Thursday, October 1, 2015

How to Beat Fatty Liver with these Healthy Eating Tips

No, a ‘fatty liver diet’ does not mean you can exclusively eat the controversial delicacy of foie gras.

It’s a way of eating to manage or prevent fatty liver disease – a common condition that affects up to 90 million Americans. And it seems that anyone can be at risk as this condition has even been reported in children as young as two years old.

Maybe you’re wondering if you have it. Or maybe you’ve already been diagnosed with fatty liver.

So what causes it? What can you do about this common condition?

Here’s the lowdown on fatty liver, and how diet and lifestyle can help support and protect your precious liver.

What is Fatty Liver?

Alcoholic liver diseasWhile a small amount of fat in the liver is normal, if fat makes up more than 5 to 10% of your liver’s weight, you may be considered to have fatty liver disease.

There main types of fatty liver disease are:

  • Alcoholic liver disease (ALD)
  • Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)

Alcoholic liver disease can be caused by chronic drinking, which leads to inflammation and scarring of the liver. If you suspect you have this, or have been diagnosed with ALD, then your doctor will work with you to help manage or reverse this condition.

Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD)

Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver DiseaseIn this article, I’ll be focusing on the more common type of fatty liver disease: non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

Risk factors for NAFLD include:

  • Genetics
  • Excess weight or obesity
  • Age (it’s more common in middle-age people)
  • Medications
  • Viral hepatitis
  • Autoimmune or inherited liver disease
  • Fast weight loss
  • Malnutrition

If you have a fatty liver you may feel tired, lose your appetite, suffer nausea or weakness, or have trouble concentrating. Or, you may have no symptoms at all.

Having a fatty liver also leads on to other, more serious health issues such as:

  • Inflammation
  • Heart disease
  • Pre-diabetes and diabetes
  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Cancer

As you can see, it’s certainly not something to be ignored. If you suspect you have it, your doctor can perform a blood test or ultrasound to confirm if fatty deposits are present in your liver.

What Causes Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease?

what cause fatty liverWell, some sources say the cause is yet unknown but other more vocal medical professionals like Dr. Mercola and Dr. Mark Hyman are in no doubt about the cause – and it’s diet related.

Contrary to what you may think, it’s not fat that’s the problem. It’s sugar. Or more specifically, the fructose in sugar.

After all, fructose from sugar is the cause of so many of our health issues, not to mention our obesity epidemic.

Used in thousands of foods and drinks, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) can slow down our metabolism and trigger the early stages of diabetes, heart disease, and liver disease.

Soda is probably the number one source of high fructose corn syrup in our diets, which may explain why incidences of fatty liver disease among children are increasing.

What To Eat & What To Avoid?

Now that we know that NAFLD is linked to diet, we can make smart food choices to help prevent or manage this condition.

Here’s what you should and shouldn’t have on a fatty liver diet.


sugar ditch itTo state the obvious here, get rid of sugar!

If you don’t believe Mercola or Hyman, I can assure you that research backs up a link between excessive fructose intake and fatty liver disease.

Ditch sweet treats and read labels carefully for hidden sources of sugar that can be lurking in ketchup, salad dressings, crackers, and more.

Forget about sodas or sports drinks. Even if you’re not overweight, or have diabetes, studies show you’re still at risk of NAFLD if you drink sugary drinks.

Natural Sugars

natural sugarsNatural sugars can also be an issue when dealing with fatty liver. I’m talking about fruit juice here, it’s not as healthy as you think.

A recent study found that fruit juice has a fructose concentration of about 45.5 g per liter – barely any better than the average of 50 g per liter of soda.

And, Minute Maid 100% apple juice was found to have over 65 g of fructose per liter, beating Pepsi, Sprite, Coca-Cola, 7-Up, and Dr. Pepper!

Even though whole fruits are really important for health, avoid high fructose fruits like dried figs which have 24.4 g of fructose per 100 g of fruit, raisins with 33 g 16.4 g per 100 g of fruit, or dried peaches with 15.6 g per 100 g.

Instead, opt for avocado, strawberries, grapefruit, cantaloupe melon, fresh apricots, and peaches, which all clock in at under 2 g of fructose per 100 g of fruit.


carbohydratesFatty liver sufferers are more likely than most to consume high levels of carbohydrates, which leads to rising insulin levels. This can eventually lead to insulin resistance and more fat storage in the liver.

After cutting out sugar, reducing your carbohydrate intake could be the best thing you do for your fatty liver.

A study has shown that just six days on a low carb diet reduced the amount of liver fat by the same levels as did seven months on a low calorie diet!

Naturally, you’ll need to watch both the amount and the type of carbohydrates you consume.

Make sure to avoid simple carbs like:

  • White bread
  • White pasta
  • Cakes
  • Pastries
  • Sugars and syrups

Instead eat complex carbs like:

  • Whole grain breads & pastas
  • Wild rice
  • Quinoa
  • Oatmeal
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Beans & Lentils

By choosing fiber rich whole grains you’ll stay full for longer and won’t suffer sugar crashes.

I like to start the day off with oatmeal, have some quinoa with my lunch and a baked sweet potato with dinner – and I’m always energized and full.

Low carb meals can taste amazing too – check out some of my favorites.


good proteinsIf you’re going to be reducing your carbs, it means you’ll need to bulk up your meals with more protein and fats instead. Make sure to choose plant-based proteins, healthy fatty fish at least twice a week, and enjoy high quality lean meats sparingly.

