Which foods are good for your liver?
If you have fatty liver disease, you should aim to eat foods that help to reduce fat in your liver. These include fresh fruit and vegetables, healthy fats, complex carbohydrates and foods that are rich in antioxidants.
Following a Mediterranean diet is worthwhile, as this diet includes many of the foods that help to lower liver fat levels.
Complex carbohydrates, like oats and other wholegrains, that release energy slowly are good for fatty liver because they help keep your weight down by helping you feel fuller for longer. And maintaining a healthy weight can help to remove fat from your liver and improve fatty liver.
Eating small amounts of healthy fats, like those found in nuts and oily fish can also help with fatty liver because they’re high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are also thought to help reduce fat in your liver.
Here are some specific foods to include in your diet.
6 healthy foods for your liver
1. Sunflower seeds
Sunflower seeds are a great source of vitamin E, with 19.6 milligrams (mg) per 100g – that’s more than 4 times the amount of vitamin E the average adult needs each day. And it’s important to get enough vitamin E if you have a fatty liver, because many studies have shown that taking vitamin E improves the liver function and outcomes of people with early-stage fatty liver.
2. Salmon and trout
Both salmon and trout are also worth adding to your diet if you have fatty liver because they’re good sources of 2 nutrients that can help improve the condition: omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E.
Eating oily fish like salmon or trout may also help with inflammation, which is seen in the second and third stages of NAFLD – nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) and liver fibrosis.
Findings from several human studies suggest that adding avocados to your daily diet may help slow down the progression of fatty liver. It’s thought that this may be because avocado helps with managing your weight, which can help prevent fatty liver.
Small animal studies have also shown that the more avocado a rat eats, the less fat it stores in its liver. It’s not conclusive evidence, but it does suggest that avocados may be useful in the fight against fatty liver disease.
4. Olive oil
Olive oil is thought to be useful for fatty liver because it’s high in omega-3 fatty acids, as well as a good source of vitamin E and substances, known as phenolic compounds, that can help reduce body fat and inflammation.
The results of a few small human studies also suggest that taking olive oil daily (as part of a low-fat Mediterranean diet) may lower liver fat levels in people with fatty liver. But these results can’t be taken as proof that olive oil definitely improves fatty liver, until larger studies are done.
Research suggests that drinking coffee may help stop early-stage fatty liver disease from progressing to liver fibrosis. The reason why isn’t clear, but it may have something to do with a combination of factors, including the effect of coffee on liver enzymes.
It’s also not clear how much coffee you need to drink to reap its potential fatty liver benefits. But keep in mind that eating or drinking too much caffeine can be harmful, so only drink coffee in moderation and speak to a doctor about how much is safe for you to drink.
Studies have shown that eating walnuts (and other tree nuts) can help to improve liver function in people with NAFLD. This may be because, like other foods that are good for fatty liver, walnuts are high in omega-3 fatty acids. Walnuts may also help with fatty liver by reducing liver fat and inflammation.
Foods to avoid if you have fatty liver
It’s not just the foods you eat that are important if you want to follow a diet to reduce fatty liver – cutting out certain foods also matters.
Try to remove high-calorie foods like fried foods from your diet and aim to reduce the amount of saturated fats you eat. Keep your intake of sugary foods, alcohol and simple carbs, like white bread and processed foods, low because these overload your body with sugar, which is turned into fat and stored in different areas of your body – including your liver.
These are just a few general guidelines to follow if you want to reduce your risk of developing fatty liver or if you’re keen to keep it from progressing to a more serious liver condition, like liver fibrosis or liver cirrhosis.
But if you’d like to know the exact foods you should avoid, here are some worth paying attention to.
4 foods that are bad for your liver
Although NAFLD isn’t caused by drinking alcohol, you should cut down on alcohol or avoid it completely if you have fatty liver. This is because drinking a lot of alcohol when you have fatty liver has been linked to increased liver fat, damage and fibrosis. It’s best to not drink it at all, but if you do, aim to have no more than 14 units a week – that’s around 10 small glasses of wine or 6 pints of beer.
If you drink too much alcohol, speak to a doctor before stopping. Suddenly quitting alcohol can sometimes cause serious complications in some people and it may be safer for you to cut down gradually.
2. Fried foods
Whether you make them at home or get them from a restaurant or fast-food shop, fried foods are best avoided if you have fatty liver. They tend to be high in calories, which can lead to weight gain – a risk factor for fatty liver disease progression. They may also be high in saturated fats, which have been linked to causing fatty liver.
Chocolate – particularly milk or white chocolate – tends to be high in calories, saturated fat and refined sugars. All of these can make fatty liver worse by encouraging weight gain. And as mentioned above, eating saturated fat may contribute to specific changes in your liver that cause fatty liver.
If you can’t live without chocolate, dark chocolate – that’s at least 70% cocoa – is best because it has less sugar and saturated fat than other types. But it’s still high in calories and saturated fat, so aim to eat it in moderation.
4. Cakes, cookies and biscuits
Like chocolate, baked goods (including cakes, cookies and biscuits) are also best avoided if you have fatty liver. They can lead to weight gain if you eat them too often because they tend to be high in calories, saturated fat and refined sugars.
But not all baked goods are bad for fatty liver. If you enjoy cakes and biscuits, go for low-fat and low-sugar versions, but still eat them in moderation to avoid having too many calories.
While these 4 foods are worth cutting down on if you have fatty liver disease, there may be other dietary changes you can make to help manage fatty liver. Speak to a doctor or nutritionist for specific advice about what you should and shouldn’t eat for fatty liver.
Weight loss and fatty liver disease
Making some of the dietary changes suggested above may help you lose weight, which, in turn, can also help to improve fatty liver. Studies show that losing at least 3 to 5% of your total body weight can help reduce the amount of fat in your liver. And losing up to 10% of your body weight can help reduce liver inflammation.
But take things slowly. Losing weight too quickly can put a strain on your liver and make fatty liver disease worse. Speak to a doctor or nutritionist for advice on safe ways to lose weight.
When to see a doctor about fatty liver
See a doctor if you have, or think you have fatty liver because you may be able to stop it from progressing to more serious forms of liver disease if it’s diagnosed early. Read more about fatty liver disease and how to tell if you have it.
And if you know you have fatty liver and want to manage it by changing your diet, speak to a doctor before doing so, especially if you have diabetes or high cholesterol. They can help you come up with a diet that’s safe for you.
Find out about tips for lowering your cholesterol levels.
Your health questions answered
What is the fastest way to cure a fatty liver?
There's no quick fix for fatty liver, and there’s currently no medication that can make it go away. But losing weight (if you’re overweight) and making sure diabetes is well-controlled (if you have it) can help stop it from getting worse and may reverse (cure) it if you have early-stage fatty liver.
Can a liver cleanse help fatty liver?
Some liver cleanses claim to break down body fat, improve liver function or ‘flush’ harmful toxins out of your system, but there’s no evidence to suggest that liver cleanses can actually improve fatty liver disease.
If you want to improve fatty liver, try doing more exercise or giving up smoking. Both actions are medically recognised ways to improve fatty liver disease.
- making changes to your diet and lifestyle can help improve fatty liver
- a Mediterranean diet includes many of the foods that help to lower fat levels in the liver
- olive oil, coffee, sunflower seeds, avocado, trout, salmon and walnuts are good foods to include for a balanced fatty liver disease diet
- foods to avoid for fatty liver include alcohol, chocolate, cakes, biscuits and fried foods
- if you have fatty liver and want to manage it by changing your diet, speak to a doctor before doing so, especially if you have diabetes or high cholesterol