help lower blood glucose and triglycerides in people with obesity. In addition, a 2019 study found diets rich in legumes specifically helped lower the likelihood of NAFLD.

A few studies have also found that eating soy (whether replacing a serving of meat or fish or consuming miso soup, which contains fermented soy) may help protect the liver, though the evidence is mixed.

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.

Fatty fish such as salmon, sardines, tuna, and trout are high in omega-3 fatty acids.

Research suggests that supplementing with omega-3s may benefit those with NAFLD by reducing liver fat, boosting protective HDL cholesterol, and lowering triglyceride levels.

Whole-grain, fiber-rich foods like oatmeal are associated with a reduced risk of NAFLD-related diseases.

Studies have shown that a nutritious diet rich in high fiber foods like oats can be effective for those with NAFLD and may help reduce triglyceride levels.

A diet rich in nuts is associated with reduced inflammation, insulin resistance, oxidative stress, and a lower prevalence of NAFLD.

A large study from China found that increased nut consumption was significantly associated with a lowered risk of NAFLD — and research has found that people with fatty liver disease who eat walnuts have improved liver function tests.

High doses of curcumin — the active ingredient in turmeric — might reduce markers of liver damage in people with NAFLD.

Studies focusing on turmeric supplementation show the bright orange root may decrease levels of serum alanine aminotransferase (ALT) and aspartate aminotransferase (AST) — two enzymes that are abnormally high in people with fatty liver disease.

Sunflower seeds are particularly high in vitamin E, an antioxidant often used (via supplementation) in treating NAFLD.

While most research around NAFLD and vitamin E focuses on supplements, a 100-gram serving of sunflower seeds has about 20 milligrams of vitamin E, more than 100 percent of the Daily Recommended Value.

If you want to increase your vitamin E consumption naturally, sunflower seeds are a good starting point.

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 Mediterranean diet is sometimes recommended for individuals living with NAFLD.

It focuses on minimally processed whole foods containing unsaturated fat. It’s also high in vegetables, fruit, and legumes, all of which aid its ability to help reduce total cholesterol.

This vegetable not only adds flavor to food, but small experimental studies also show that garlic powder supplements may help reduce body weight and fat in people with fatty liver disease.

In a recent 2020 study, people with NAFLD who took 800 mg of garlic powder per day for 15 weeks saw reductions in liver fat and improved enzyme levels.

Regarding whole food consumption, a 2019 study found that frequent consumption of raw garlic was inversely associated with NAFLD in Chinese men (but not women).

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: Avoid sugary foods like 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. Limiting sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrams per day is recommended. 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, should also be limited, as they are high in both sodium and saturated fat
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If you’ve been diagnosed with fatty liver disease, your doctor may recommend working with a dietitian to make a sustainable 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
• 1/2 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:

  1. Get active: Regular exercise 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.
  2. Lower blood lipid levels: Watch your saturated fat and sugar intake to help manage your cholesterol and triglyceride levels. If diet and exercise changes aren’t enough to lower your cholesterol, consult a healthcare professional about your options for medication.
  3. Manage diabetes: Diabetes and fatty liver disease often occur together. A balanced diet and regular exercise can help you manage both conditions. If your blood sugar is still high, a healthcare professional can prescribe medication to lower it.

What foods can help repair a fatty liver?

Research suggests people with fatty liver disease may benefit from the following foods:

  • spinach and other leafy greens
  • salmon, sardines, tuna, trout, and other fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids
  • oats and other high fiber foods
  • walnuts
  • turmeric and curcumin
  • sunflower seeds and other sources of vitamin E
  • garlic

What’s the fastest way to reduce fatty liver?

Improving a fatty liver won’t happen overnight. Reducing alcohol consumption, eating more plant-based, whole foods, and maintaining a healthy weight can help you see results.

What foods should you limit or avoid if you have a fatty liver?

Your healthcare professional may recommend cutting back on less nutritious foods and beverages known to cause weight gain, as well as anything associated with increased blood sugar.

This often includes:

  • beer, wine, liquor, and other alcohol
  • foods with high levels of added sugar, such as candy, sodas, and fruit juices
  • fried or highly processed foods, such as bread, rice, and pasta made from white flour
  • red meat, especially beef and pork, and other sources of added sodium

In many cases, practicing moderation — rather than complete elimination — can help create sustainable dietary changes.

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.

This may include dietary changes and lifestyle modifications like increasing physical activity, improving sleep, and reducing stress.