NAFLD (Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease) is one of the most common forms of liver issues in the United States. It describes the accumulation of excess fat in the liver and can lead to liver failure and cirrhosis if neglected. This disease impacts individuals who are struggling with conditions like obesity and type 2 diabetes, and it is not caused by heavy alcohol consumption.
The liver is an essential piece of the body’s natural waste management system, comparable in complexity to a city with thousands of public servants. Whenever the body has something it doesn’t need, the liver steps in with its team of experts to filter it out.
Liver disease occurs when the liver sustains physical damage that impedes its normal function. Fortunately, lifestyle changes can reverse the damage, and the first line of treatment for NAFLD often involves weight loss.
In this article, we are going to explore the foods you should consume and avoid to reverse the NAFLD damage.
What to Consume to Restore Liver Health
Greens that prevent fat accumulation
Leafy greens and spinach, in particular, are proven to be strong allies in fighting fatty liver disease. A 2021 study showed that raw spinach specifically lowered the risk, most likely thanks to its high concentration of nitrate and polyphenols.
A cup of coffee a day keeps liver fat away
A recent study found that coffee consumption is associated with a lower risk of fatty liver disease and liver fibrosis for those already diagnosed with NAFLD. Moreover, caffeine has been recognized for its hepatoprotective properties and appears to lower the number of abnormal liver enzymes.
Nuts and Seeds Reduce Inflammation
Nuts are packed with nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, fiber, and protein. According to a study conducted in China, a diet rich in nuts may reduce inflammation and oxidative stress and lower NAFLD risk. At the same time, sunflower seeds are high in vitamin E and are recommended for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Legumes and Soy Reduce the Risk of NAFLD
Legumes like lentils, beans, peas, and chickpeas are known for their nutritional benefits, but they also improve gut health and lower blood glucose in obese individuals. A recent study indicates that diets rich in legumes lower the risk of developing fatty liver disease. At the same time, soy contains a high content of the β-conglycinin protein, which lowers triglyceride levels and may keep visceral fat buildup at bay.
Whole Grains Support Your Liver’s Functions
Oatmeal, wheat, quinoa, and other whole-grain, fiber-rich goods are effective for those struggling with NAFLD, as they are proven to reduce triglyceride levels and contain vitamins needed for healthy liver function.
Fatty Fish to Reduce Liver Fat
Salmon, sardines, tuna, and trout are high in omega-3 fatty acids. Research suggests that regular consumption may reduce liver fat, boost HDL cholesterol levels, and lower triglyceride levels.
In conclusion, a fatty liver diet should be built around plant-based, antioxidant-rich foods, fish, unsaturated fats, and moderate consumption of fiber-rich carbs. Previous studies have shown that NAFLD patients respond well to Mediterranean diets. Blueberries, raspberries, oranges, grapefruit, papaya, broccoli, kale, artichoke, and asparagus are also especially valuable in maintaining your liver in proper shape.
Garlic and turmeric are also strong allies – while turmeric supplements decrease ALT and AST levels (two enzymes abnormally high in fatty liver disease patients), garlic supplements may reduce body weight and fat.
What to Avoid If You’re Diagnosed with Fatty Liver Disease
The short answer would be to avoid all things alcohol, sugar, high-glycemic, and processed food:
Even if fatty liver disease is not necessarily caused by alcohol, heavy consumption may aggravate the condition, as it impairs the liver’s ability to metabolize fat. Experts recommend sticking to water and green tea, which help the body get rid of the toxins and improve metabolic processes.
Refined sugar is devoid of nutritional value and directly causes fat accumulation in the liver. Around 80% of all processed food contains added sugars, including chips, crackers, and salty snacks. Heavy consumption results in inflammation, insulin resistance, and issues that damage the liver. To get your sugar fix, count on blueberries, cherries, watermelon, pineapple and fruits in general.
Refined grains like white bread contain added sugar and are devoid of nutritional value. These carbs are simply broken down into sugar and contribute to weight gain, diabetes, insulin resistance, and fatty liver disease. Of course, you can still eat good carbs like grain bread, brown rice, quinoa, and whole-grain pasta.
French fries, chips, and donuts are extremely high in sugar and fat and cause sugar levels to spike, increasing the risk of fatty liver disease and obesity.
Beef and mutton may be delicious, but they aren’t very healthy if consumed regularly. A recent study shows that consuming too much red meat can increase fat accumulation in the liver and increase NAFLD risks.
Some canned foods contain high amounts of added sugars and sodium that increase the risk of high blood pressure, insulin resistance, diabetes, and fatty liver disease. Moreover, some canned food contains BPA, which has been shown to play a role in liver health.
The Bottom Line
Maintaining a healthy diet and following the recommendations above will support your liver’s effort to heal itself, reverse NAFLD damage, and prevent cirrhosis, cancer, liver failure, and steatohepatitis. Experts recommend avoiding processed foods, alcohol, red meat and opt for organic foods that promote liver regeneration, like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and high-quality protein.
Siggi Clavien worked in the alcohol industry for 15 years before leaving that world behind and launching Equilibrium Labs in 2010. His aim is to reduce preventable liver disease through a combination of education, research, and product development. You can learn more about how he’s changing things for the better at siggiclaviencharities.org.