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What Not To Eat With Fatty Liver? – Find Out Here

Thanks to modern science, there has been a lot of progress in the treatment of fatty liver disease, but there is still a lot more to learn about it. But we know a lot about what to avoid.

Any food can potentially cause livers to become inflamed, but some are more dangerous than others.

The following foods have been linked to fatty liver disease (FLD) in a study by researchers at the University of Michigan published in the February 2014 edition of the journal “Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics” (ALT).  

The results revealed that the most common avoidable risk factors for FLD were:  

(1) high-fat dairy products,

(2) high-fat meats and

(3) high-fat processed foods.  

And the most common (uncooked) foods associated with FLD, were:

(1) full-fat dairy products,

(2) high-fat meats and

(3) high-fat processed foods.  

Of course, the foods that you should not eat with fatty

Food as a treatment for fatty liver disease

There are two major types of fatty liver disease — alcohol-induced and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Fatty liver disease affects nearly one-third of American adults and is one of the leading contributors to liver failure.

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is most commonly diagnosed in those who are obese or sedentary and those who eat a highly processed diet.

One of the main ways to treat fatty liver disease, regardless of type, is with diet. As the name suggests, fatty liver disease means you have too much fat in your liver.

In a healthy body, the liver helps to remove toxins and produces bile, the digestive protein. Fatty liver disease damages the liver and prevents it from working as well as it should.

Dietary habits are significantly associated with health state. A correct diet, associated with a healthy lifestyle may in fact contribute to the maintenance of a healthy human body.

Similarly, the right dietary intake may help cure both alcoholic and non-alcoholic fatty liver diseases. According to Ritesh Bawri, “The best way to manage a fatty liver condition is to reduce processed foods, especially those high in sugar. Similarly cutting back on flour and white sugar can help.

Obviously, reducing or eliminating the intake of alcohol, which is nothing but sugar also helps. Eating plenty of good quality fruits and vegetables provides adequate nutrition to your body and also help you reduce the amount of fat.

Finally, managing your calorie intake ensures that your energy requirement is in balance and the excess food is not stored as fat in and around your body.”

According to a study published in the Medscape, the Mediterranean diet and a low-fat diet could help cure fatty liver disease along with physical exercises.

Mediterranean diet includes the consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables, olive oil and fish and almost no meat. Mediterranean diet has been deemed as one of the healthiest diets that help keep various ailments at bay.

In general, the diet for fatty liver disease includes:

  • lots of fruits and vegetables
  • high-fiber plants like legumes and whole grains
  • very little added sugar, salt, trans fat, refined carbohydrates, and saturated fat
  • no alcohol

A low-fat, reduced-calorie diet can help you lose weight and reduce the risk of fatty liver disease. Ideally, if you’re overweight, you would aim to lose at least 10 percent of your body weight.

Foods to Avoid If You Have a Fatty Liver

Adding healthful foods to the diet is one way to manage fatty liver disease. However, it is just as important for people with this condition to avoid or limit their intake of certain other foods.

Steer clear of saturated fats, which lead to more fatty deposits in your liver. This includes:

  • Poultry, except for lean white meat
  • Full-fat cheese
  • Yogurt, except low-fat
  • Red meat
  • Baked goods and fried foods made with palm or coconut oils.
  • Sugary items like candy, regular soda, and other foods with added sugars including high-fructose corn syrup.

The foods to avoid are typically those that can spike blood sugar levels, or lead to weight gain, such as:

Juice, soda, and sugary beverages: Dr. Delgado-Borrego tells her patients to avoid these as “the enemy of the liver are sugars and carbohydrates.”

Diet drinks that are low calorie: Dr. Delgado-Borrego says sugar substitutes can also cause more liver damage.

Butter and ghee: These foods are higher in saturated fat, which Younan Brikho says have been associated with high triglycerides in the liver.

Sweet baked goods and desserts (cakes, pastries, pies, ice cream, cake, etc.): These types of sugary carbs are detrimental to success if you are trying to reverse fatty liver disease. 

Bacon, sausage, cured meats, and fatty meats: These are high in saturated fats, and therefore not recommended by our experts.