Research shows that patients suffering from fatty liver disease have a higher intake of meat and a tendency towards a lower intake of fish rich in omega-3. This higher intake of meat is associated with an increased risk of NAFLD, regardless of age, gender, BMI, and total calories consumed.

It also helps explain why the Mediterranean diet has been shown to reduce the symptoms of fatty liver and improve insulin sensitivity in sufferers. This type of diet is low in meat but high in fatty fish.

Try protein rich foods like:

  • Greek yogurt
  • Whey powder
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Lentils & beans
  • Tuna
  • Salmon
  • Chicken or turkey
  • Eggs


good fatsWhile dietary fat isn’t the prime cause of fatty liver, it may play a role. Plus too much overall fat is just plain unhealthy.

Avoid trans-fats and cooking oils like corn, sunflower, and safflower oil. Coconut oil is a much better choice for cooking.

Add in monounsaturated fats (MUFAs), which have been shown to decrease liver fat in those with NAFLD. Replace your store-bought salad dressings with heart-healthy olive oil. Snack on whole olives, macadamia nuts, pecan nuts, and avocado, which are all good sources of MUFAs.

Omega-3s play an important role in reducing and preventing fatty liver, so eat plenty of fish or take fish oil supplements along with flax and chia seeds.

Good fats like these are anti-inflammatory and help repair the liver.


antioxidantsIt’s recommended you ‘pack your diet with antioxidants’ to help protect and heal your liver. The best way to do this is by eating a wide variety of fruit and vegetables of every color.

Make sure to get enough:

Beta-carotene (to help your body make vitamin A) found in:

  • Sweet potatoes
  • Carrots
  • Apricots
  • Peppers
  • Broccoli
  • Kale

Lycopene from:

  • Tomatoes
  • Grapefruit
  • Asparagus
  • Oranges
  • Watermelon

Vitamin C from foods like:

  • Citrus fruits
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Strawberries
  • Cauliflower
  • Kiwi

Vitamin E from:

  • Almonds
  • Seeds
  • Dark leafy greens
  • Hazelnuts
  • Avocado
  • Papaya

Swap Sodas for Coffee

swap sodaYou might think coffee wouldn’t be a healthy choice for your liver, but in fact coffee has many health benefits.

People who drink three cups of coffee a day, regardless of its caffeine content, have been shown to be 25% more likely to have lower levels of liver enzymes than those who drink none.

And, drinking two or more cups a day might reduce your risk of death from liver cirrhosis by 66%.

Three cups of coffee a day sounds like a lot to me – I’d prefer to stick with one. But go with what works for you, just make sure you’re not having more caffeine than you’re used to.

And don’t forget to skip the sugar!


Some supplements are thought to play a part in helping prevent or repair fatty liver damage, as well as support the liver.

Vitamin D

vitamin DVitamin D deficiency may play a role in the development of NAFLD, so making sure you get enough to meet your needs is essential.

While you can get most of your vitamin D from sun exposure, those living in more moderate climates may want to consider supplements.

You can also add vitamin D rich foods to your diet, although surprisingly few foods naturally contain this vitamin. Those that do include salmon, tuna, eggs, cheese, and fortified products.

Milk Thistle

supplementsYou may remember I talked about milk thistle before and it’s detoxifying benefits.

This herb is known to support the liver as well as the kidneys and gallbladder. It can be used safely in patients who have liver conditions and is thought to be a helpful aid in treating NAFLD.

If you have fatty liver disease, it may be worth asking your doctor about supplementing with milk thistle to help your liver on the road to recovery.


probioticsThese beneficial bacteria have been found to be helpful in everything from maintaining a healthy brain function to supporting the immune and digestive systems.

Well, it turns out various experimental studies and clinical trials have revealed their promising effects in improving NAFLD too.

You can take supplements or add probiotic rich foods to your meals like live natural yogurts, fermented foods and even raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar.

Other Lifestyle Choices

quit smoking lifestyle choiceWhile there is no denying diet is a huge component of managing fatty liver disease, you can also make other healthy choices to support your body and protect it against excess liver fat.

  • Smoking: Smoking has been shown to worsen the severity of fatty liver disease, as well as increasing your risk of heart attack or stroke, two complications that arise from NAFLD.
  • Alcohol: WebMD recommends you avoid alcohol, even if you have non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
  • Weight loss: Because those with NAFLD tend to be overweight or obese, it’s a good idea to lose weight, especially belly fat. Dr. Mercola recommends intermittent fasting as one way to achieve this.
  • Exercise: Doing some exercise goes hand in hand with weight loss. Regular exercise can improve insulin resistance and fight fatty liver.

It seems to me that healthy eating on the fatty liver diet isn’t all that different to healthy eating in general!

Cutting out sugar and refined carbs, getting more energy from lean protein and healthy fats, and eating plenty of antioxidant-rich fruit and vegetables sounds like the kind of eating plan I like to follow.

And of course quitting the cigarettes, watching alcohol intake, and staying in shape are important lifestyle factors for everyone, not just those with NAFLD.

Now, over to you lot! Are you concerned that your diet and lifestyle may put you at risk of fatty liver disease? Or have you already been diagnosed?

The post How to Beat Fatty Liver with these Healthy Eating Tips appeared first on Nutrition Secrets.

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