Our liver is a crucial organ that we must take care of. It acts as a filter for our body to eliminate toxins and chemicals. However, there are some diseases that lead to people needing to be on a fatty liver diet.
What is a fatty liver? Non-alcoholic liver disease (NAFLD) develops when extra fat builds up in the liver. It affects roughly 20-40% of Americans.
The exact cause of fatty liver is unknown. There are some risk factors that play a major role including:
- Insulin resistance
- Sleep apnea
- High cholesterol
Less common risk factors include:
- Hepatitis C
- Liver infections
- Rapid weight loss
- Some toxins
- Medications like methotrexate, amiodarone, and valproic acid
Currently, there are no drugs currently approved to treat fatty liver. However, research is ongoing. According to Harvard experts, the most effective way to manage it is to live a healthy lifestyle. This includes losing weight, exercising, and adopting a healthy diet.
How to Make Your Liver Healthy Again
There is no specific fatty liver diet, but making dietary changes is an essential step to improve your liver. According to research, losing weight is the single best thing to do to manage fatty liver. This is especially true because the majority of those with the condition are overweight or obese.
Even a 3-5% total body weight loss can make a difference. But your goal should be to lose 10% of your total body weight. This helps reverse fat accumulation, inflammation, and fibrosis associated with fatty liver.
How can you achieve this and also reduce other risk factors of fatty liver? All you need is the right diet and regular exercise.
The Fatty Liver Diet
The first step to treating fatty liver through diet is to limit the number of calories you consume. Also, pay attention to your intake of saturated and trans fats and fructose. Increase your lean protein, fiber, and omega 3 fatty acid consumption.
Coffee, which is rich in antioxidants and healthy polyphenols, can help the fatty liver. Consume two cups of coffee daily to see the protective effects for fatty liver.
Avoid adding salt to flavor your food as this can increase weight gain. Instead, use various herbs and spices to improve the taste.
You can achieve these goals by following the Mediterranean diet.
The Mediterannean Diet
The Mediterranean diet is a nutrient-rich diet. It has micronutrients like vitamins and minerals, as well as macronutrients like proteins, healthy fats, and carbohydrates. It’s a great source of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrients like polyphenols. These are plant chemicals and omega 3 fatty acids.
There are different variations of the Mediterranean diet. But the traditional version includes all food groups. The diet consists of:
- 6 daily servings of vegetables
- 3 daily servings of fresh fruit
- 8 daily servings of unrefined grains
- 5-6 weekly servings of fish
- 3 weekly servings of legumes
- Olive oil
- Nuts and seeds
Vegetables are a great source of fiber, Vitamin C, polyphenols, and omega 3 fatty acids. Fresh fruit provides Vitamin C, fiber, polyphenols, other vitamins, and carotenoids.
Unrefined grains are essential for providing fiber and polyphenols as well. Fish is a great source of omega 3 fatty acids and serves as a lean source of quality protein. Legumes are also rich in fiber and polyphenols.
Wine and olive oil are also included in the Mediterranean diet. You can consume these in moderation, though. As you can see, it limits the consumption of red meat, processed food, and sweets.
The diet goes beyond your meals, though. It also recommends daily exercise and enjoying meals in the company of friends and family.
The Mediterranean diet is one of the most researched diets. It shows benefits in preventing heart diseases and cancer. It also effectively manages insulin resistance, diabetes, and high cholesterol. You can also experience weight loss and longevity.
Furthermore, recent studies found the diet improves gut flora, which is essential for gut and liver health.
The diet is likely responsible for improving overall health and managing a fatty liver.
Fatty Liver Associated with Normal Weight
Fatty liver can affect lean individuals with normal body mass index (BMI). These groups tend to have insulin resistance and abnormal levels of fat (HDL-C and triglycerides. They are likely to consume high fructose and high cholesterol foods. Some may have a genetic predisposition to fatty liver as well.
Again, the Mediterranean diet can help reduce fatty liver. Research shows the diet improves insulin resistance and is low in cholesterol and fructose.
Worst Foods for Fatty Liver
The worst foods for a fatty liver are mostly found in Western-style diets. Foods to avoid include:
- Fast food
- Processed food
- Fried food
- Saturated fat
- Trans fat
- Red meat
- Refined carbohydrates
- High fructose corn syrup
High sugar, especially high fructose corn syrup, plays a major role in fatty liver development.
Although the Mediterranean diet includes red wine, you don’t have to drink it. Excess alcohol promotes fat build-up in the liver and can cause damage to liver cells. It also can cause inflammation and makes the organ work harder. Reduce alcohol intake to one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men.
If you aren’t sure how to start the Mediterranean diet, consult a dietician. It’s important to incorporate fitness, good sleep, and stress management into your daily routine.
Also try supplements like milk thistle, ginseng, licorice, green tea, turmeric, and garlic to reduce liver inflammation. They can also promote detox and overall liver health.