Your liver has over 500 functions to keep you alive and healthy, so it deserves your care and attention. Although the liver always contains a small amount of fat, certain lifestyle choices can cause excess fat to accumulate in the liver, which can lead to liver damage or other problems.
According to Johns Hopkins, you may have excess fat in your liver, but that doesn’t necessarily mean there’s liver damage. However, excess liver fat over time can lead to inflammation and cell damage, which can be very serious.
So what exactly causes fatty liver? Things like a high fat diet, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, and excessive alcohol consumption can all cause too much fat in the liver. To learn more about preventing this, we spoke with a few dietitians about their advice on the best eating habits to reduce liver fat.
Read on and for more tips on healthy eating, check out The 9 Worst Eating Habits For Your Body.
“Eating too much sugar can cause your liver to produce more fat. Reading the nutrition label can help people determine whether or not a drink has added sugars,” says Lauren Manaker, MS, RDNauthor of The First Time Mom’s Pregnancy Cookbook and Fueling Male Fertility.
Not only can too much added sugar lead to more fat or liver damage over time, but studies show it can also impact your healing. A study found that diets high in added sugars were known to slow down the recovery process in people who already had liver damage, especially due to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
“Drinking too much alcohol can also lead to fat buildup in the liver. Although the occasional drink seems to be okay, excessive drinking should be avoided,” Manaker says.
When looking at the two types of fatty liver disease, excessive alcohol consumption is expected to be one of the main causes of alcoholic fatty liver disease. But studies have shown that drinking heavily can also impact your risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
Protecting your liver shouldn’t just mean limiting certain drinks. It can also mean incorporating some healthy foods and drinks into your daily diet. And one of the ways to do that is to make a smoothie with liver-healthy ingredients, like broccoli!
“Broccoli contains a compound called indole this can help reduce liver fat. Adding frozen broccoli rice to smoothies can be an easy way to boost your intake of this cruciferous vegetable,” Manaker says.
As we mentioned earlier, too much added sugar can impact your liver fat levels over time. And one of the sneaky ways people overindulge in drinking their sugar calories is with energy drinks.
“One drinking habit that can contribute to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is the overconsumption of energy drinks. People often drink energy drinks for the boost it gives them, but they don’t always realize how much added sugar they contain.Brands of energy drinks can contain around 27-28 grams of sugar per can, so a healthier option would be to choose low-sugar varieties or drink unsweetened coffee or tea or slightly sweet for your caffeine fix,” says Stephanie Wells, MS, RD.
Fruit juices can also be full of sugars, even if the sugars are natural. While a juice cleanse doesn’t have the problem of providing too much “added” sugar, it can still provide a high dose of sugars without fiber or protein to help slow their digestion.
“Cleansing juices, especially those high in fruit, are mostly made up of fructose. When too much fructose overwhelms the liver, the liver converts it to fat. Consuming excessive amounts of fructose can lead to the development of fatty liver disease. non-alcoholic,” says Whitney Stuart, MS, RDN, CDCES, Registered Dietitian and Diabetes Educator for Whitness Nutrition. Because juices don’t use the skin of the fruit – where much of its fiber is – Stuart says it’s easy for your blood sugar to spike during a juice cleanse, which can “promote resistance to insulin”.