A Fatty Liver Diet Guide: Foods to Eat, Foods to Avoid

Medically Reviewed By Grant Tinsley, PhD
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Diet is an important healthy living habit for people with fatty liver disease to follow. The fatty liver diet contains both foods to include and foods to avoid. Achieving and maintaining a moderate weight will also reduce liver fat and inflammation. A registered dietitian can help you set goals, develop meal plans, and make adjustments along the way.

This article explains what a diet for fatty liver looks like, including when doctors recommend it.

What is a fatty liver diet?

A fatty liver diet aims to reduce your daily caloric intake to encourage weight loss. Weight loss is a crucial part of managing fatty liver disease. A moderate weight loss, about 3–5% of your body weight, can reduce the amount of fat in your liver. Doctors may recommend that some people lose up to 10%.

To help accomplish this kind of weight loss, you can reduce your daily intake by 500 calories. Various kinds of diets can do this. However, you do not necessarily have to follow a trendy or brand-name diet. Clinicians may refer to this diet as:

  • fatty liver disease diet
  • healthy liver diet
  • nonalcoholic fatty liver disease diet

A diet for fatty liver disease includes plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats. Portion control is another important aspect of any fatty liver diet.

Exercising 30 minutes per day and 5 days per week will also help you reach weight loss goals.

Doctors recommend a fatty liver diet for anyone at any stage of liver disease. A registered dietitian can develop a specific plan and goals for you. They can also help you adjust your goals and plans as your health changes.

In fatty liver disease, fat builds up in the liver. There are two forms of fatty liver disease:

  • Alcoholic fatty liver disease: This form of the disease typically stems from heavy alcohol consumption.
  • Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease: People at risk of this form usually have obesity, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, or high blood triglyceride levels.

Diet and lifestyle changes are the main treatments for both types of fatty liver disease. A diet for nonalcoholic fatty liver disease will still help manage alcoholic fatty liver disease. Other lifestyle changes include:

  • getting regular physical activity
  • managing underlying medical conditions
  • avoiding alcohol use

What foods to eat if you have fatty liver disease?

If you have fatty liver disease, eat high fiber foods from all food groups to maintain a balanced diet. 

Specific foods to eat include:

  • fresh, frozen, or canned fruits and vegetables without any additives, such as salt, sugar, or sauce
  • healthy fats, including unsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids, which you can find in:
    • avocado oil, olive oil, and canola oil
    • fatty fish, such as salmon and tuna
    • nuts
  • lean meats and proteins, such as:
    • beans and legumes
    • chicken and turkey
    • eggs
    • trimmed cuts of beef, lamb, and pork
  • low fat or fat-free dairy products, including cheese, milk, and yogurt
  • whole grain products, such as bread, cereal, and pasta

What foods to avoid if you have fatty liver disease?

Along with foods you should eat if you have fatty liver disease, there are also foods you should avoid. In general, limit foods high in calories, fats, and sugar. Additionally, avoid foods that can increase your blood glucose quickly. These foods to avoid include:

  • fried foods
  • high glycemic index foods, such as white bread and white rice
  • organ meats and processed meats, such as liver, sausages, and hot dogs
  • saturated fats and trans fats, such as animal fats, butter, and margarine
  • simple sugars, such as fructose and sucrose

It is also wise to limit or avoid alcohol. Your doctor may recommend limiting salt as well.

What other tips for treating fatty liver disease?

Gradually losing weight and maintaining your weight loss is important to treat fatty liver disease. It can reduce fat and inflammation in the liver, helping to improve fibrosis, which is scarring.

In addition to healthy food choices, other tips for treating fatty liver disease include:

  • avoiding alcohol and sugary drinks
  • drinking 6–8 glasses of water per day
  • exercising regularly 
  • limiting portion sizes

Other frequently asked questions

Here are some questions people often ask about a fatty liver diet.

Is the Mediterranean diet good for fatty liver disease? 

A Mediterranean diet emphasizes the same types of foods that are good for treating fatty liver disease. This includes plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fish, and olive oil. This diet is a good choice for people with fatty liver disease if you avoid the red wine it allows.

What are the best things to drink if you have fatty liver disease?

Water is the best drink choice for people with fatty liver disease. You should aim to drink 6–8 glasses per day. Drinking 2–3 cups of brewed coffee may also help liver health. Avoid alcohol and sugary drinks.

What are signs that your liver may not be functioning well?

Fatty liver disease can progress to cirrhosis. Signs of worsening liver function include nausea, jaundice, and swelling in your legs or abdomen. Weight loss or loss of appetite can also occur.

Summary

Weight loss, dietary changes, and exercise are the main treatments for fatty liver disease. The best diet for fatty liver disease comprises balance across food groups and lots of fiber. This includes limiting unhealthy fats and increasing consumption of whole grains, fresh fruits, and vegetables. A registered dietitian can provide specific guidance on incorporating more healthy choices into your diet.

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Medical Reviewer: Grant Tinsley, PhD
Last Review Date: 2022 Jul 26
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
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