The body stores fat in many areas of the body for use as energy and insulation. The liver is partially made up of fat, but if the fat content in the liver is too high, it may be a sign of fatty liver disease.
There are two types of fatty liver disease: alcoholic liver disease and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. It is also possible to get fatty liver disease due to pregnancy.
Fatty liver disease damages the liver, preventing it from removing toxins and producing bile for the digestive system. When the liver is unable to do these tasks effectively, it puts a person at risk of developing other problems throughout their body.
The primary treatment for fatty liver disease concerns making changes in diet and exercise, although some people may need to see a doctor for further treatment.
A diet for fatty liver disease includes a wide variety of foods. Reducing calories and eating high-fiber, natural foods are a good starting point. Eating foods containing complex carbohydrates, fiber, and protein can help the body feel full and provide sustained energy.
Foods that reduce inflammation or help the body repair its cells are equally important.
Some people choose to follow specific diet plans, such as a plant-based diet or the Mediterranean diet. A dietitian can often help a person create a diet plan that is right for their tastes, symptoms, and health status.
In addition to these basic guidelines, there are also some specific foods that may be especially helpful for people with fatty liver disease, including:
Garlic is a staple in many diets and may be beneficial for people with fatty liver disease. A study in Advanced Biomedical Research found that garlic powder supplements appear to help reduce body weight and fat in people with fatty liver disease.
Omega-3 fatty acids
More research is needed to confirm this, but eating foods high in omega-3 fatty acids may help lower liver fat. These foods include salmon, sardines, walnuts, and flaxseed.
Drinking coffee is a morning ritual for many people, but there may be more to it than a quick pick me up.
As a report in Annals of Hepatologypointed out, coffee contains chlorogenic acid, which is a potent compound known to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It also helps to reduce cholesterol and hypertension.
In addition to this beneficial compound, coffee itself appears to help protect the body from nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Adding coffee to the morning routine may be a great addition to a person's fatty liver diet.
Eating a variety of whole vegetables is helpful for fatty liver disease, but broccoli is one vegetable that a person should think about including in their diet.
An article in the Journal of Nutrition found that long-term consumption of broccoli helped prevent the buildup of fat in the liver of mice. Researchers still need to conduct more studies on humans, but this early evidence looks very promising.
Using tea for medicinal purposes is a practice that goes back thousands of years. As recent research in the World Journal of Gastroenterology suggests, green tea especially may help reduce body fat percentage and fat in the blood. The higher antioxidant levels in green tea may be helpful as well.
While tree nuts are a great addition to any diet plan, walnuts are especially high in omega3s. A report from 2015 found that eating walnuts improved liver function tests in people with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
Avocados are rich in healthful fats but also contain anti-inflammatory nutrients and soluble fiber, which can help reduce blood sugar and oxidative stress in the body.
Soy or whey protein
As a review in the Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology noted, some proteins can help protect the body from fatty liver disease.
Soy and whey protein appear to help balance the effects of simple carbohydrate intake and can reduce blood sugar levels. They also help the body retain muscle mass and reduce overall weight.
Adding healthful foods to the diet is one way to manage fatty liver disease. However, it is just as important for people with fatty liver disease to avoid or limit certain foods.
Sugar and added sugars
Added sugars can contribute to high blood sugar levels and increase fat in the liver. Added sugars are commonly found in candy, ice cream, and sweetened beverages, such as soda and fruit drinks.
Added sugars also hide in packaged foods, baked goods, and even store-bought coffee and tea. Avoiding other sugars, such as fructose and corn syrup, can also help keep the fat in the liver to a minimum.
Alcohol is a significant risk factor for people with fatty liver disease. Alcohol affects the liver, contributing to fatty liver disease and other liver diseases, such as cirrhosis. A person with fatty liver disease should reduce or eliminate alcohol from their diet.
Processed and refined grains are present in white bread, pasta, and white rice. These highly processed grains have had their fiber removed, which can raise the blood sugar as they are broken down.
Refined grains can be easily substituted with whole wheat and whole-grain alternatives, potatoes or legumes, or omitted altogether.
Fried or salty foods
Too much fried or salty food may increase calories and the risk of weight gain. Adding extra spices and herbs to a meal is a great way to make foods flavorful without salt. Fried foods can usually be baked or steamed instead.
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 good substitutions, but wild, oily fish may be the best choice.
Regular exercise is important for everyone, but it is especially beneficial for people with fatty liver disease. Losing excess weight and keeping the body in shape with exercise may help manage and reduce symptoms.
Even 30 minutes of moderate exercise three to five times a week can help a person feel fitter and reduce their symptoms.
It may also help to be less sedentary in general. Using a standing workstation, stretching every morning, and walking on a treadmill while watching television are all ways to increase activity levels throughout the day without having to make time for a workout.
If diet and exercise are not doing enough to control 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 create a diet plan.
There are no current medications approved by the United States Food & Drug Association (FDA) to treat fatty liver disease. Dietary and lifestyle choices, however, can improve the condition drastically.
When they work directly with a doctor or nutritionist, many people find they can lose weight and comfortably manage fatty liver disease.