Alcohol: This is not recommended by our experts if you have fatty liver disease that was the result of heavy drinking, as it will simply lead to further liver damage.

For those with NAFLD, it’s okay to have a drink once in a while, such as a glass of wine.

Salty foods: Some research has suggested that NAFLD is worsened by salt consumption, for two reasons–it typically accompanies higher fat and higher calorie foods, such as some others on this list, and it also can result in dysregulation of the renin-angiotensin system, enhancing your risk of fatty liver.

Fried foods: Fried foods as well are often high in calories, negating expert advice to follow a more calorie-restricted diet.

Meat: A 2019 review article notes that saturated fat intake increases the amount of fat that builds up around organs, including the liver.

Beef, pork, and deli meats are all high in saturated fats, which a person with fatty liver disease should try to avoid.

Lean meats, fish, tofu, or tempeh make suitable substitutes. However, wild, oily fish may be the best choice, as these also provide omega-3 fatty acids.

Foods and beverages to consume if you have a fatty liver

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

Coffee to lower abnormal liver enzymes

Studies have shown that coffee drinkers with fatty liver disease have less liver damage than those who don’t drink this caffeinated beverage.

Caffeine appears to lower the amount of abnormal liver enzymes of people at risk for liver diseases.

Greens to prevent fat buildup

Broccoli is shown to help prevent the buildup of fat in the liver in mice. Eating more greens, like spinach, Brussels sprouts, and kale, can also help with general weight loss.

Try the Canadian Liver Foundation’s recipe for vegetarian chili, which lets you cut back on calories without sacrificing flavor.

Tofu to reduce fat buildup

A University of Illinois study on rats found that soy protein, which is contained in foods like tofu, may reduce fat buildup in the liver. Plus, tofu is low in fat and high in protein.

Fish for inflammation and fat levels

Fatty fish such as salmon, sardines, tuna, and trout are high in omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids can help improve liver fat levels and bring down inflammation.

Try this teriyaki halibut recipe, recommended by the Canadian Liver Foundation, that’s especially low in fat.

Oatmeal for energy

Carbohydrates from whole grains like oatmeal give your body energy. Their fiber content also fills you up, which can help you maintain your weight.

Walnuts to improve the liver

These nuts are high in omega-3 fatty acids. Research finds that people with fatty liver disease who eat walnuts have improved liver function tests.

Avocado to help protect the liver

Avocados are high in healthy fats, and research suggests they contain chemicals that might slow liver damage. They’re also rich in fiber, which can help with weight control.

Try this refreshing avocado and mushroom salad from Fatty Liver Diet Review.

Milk and other low-fat dairy to protect from damage

Dairy is high in whey protein, which may protect the liver from further damage, according to a 2011 study in rats.

Sunflower seeds for antioxidants

These nutty-tasting seeds are high in vitamin E, an antioxidant that may protect the liver from further damage.

Olive oil for weight control

This healthy oil is high in omega-3 fatty acids. It’s healthier for cooking than margarine, butter, or shortening. 

Research finds that olive oil helps to lower liver enzyme levels and control weight. Try this liver-friendly take on a traditional Mexican dish.

Garlic to help reduce body weight

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

Green tea for less fat absorption

Data supports that green tea can help interfere with fat absorption, but the results aren’t conclusive yet. 

Researchers are studying whether green tea can reduce fat storage in the liver and improve liver function. But green tea also has many benefits, from lowering cholesterol to aiding with sleep.

Dietary Management of Fatty Liver

To combat fatty liver disease, it’s essential to make strategic and lasting changes to your diet, rather than just avoiding or integrating random foods here and there.

“The most important part of these changes is that they should be sustainable,” says Aymin Delgado-Borrego, MD, pediatric and young adult gastroenterologist and public health specialist at Kidz Medical Services in Florida.

Generally, the best diet for fatty liver includes:

  • Adequate fiber
  • Lots of fruits, vegetables, and nuts
  • Whole grains
  • Very limited saturated fats from animal products
  • Very limited salt and sugar
  • No alcohol

The American Liver Foundation recommends restricting calorie intake and modeling your eating habits after the Mediterranean diet.

