Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is characterized by the abnormal accumulation of fat within the liver. When fat accumulates in the liver, it prevents the liver from performing its many functions, potentially leading to scarring and further damage. Complications associated with NAFLD include liver cancer, fluid accumulation, gastrointestinal bleeding, and mental changes.
Following a healthy NAFLD diet plan can help reduce the liver damage and slow down the progression of NAFLD. This is because anything we take into the body is filtered through the liver. Eating unhealthy foods further sickens the liver and contributes to further progression of the disease.
One of the main risk factors associated with NAFLD is being overweight, which is in large part tied to unhealthy diet. Switching to a healthy eating regimen will help protect the liver and promote weight loss, which is also beneficial for liver health.
Dietary guidelines for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
To benefit from a NAFLD diet plan, you need to eat balanced and healthy meals. For starters, you need to be careful about the types of fat you eat. It’s important that you avoid saturated and trans fats, as these can worsen liver health. NAFLD patients are often prescribed a low-fat diet. You should consume unsaturated fats, which are fats that are liquid at room temperature.
Healthy fats include olive oil, safflower oil, corn oil, and canola oil. Nuts and seeds are good sources of healthy fats, too, along with fish and avocados.
Another component of a NAFLD diet plan is reducing your salt intake as it further contributes to fluid retention. Patients should adhere to less than 1,500 mg of salt a day – half a teaspoon. You will need to pay close attention to food labels so that you know how much salt a product has.
Patients must also be mindful of their protein intake and the sources of protein. Typically, one gram of protein is required for one kilogram of weight. For example, if a person weight 60 kg (140 pounds), they require 60 grams of protein.
Healthy sources of protein can be found in lean fish, poultry, or meat, as well as some dairy products, nuts, and plants.
Carbohydrates are necessary as they provide energy. They can be derived from grains and starchy vegetables. Avoid packaged goods like cookies and cakes as well as fried foods.
Foods to eat and avoid with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
Ideal meals should include vegetables, seafood, poultry, eggs, legumes, and you can even consume protein powders. Danger foods include candies, processed food, pizza, “diet” foods that claim to make you thinner, foods that contain flour, fried food, foods high in sugar and salt, alcohol, saturated and trans fats, and bagels or muffins.
Sample menu for healthy nutrition in NAFLD patients
Here is a sample menu for your NAFLD diet plan.
Breakfast: one serving of fresh fruit, cooked cereal, one slice of whole grain toast, one teaspoon of almond butter, ½ cup of milk, coffee or tea.
Lunch: Mixed greens salad with balsamic vinegar and olive oil, two to three ounces of cooked meat, one serving of starches, one serving of cooked vegetables, one whole wheat roll, one serving of fresh fruit, one serving of milk.
Dinner: Serving of greens and bean salad, three ounces of cooked chicken, one to two servings of starch, one serving of cooked or fresh vegetables, one whole wheat bun, one serving of fresh fruit, one serving of milk.
Snacks: Yogurt or fresh fruit, half a peanut butter and apple sandwich on whole wheat bread with ½ cup of milk.
Your doctor will further guide you on a NAFLD diet plan or you can work closely with a nutritionist or dietician to work out an appropriate diet to promote liver health.