The body stores fat for energy and insulation in many areas, including the liver. If the fat content of the liver is too high, it may be a sign of fatty liver disease. Diet changes are the first-line treatment for this condition.
There are two main types of fatty liver disease: alcohol-related liver disease and non-alcohol-related fatty liver disease. Pregnant people can also develop a form of fatty liver disease known as acute fatty liver of pregnancy. This rare complication can occur during the third trimester or in the early postpartum period. Fatty liver disease damages the liver, preventing it from removing toxins from the blood and producing bile for the digestive system. When the liver is unable to perform these tasks effectively, a person is at risk of developing other problems throughout the body.
Lifestyle factors, including diet and exercise, are key to managing fatty liver disease. A balanced diet can also help prevent malnutrition in people with this condition who have developed cirrhosis. Research indicates that up to 92% of people with cirrhosis are undernourished.
In this article, we suggest several foods to include in a fatty liver disease diet and other foods to avoid.
Foods and drinks to help cure fatty liver
Eating natural, unprocessed foods that contain complex carbohydrates, fiber, and protein is a good starting point. They can provide long-lasting energy and a feeling of fullness. Some people choose to follow specific diets, such as the Mediterranean diet. This diet is an especially good option for sufferers because it minimizes processed foods, added sugar, and saturated fatty acids. Depending on the type of fatty liver a person has, a dietitian can help create a personalized diet plan tailored to their tastes, symptoms, and medical condition. Here are some specific foods that may be particularly helpful for people with fatty liver disease:
Garlic is a staple in many diets and may provide benefits for people with fatty liver disease. A 2016 study in Advanced Biomedical Research found that powdered garlic supplements seemed to help reduce body weight and body fat in patients.
Omega-3 fatty acids
A 2016 review of current research suggests that consuming omega-3 fatty acids may improve liver fat and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels in patients.
Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids include:
Drinking coffee is a morning ritual for many people. However, it may provide benefits beyond increased energy for those with fatty liver disease.
A 2019 animal study found that decaf coffee reduced liver damage and inflammation in mice fed a diet containing high levels of fat, fructose, and cholesterol. Another study in mice from the same year showed similar results. The researchers found that coffee reduced the amount of fat that accumulated in the mice’s livers and improved the way their bodies metabolized energy.
Eating a variety of whole vegetables is helpful for people with fatty liver disease, and broccoli is a vegetable that someone with fatty liver disease should seriously consider including in their diet. A 2016 animal study published in The Journal of Nutrition found that prolonged consumption of broccoli helped prevent the accumulation of fat in the liver of murine animals. The researchers still need to conduct more human studies. However, early research on the effect of broccoli consumption on the development of fatty liver disease appears promising.
The use of tea for medicinal purposes is a practice that dates back thousands of years. Green tea provides various antioxidants, such as catechin. Trusted Source: Research suggests these antioxidants may help improve symptoms of fatty liver disease.
While all nuts are a great addition to any diet plan, walnuts are particularly high in omega-3 fatty acids and may have benefits for people with fatty liver disease. Although more research is needed, a 2019 study in the journal Liver International found that higher nut consumption was significantly associated with lower levels of NAFLD.
Soy or whey protein
A 2019 review in the journal Nutrients found that soy and whey protein reduced fat accumulation in the liver. Results of a study in the review showed that liver fat decreased by 20% in obese women who consumed 60 grams (g) of whey protein per day for 4 weeks. Soy protein contains antioxidants called isoflavones that help improve insulin sensitivity and reduce fat in the body.
Foods and drinks to avoid
Adding healthy foods to your diet is one way to control fatty liver disease. However, it is equally important for people with this condition to avoid or limit their intake of other foods.
Sugar and added sugars
People with fatty liver disease should avoid or limit added sugars. These can contribute to high blood sugar levels and increased fats in the liver.
Manufacturers often add sugar to candy, ice cream, and sugary drinks like soda and fruit drinks. Added sugars are also found in packaged foods, baked goods, and even store-bought coffee and tea. Avoiding other sugars, such as fructose and corn syrup, can also help minimize fat in your liver.
Excessive alcohol consumption is one of the most common causes of acute and chronic liver disease. Alcohol affects the liver, contributing to fatty liver disease and other conditions, such as cirrhosis. A person with fatty liver disease should try to reduce their alcohol intake or eliminate alcohol from their diet altogether.
Processed and refined grains are found in white bread, white pasta, and white rice. Producers remove the fiber from these highly processed grains, which can raise blood sugar as the body breaks them down. A 2015 study of 73 adults with NAFLD found that those who ate fewer refined grains had a lower risk of metabolic syndrome, a group of risk factors that increase the likelihood of various health conditions. People can replace refined grains with potatoes, legumes, or whole grain and whole grain alternatives.
Fried or salty foods
Too much fried or salty food is likely to increase calorie intake and can lead to obesity, a common cause of fatty liver disease.
Adding spices and herbs to a meal is a great way to flavor food without adding salt. People can also usually bake or steam food instead of frying it.
A 2019 review article notes that eating saturated fat increases the amount of fat around your organs, including your liver. Beef, pork, and deli meats are high in saturated fat. A person with fatty liver disease tries to avoid these foods as much as possible. Lean meats, fish, tofu, or tempeh can be substituted. However, oily and wild fish may be the best option because they also provide omega-3 fatty acids.
Changes in lifestyle
Making lifestyle changes can help people with fatty liver disease reduce and manage their symptoms.
Here are some examples of helpful changes:
Adjust calorie intake
For sufferers, weight loss is the most important strategy. A 5% decrease in body weight can reduce the amount of fat in a person’s liver. A person with NAFLD typically needs to eat between 1,200 and 1,500 calories a day or reduce their daily intake by 500 to 1,000 calories to see results. It depends on the body mass of the person. With malnutrition being a problem for people with fatty liver, research suggests that the optimal caloric intake for people with this disease is around 2,000 calories per day, incorporating around 1.2 to 1.5 g of protein per kilogram of body weight. Eating smaller, more frequent meals, with shorter intervals, can improve food absorption.
be physically active
Regular exercise is important for everyone. However, it has additional benefits for people with fatty liver disease in terms of symptom control. Get at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous exercise each week.
Here are some tips to become more active
use a standing workstation
stretch every morning
walk on a treadmill
Use the stairs instead of the elevator
These are all easy ways to increase activity levels throughout the day without taking the time to do a full workout.
When to consult a doctor or a dietician?
If diet and exercise do not have the desired effect on your fatty liver disease symptoms, you should consider seeing a doctor. The doctor may refer the person to a nutritionist to help develop a diet plan. No currently approved medication can treat fatty liver disease, but diet and lifestyle choices can significantly improve the condition.
* HealthKey strives to transmit health knowledge in a language accessible to all. In NO CASE, the information provided can not replace the opinion of a health professional.