Your liver has more than 500 functions to keep you alive and healthy, so it deserves your attention and care. While the liver always contains a small amount of fat, some lifestyle choices can cause too much fat to build up in the liver, which can lead to potential liver damage or other problems.
According to Johns Hopkins, you can have excess fat in your liver but that doesn’t necessarily mean you have liver damage. However, over time, excess fat in the liver can lead to inflammation and cell damage, which can be very severe.
So what exactly causes fatty liver? Things like a high-fat diet, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, and excessive alcohol intake can all cause too much fat in the liver. To learn more about preventing this, we spoke with a few dietitians about their tips for the best drinking habits to reduce liver fat.
Read on, and for more tips on healthy drinking, check out the 9 worst drinking habits for your body.
“Consuming a lot of sugar may cause the liver to overproduce fat. Reading the food label can help people see if the drink has added sugars.” Lauren Manaker, MS, RDNM., author of The Cookbook for a Mother’s First Pregnancy and Nurturing Male Fertility.
Not only can eating a lot of added sugar increase your liver fat or damage your liver over time, studies have found that it can affect your recovery as well. One study found that diets high in added sugar are known to slow the healing process for people who already have liver damage, particularly from nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
“Drinking a lot of alcohol can also lead to a buildup of fat in the liver. While an occasional drink seems fine, excessive drinking should be avoided,” says Manaker.
When looking at the two types of fatty liver disease, heavy alcohol intake would be expected to be one of the main causes of alcoholic fatty liver disease. But studies have found that excessive alcohol intake can also affect the chances of developing nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
Protecting the liver should not be limited to limiting the intake of certain drinks only. It can also be about incorporating some healthy foods and drinks into your daily diet. And one way you can do this is by making a smoothie with liver-healthy ingredients, like broccoli!
Broccoli contains a compound called indol That may help reduce fat in the liver. Adding frozen broccoli to smoothies can be a simple way to increase your intake of this cruciferous vegetable,” says Manaker.
As mentioned earlier, too much added sugar can affect fat levels in the liver over time. And one sneaky way that people overdo it on drinking sugar calories is with energy drinks.
“One drinking habit that can contribute to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is excessive consumption of energy drinks. People often drink energy drinks for the boost you give them, but they are not always aware of how much added sugar they contain. Energy drink brands have about 27-28 grams of sugar per can, so a healthy option is to choose low-sugar varieties or drink unsweetened or low-sweetened coffee or tea for a caffeine boost,” Stephanie Wells, MS, RD.
Fruit juices can also be full of sugars, even if the sugars are natural. While a juice cleanse may not have the problem of providing a lot of “added” sugar, it can still provide a hefty dose of sugars without any fiber or protein to help slow digestion.
“Cleanse juices, especially those with a lot of fruit, are the majority of fructose,” he says. “When too much fructose is inundated with the liver, the liver turns it into fat. Consuming excessive amounts of fructose can lead to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.” . Whitney Stewart, MS, RDN, CDCESDietitian and diabetes educator for nutrition trainees. Since the juices don’t use the peel of the fruit—there’s a lot of fiber in them—Stewart says it’s easy for blood sugar to rise during a juice cleanse, which may “promote insulin resistance.”
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