Fatty liver disease, more accurately called non-alcoholic fatty liver disease or NAFLD, occurs when more than 5% of liver cells contain fat. The exact cause of NAFLD is not known, but both poor diet and genetics are known to play a part. Left unchecked, fatty liver disease can cause cirrhosis, a condition which is potentially fatal.
Unfortunately, there is no direct treatment for NAFLD. Instead, doctors treat the underlying contributing factor, which is typically obesity.
Foods that are high in fat, cholesterol, and sugar are bad for the body in general, but especially the liver. This hard working organ performs a variety of vital tasks including converting food into fuel, processing fat in the blood, clearing away harmful toxins, and making proteins to help blood clot.
Whether you already have a fatty liver or are trying to avoid that outcome, avoiding the items on our list – as well as alcohol, which is very difficult for the liver to process – will go a long way toward protecting the health of your liver.
White bread and other baked goods that use refined white flour are harmful to the liver because they are simple carbs that break down into sugar in your system. Blood glucose spikes and insulin levels rise in response. Shortly thereafter, you’ll experience a crash and be hungry again, having not provided your body any actual nutrition with the empty calories in bread.
To avoid this vicious cycle, replace anything made with refined white flour with 100% whole grain versions. You’ll even out your blood glucose over a longer period and take in critical fiber plus B vitamins and essential minerals, as well.
Butter is very high in saturated fat, which most health organizations recommend limiting. In general, no more than 5-6% of daily calories should come in the form of saturated fat, but it is very easy to go above this level. Eliminating as much butter as possible from your diet is one way to help get that ratio back in check.
Add satisfying richness into your meals by substituting healthier olive oil, nut butters, avocado, apple butter, or hummus instead of butter.
Sugary breakfast cereals
Many breakfast cereals are simply junk food masquerading as a healthy choice. They are full of sugar or artificial sweeteners, refined carbohydrates, and artificial flavoring, preservatives, and coloring. Processing all of that stuff at once is really hard on the liver. Instead, go for whole grain cereals without preservatives or dyes.
Look for labels that indicate the product is high in fiber and has been fortified with extra vitamins and minerals. Then add the sweetness you crave with fresh or dried fruit, rather than sugar.
Most fast food hits the unhealthy trifecta of being extremely high in cholesterol, simple carbs, and sugar. Even savory foods that you wouldn’t expect are shockingly high in sugar, because this helps to cement the craving for them in your brain.
Sodas and fruit drinks
The caffeine and sugar in soda is often used as a crutch to fight off exhaustion, but it’s actually really lousy at delivering sustained energy. Sodas are high on sugar or artificial sweeteners, plus artificial coloring and acids that erode your teeth, and they contain no useful nutrients. Because excess sugar is turned into fat in the liver, kicking these drinks to the curb is one of the best things you can do to combat NAFLD.
Fruit drinks are a little bit better, but not by much. The naturally occurring sugar in fruit is concentrated when pressed into juice, and all the healthy fiber is left behind. Water with just a splash of fruit juice is a much better option when you’re thirsty. When you need a caffeine boost, drink lightly sweetened tea or coffee instead.