Dr. Delgado-Borrego says half of any plate of food you are eating should be fruits and vegetables, one quarter should be protein, and the other quarter should be starches. 

You can always reference the foods to eat and avoid, or just remember these two main rules to improve fatty liver: 

  1. Opt for low-calorie, Mediterranean-style choices. Eat lots of plant-based foods, whole grains, extra virgin olive oil, and fish—with poultry, cheese, and other dairy in moderation. 
  2. Avoid added sugars, processed meats, and refined grains. 

“The best way to ensure significant resolution or even cure [fatty liver disease] is losing approximately 7%–10% of your body weight,” explains Sanaa Arastu, MD, a board-certified gastroenterologist with Austin Gastroenterology in Texas.

Diet for Fatty Liver

Here is what a day of NAFLD-friendly eating might look like:

Breakfast

  • 1 cup of black coffee
  • A bowl of oatmeal or other whole-grain hot cereal with walnuts and fruits/berries added.

or

  • 1 cup of green tea
  • 1 protein shake made with whey or soy protein, oats, berries and low fat milk.

Lunch

  • 1 or 2 servings of whole grains like chapati/brown rice with 1 cup curd/pulses/50 grams chicken and 2 servings of raw or cooked greens/vegetables. 

Snack

  • a small handful of almonds

or

  • Curd mint dip and sliced raw veggies

or

  • 1 sliced green apple with a tablespoon of peanut or almond butter

Dinner

  • A cup of whole grains like brown rice or jowar/bajra roti with 1 cup of beans/lentils and 2 cups of cooked or raw vegetables. 

Dessert

  • 1 cup of fresh mixed berries

Mediterranean Diet: The Quinoa Tabbouleh Salad Recipe

Like for many others conditions, a Mediterranean diet full of whole grains, lean proteins, healthy fats and vegetables is the perfect remedy to fight NALFD, or prevent the development of risk factors.

This plant-based salad serves a family of four and is packed with liver-friendly ingredients.

“Quinoa is technically a seed but considered a whole grain and complex carb, making for a healthier diet,” Bonkowski says. “This recipe also has fiber, protein, unsaturated fat from the olive oil and fresh ingredients like cucumbers, carrots and tomatoes.”

What you’ll need

  • 1 cup of quinoa, rinsed and dried
  • 2 cups of water
  • 1 bunch of fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 1⁄2 bunch of fresh mint, finely chopped
  • 2 carrots, shredded
  • 1 pint of cherry tomatoes
  • 1⁄2 cucumber, diced
  • 3 green onions, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons of fresh squeezed lemon juice (can substitute with a lemon)
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon of onion powder
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon of salt
  • A dash of black pepper

Directions

  1. Add one cup of washed quinoa and two cups of water in a pot until boiling and then reduce to a simmer for 10-15 minutes.
  2. While the quinoa is cooking, prep the parsley, mint, carrots, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers and green onion and set aside.
  3. After the 15-20 minutes, spread the quinoa out on a large plate to cool.
  4. In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, lemon juice, onion powder, salt and black pepper to make a dressing.
  5. Finally, combine all the ingredients and dressing together in a large bowl. Toss to mix thoroughly.

This recipe is endorsed by Lorraine Bonkowski, R.D., and can be found at the University of Michigan’s MHealthy with additional nutritional information.

Consume Vitamins and Minerals

Make room in your diet for:

  • Vitamin D. Low levels may play a role in more severe fatty liver disease. Your body makes vitamin D when you’re in the sun. You can also get it in some dairy products. Choose low-fat dairy items because they have less saturated fat.
  • Potassium. Low levels may be linked to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Fish like cod, salmon, and sardines are good sources. It’s also in veggies including broccoli, peas, and sweet potatoes, and fruits such as bananas, kiwi, and apricots.

Dairy foods, like milk and yogurt, are also high in potassium. Choose low-fat options.

  • Betaine. It might protect your liver from fatty deposits, but research results are mixed. You can find it in wheat germ and shrimp.

Controlling Diabetes and Lowering Your Cholesterol

We already know that insulin resistance is a precursor to fatty liver disease.

