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Fatty liver disease is on the rise, and many people are surprised to find out that they’ve been living with the condition. It’s a silent, symptomless disease in its early stages, and you wouldn’t know you have it unless your doctor discovered it. But when you’re diagnosed with fatty liver disease, you have one big problem: There’s too much fat in your liver.
However, there’s no reason to give up once you find out you have fatty liver disease. In fact, this condition and its causes do have the potential to be reversed. You just might be able to limit the damage to your liver and keep it working properly. But to accomplish this, you’re going to want to watch what you eat.
One of the primary ways fatty liver disease is treated is through diet. And some foods are particularly beneficial for fighting back against liver fat, protecting your liver and potentially reversing fatty liver disease. Try these key foods if you’re hoping to get your liver back to good health.
If you’re a coffee drinker, there’s great news: Coffee is fantastic at protecting your liver. In fact, coffee has been found to have a positive effect on liver damage in those with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Research studies show that drinking two or more cups of coffee daily results in less liver damage compared to drinking no coffee at all.
While scientists aren’t exactly sure what it is about coffee that has this protective effect, findings indicate that this common morning beverage might have certain compounds like polyphenols that combat inflammation – a key factor in fatty liver disease. Additionally, the caffeine content in your average cup of coffee might play a role in lowering abnormal liver enzymes.
According to the University of Chicago Medicine, coffee can also slow the progression of liver disease, lessen liver scarring and potentially offset a high-fat diet. While it’s no magical cure, your morning coffee could help you limit the damage that’s done to your liver overall.
How to Get the Benefits: To protect your liver and improve its health, you’ll want to stick to black coffee. Too many flavor-enhancing additions might cancel out all of the positive perks of drinking coffee.
Rich in protein and a fantastic source of calcium, there are plenty of reasons to love tofu. This plant-based food is wonderfully nutrient-dense – but when it comes to your liver, it’s the protein content that counts.
Specifically, it’s the soy protein in tofu that’s so great. A 2012 research study found that soy protein might help reduce fat buildup in the liver. While this study was performed on rats, not humans, the effects could hold potential for individuals with fatty liver disease. Groups of lean and obese rats were fed either a diet featuring casein (milk-based protein) or soy protein. At the study’s end, the obese rats who ate soy protein saw a 20 percent decrease in overall fat accumulated in their livers.
So, incorporating soy protein – or tofu – into your meals just might have the potential to lessen the fat that’s built up to cause fatty liver disease.
How to Get the Benefits: See what tofu might do for you by giving it a prime place on your plate a few times each week. Recipes like our Mango Tofu Salad with Peanut Dressing, Jerk Tofu with Mango Lime Salsa and Asian Broccoli Ginger Slaw with Grilled Tofu all highlight tofu alongside other great ingredients (and offer plenty of flavor!).
Who doesn’t love a few slices of creamy avocado on a salad, a slice of whole-wheat toast or as a topping on just about anything? Avocados are packed with nutritional perks too, from fiber to healthy monounsaturated fats – and that fat can be fantastic for fatty liver disease.
Eating avocados has the potential to have a protective effect on your liver. One research study found that avocados contain some chemicals that have the potential to reduce liver damage. Over the course of the study, researchers fed different fruits to rats with existing liver damage. Avocados had a potent positive effect, reducing the levels of damage-causing liver enzymes and slowing the progression of liver damage.
While more research is needed to determine how potentially positive avocados can be for humans and their livers, avocados are a great fruit to eat whether you’re hoping to protect against liver damage or fill up on nutrients. Avocados contain vitamins E and C, potassium, fiber and plenty of folate, and they can even have a positive impact on cholesterol levels.
How to Get the Benefits: Avocados are very versatile, and you can make a whole meal out of them with recipes like our Roasted Chickpea-Stuffed Avocado, Poached Egg Avocado Toast or Taco-Stuffed Avocado Boats. You can also find plenty of avocado-centric inspiration for every meal with 20 of our favorite recipes highlighting the fruit.
