What to Eat to Improve a Fatty Liver: Eat This, Don’t Eat That, What Every FLD Patient Should Know

If you are wondering what to eat to improve fatty liver, please take a few minutes to read to the end of this article. I’ll share with you what I’ve learned about fatty liver disease (FLD) and what foods you should and shouldn’t eat to reduce the fat in your liver.

A fatty liver simply refers to having too much fat (specifically triglycerides) stored in the liver. So what exactly is “too much” fat? Generally speaking, a liver is considered “fatty” when fat makes up 5-10% or more of the liver’s weight. Fat accumulates in and around the hepatocyte (liver cell) spaces, causing the liver to become larger and heavier.

In the early stages of FLD, often referred to as simple steatosis, the condition is usually benign and asymptomatic. Many patients don’t even know they have FLD. It is often found by doing blood tests or other tests for completely different reasons. The only way to definitively diagnose the condition is through a liver biopsy, but factors such as elevated liver enzymes often point doctors to the problem.

A fatty liver diet plan typically focuses on balance, moderation, regulation, and reducing fat intake to less than 30% of total daily calories. In other words, if you’re eating a 1,200-calorie diet, calories from fat shouldn’t make up more than 360 of those calories. This equates to about 40 grams a day. Since fatty liver is often associated with obesity, losing weight can have a significant impact on improving liver function and health.

That brings us to the question of what you should and shouldn’t eat. Complex carbohydrates should make up the majority of your energy source. These can be found in things like whole grains, brown rice, and pasta. Simple carbohydrates found in sweets should be avoided.

Diets for fatty liver patients are also generally high in fiber and include a large amount of fruits and vegetables. Fats, particularly saturated fats, must be carefully controlled. Protein can be obtained from vegetables or from leaner white meats such as chicken or turkey instead of beef or pork. Here’s a brief rundown of some of the do’s and don’ts to eat if you want to reduce the fat in your liver.

Foods to Avoid and/or Monitor Carefully

  • white bread and white rice
  • high fat butters
  • Sweets that contain simple carbohydrates (candies, donuts, etc.)
  • High-fat foods (pizza, ribs, pastries, etc.)
  • Eggs and other foods high in cholesterol
  • Sugary and/or carbonated drinks such as soft drinks
  • Fast foods and/or processed meats like hot dogs
  • Fried food
  • Alcohol (especially if you have alcoholic fatty liver (AFL))
  • Salad dressing and other high-fat condiments (look for low-fat or fat-free alternatives)
  • Red meats (beef, pork)

Foods to eat to improve a fatty liver

  • Vegetables (greens, leaves, legumes, tomatoes, and especially broccoli)
  • Fruits rich in vitamin E and vitamin C (oranges, papaya, kiwi, mango)
  • Beans (these are a great alternative source of protein)
  • whole grain breads
  • Milk in moderation (substitute skim or 1% milk for whole or 2% milk)
  • brown rice and pasta
  • Lean white meats (chicken, turkey, tuna)

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