If you are unable to control your diabetes through diet and lifestyle alone, it might be a good idea to talk to your doctor about controlling your diabetes with medication. This could be crucial in preventing the occurrence of NAFLD down the road.

Do what your doctor tells you to do to manage your diabetes. Take your medications as prescribed, and keep a close watch on your blood sugar.

Other things you do to keep your liver healthy can keep your cholesterol and triglycerides (fats in your blood) at healthy levels.

Eat a healthy, plant-based diet, get regular exercise, and take medications if your doctor prescribes them. This can help keep your cholesterol and your triglycerides in check.

Supplements are being researched by scientists to determine if they are beneficial to the liver

  • Goji berry (wolfberry), a plant often used in Chinese medicine, may slim your waist size. But we need more research to see if this is true.
  • Resveratrol, which comes from the skin of red grapes, may help control inflammation. Conflicting studies suggest that how well it works depends on how much you take.
  • Selenium is a mineral found in Brazil nuts, tuna, and oysters. (Most people get enough in their diet.)
  • Milk thistle. You might hear it called silymarin, which is the main component of its seeds. Results are mixed on whether it really works.
  • Berberine, a plant used in Chinese medicine. In early studies, it does appear to help with cholesterol, liver function, and blood sugar control. But we need more research to see if it works.

Check with your doctor before you take any supplements. They could change how your medicines work, or they might cause other health problems.

They may not be helpful if you don’t take the right amount in the right way.

Other methods for reversing fatty liver disease

In addition to changing the way you eat, these lifestyle modifications can help to reverse fatty liver disease.

1. Exercise more

Weight loss, nutrition, and other healthy practices can improve liver disease drastically, and work best when you implement them together.

Dr. Delgado-Borrego recommends 60 minutes of physical activity each day, but encourages people who find this intimidating to split the sessions into smaller increments, such as four 15-minute walks.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services calls for 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, and also recommends strength training at least twice per week. 

2. Get more Sleep

While sleep is important for everyone, it can be even more so for people with liver diseases. “Conditions such as obstructive sleep apnea are common and can worsen liver disease by diminishing oxygen supply to the liver,” Delgado-Borrego says.

“People with possible sleep problems should be formally evaluated for them.” The Sleep Foundation recommends seven to nine hours per night for adults.

Try gradually going to bed a few minutes earlier each night instead of trying to alter your morning schedule, which might be tougher.

3. Discuss supplements with your doctor

All of our experts recommend consulting with a healthcare provider first before starting any supplements.

This is especially true for vitamin E, a commonly used supplement for people with liver issues, because taking too much can result in other health complications such as cardiovascular issues.

Supplements should also be used in conjunction with a healthy diet and lifestyle changes for maximum efficacy.

4. Try medication

There are currently no FDA-approved medications for fatty liver disease, according to Harvard Health. The most effective treatment is Pioglitazone (commonly used to treat diabetes), sometimes used off label for liver problems.

With persistence and consistency, fatty liver can be reversed and even cured. The length of time often depends on how long it takes a patient to safely lose weight, if necessary.

It also depends on how consistent they are with diet and exercise changes. Also consider lifestyle changes that reduce your stress, as one study suggested cellular stress in the brain contributes to fatty liver.

When should you consult a doctor or a dietitian?

If diet and exercise are not having the desired effect on the symptoms of fatty liver disease, it may be time to see a doctor. The doctor can run a full analysis and prescribe medications or refer the person to a nutritionist to help them create a diet plan.

No currently approved medications can treat fatty liver disease. Dietary and lifestyle choices, however, can improve the condition significantly.

With the support of a doctor or nutritionist, many people find that they can lose weight and comfortably manage fatty liver disease.

Conclusion

Fatty Liver Disease can stem from a myriad of issues including poor diet, obesity, pre-diabetes, genetics and poor gut health.

Following a Mediterranean-style diet that is high in green vegetables, low-sugar fruits, lean meats and whole grains is key in preventing and healing fatty liver.

It is also important to avoid sugar, white carbs, alcohol, salt and saturated fat if you have a fatty liver. Overall, it is very essential that you follow a healthy diet and keep your weight and blood sugar in check so as to keep NAFLD at bay and lead a healthy life.

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