Fatty fish like salmon, tuna, trout and sardines are wonderfully healthy choices for anyone, thanks to their high levels of omega-3 fatty acids. They can offer benefits for your brain, your mental health and more. And, it turns out, those omega-3s are also fantastic for fatty liver.
Eating fatty fish can help improve the fat levels of your liver and reduce inflammation. That means certain kinds of seafood can target two of the biggest factors in fatty liver disease: fat buildup and inflammation. And fatty fish – or oily fish, a category that also includes salmon, tuna and other omega-3 rich fish – can even help you potentially lower your BMI.
Specifically, these types of fish hold a lot of potential for those who have NAFLD, and their omega-3s may be able to help improve this condition regardless of weight loss.
How to Get the Benefits: Put more fatty fish on your plate! We’ve got your guide to dining on wild salmon, along with recipes for other kinds of beneficial fish like our Pizza with Sardines & Fennel or Tuna & White Bean Salad. Can’t eat fish? You can consider a dietary supplement like fish oil that’s packed with the omega-3 fatty acids you need.
Is olive oil your go-to cooking oil? If so, you’re already working towards better liver health. Olive oil is notoriously healthy – as a staple in healthy eating approaches like the Mediterranean diet, it’s been shown to have a positive effect on everything from your heart health to to your brain and cognitive function to your bone strength. And research also indicates that it just might help reverse or prevent fatty liver disease.
A 2015 research review found that olive oil has the potential to reduce liver enzymes and triglycerides that play a role in the damage and dangers of fatty liver disease (specifically, NAFLD). In comparison to other types of oil, olive oil has also been found to help significantly reduce BMI. Even further studies show that the oil can decrease the amount of fat present in the liver, a factor that’s key as you work to reverse fatty liver disease.
With its antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids, using olive oil as your primary oil has the potential to make a significant impact on your liver health and your overall health.
How to Get the Benefits: Make olive oil a staple in your kitchen and use it when you’re cooking and baking. You can also use olive oil alongside other liver-friendly foods in dishes like our Olive Oil-Poached Fish, Halibut with Olive Tapenade Crust or Olive Oil-Poached Salmon with Yogurt Chimichurri & Tomato Corn Salad.
Few beverages are as great for you as green tea. This potent tea can calm your stress, keep your brain in its best shape, reduce inflammation – the health benefits are almost endless. And now, you can add fighting fatty liver disease to its long list of perks.
According to research, the catechins in green tea have anti-hyperlipidemic effects. This means they can be used to treat high levels of fat, or lipids, in the body. That makes green tea great for high cholesterol, but it’s also promising for fatty liver disease. And in their work, researchers saw that individuals with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease who consumed green tea with high-density catechins saw a significant decrease in body fat and better liver health. Overall, catechins helped improve the liver’s fat content and inflammation.
Additionally, researchers at the University of Connecticut have found that giving obese mice a daily serving of green tea might help limit the amount of fat that winds up stored in their livers. Green tea also showed promise in improving liver function and reversing declining antioxidant defenses in the liver. When obese mice were fed green tea extract at an amount that would total 3 to 7 cups of liquid green tea daily, the benefits were strongest. The results suggest that green tea just might protect the liver against fatty liver disease or play a role in its progression.
While research is still underway to examine just how green tea might interfere with the liver’s ability to absorb fat, it’s hard to deny the many health perks of this beverage. It’ll do more than soothe stress in the evening – green tea’s catechins can help fight inflammation, which is a problem connected to fatty liver disease.
How to Get the Benefits: It’s easy to work towards better liver health via green tea – just make yourself a cup! Or, you can incorporate green tea into other tasty beverages like a cool Mango Mint Green Iced Tea. If you want to reap the benefits of catechins beyond green tea, there are also quite a few foods that are rich in these good-for-you compounds.
Discover more ways to better your liver’s health and live well with fatty liver disease: