Let’s hear it for the liver! This hard-working organ filters out toxins in the blood, helps digest food, and stores energy. But it can be difficult for the liver to do all this important work if fat begins to build up around it. The name for this condition is nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).
You could have NAFLD without even knowing it because some people don’t have any symptoms. Or you may be feeling tired or experiencing discomfort in the top right part of the abdomen.
Many people learn they have NAFLD when they have blood tests for another reason and their doctor discovers liver abnormalities. But this is a serious condition, and if it progresses without treatment, it can lead to liver cancer or cirrhosis (liver scarring).
Although no one knows what causes NALFD, it is associated with these risk factors:
- Type 2 diabetes and prediabetes
- Middle age or older, though it affects some children
- Being Hispanic or Caucasian
- Having high blood pressure or high cholesterol
- Having certain metabolic disorders, including metabolic syndrome
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Which Foods Help People With Fatty Liver Disease?
The UPMC FLOW (Fatty Liver, Obesity, and Wellness) Clinic helps NAFLD patients manage their diet. Losing weight and maintaining a healthy diet can help you control fatty liver disease symptoms.
Eating these healthy foods will benefit your liver:
- Lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
- Monounsaturated fats such as olive, peanut, and canola oils
- Polyunsaturated fats such as corn, soybean, and safflower oils
- Salmon, walnuts, and flaxseed oils (high in omega-3 fatty acids, a type of polyunsaturated fat)
Which Foods Should People With Fatty Liver Disease Avoid?
Patients with fatty liver disease should avoid or limit eating the following:
Saturated fats: Typically found in foods such as red meat, cream, butter, whole milk dairy products, coconut and palm oils, many dessert items, and processed meats (like pepperoni, salami, and sausage).
Trans fats: Found in foods made with hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils. These include crackers, snacks, and chips, commercially-produced baked goods such as cookies and cakes, and fried foods such as doughnuts and French fries.
Foods high in salt and sugar: Includes most highly processed foods like chips, packaged sauces, and baked goods.
Processed grains like white bread, white rice, and white potatoes: These foods contain simple carbohydrates, which are quickly broken down into sugar and raise blood sugar levels.
What Is the Mediterranean Diet and Why Is It the Best Solution?
The Mediterranean diet is primarily plant-based and incorporates fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, whole grain-based bread, limited amounts of sweet potatoes, and olive oil. Foods that have been minimally processed are the cornerstone of this way of eating. Fish, seafood, eggs, and poultry are typical protein sources. The diet also allows people to drink wine in moderation.
Evidence indicates that people with NAFLD who follow a Mediterranean diet see a reduction in their triglyceride levels and lose weight. The UPMC FLOW Clinic offers education and resources for patients who want to use the Mediterranean diet to manage NAFLD.
For more information or to schedule an appointment, contact the UPMC FLOW Clinic at 412-647-2000 or visit UPMC.com/FLOW.
United States National Library of Medicine, Medline Plus, Fatty Liver Disease. Link
National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Diseases, Eating, Diet, & Nutrition for NAFLD and NASH. How can my diet help prevent or treat NAFLD and NASH? Link
Carolina M. Perdomo, et al. Impact of Nutritional Changes on Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease, Nutrients, 2019 Mar; 11(3): 677. Link
American Heart Association, What Is the Mediterranean Diet? Link
Naba Saeed, et al. Evaluation of Dietary Approaches for the Treatment of Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease: A Systematic Review, Nutrients, 2019, 11(12), 3064 Link
The UPMC Center for Liver Diseases provides complete care for a variety of liver conditions. Our expert hepatologists manage and treat patients using cutting-edge practices and therapies. We research and evaluate new treatments to provide the best care possible. We manage your care and, if necessary, can help you make the transition to subspecialists, including transplant surgery and oncology.