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Registered Nutritionists Share Worst Food for Liver Health

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Your liver is important, so take care of it!

There are some body parts you probably don’t think about on a regular basis. (When was the last time you wondered how your spleen was doing?) That is, until something goes wrong. The liver is an organ that we often take for granted, but its importance cannot be underestimated.

“The liver produces bile, which is important for the digestion of fats. It also acts in the detoxification of substances foreign to the body and in the storage of fat-soluble vitamins, among other functions”, he says. doctor Jinan Banna, PhD, RD, registered dietitian and associate professor in the Department of Human Nutrition, Food and Animal Sciences at the University of Hawaii.

Related: Here’s How to Keep Your Liver Healthy

registered dietitian Lyndsay Hall, RD, emphasizes that the liver is vital. “One of its main functions is to process and metabolize the nutrients, hormones and substances – such as drugs – that pass through our blood to maintain the body’s balance and eliminate possible toxic effects,” she says. Hall adds that the liver also serves as a storehouse of energy, otherwise known as glycogen (which is the stored form of glucose) and micronutrients.

Clearly, liver health is critical. This is why it is so concerning that the rise in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is on the rise; an estimated 25 percent of people in the United States have this chronic liver condition. NAFLD occurs when there is a buildup of fat in the liver cells that is not caused by alcohol.

How can you keep your liver healthy? Here, nutritionists share the best and worst foods for liver health.

Related: The Best Foods for Your Liver, From Summer Berries to Coffee and Green Tea

What is the worst food for liver health?

Both Dr. Banna and Hall say there is one category of food that really isn’t good for liver health: ultra-processed foods that are high in sugar or sodium. This includes things like cookies, chips, sugary breakfast cereals, candy, hot dogs, and chips.

“When we consume excess sugar, whether from refined carbohydrates such as white bread or sweets, and our body does not need it at that moment to obtain energy, we store the remaining sugar in the form of fat and this fat can be stored in the liver”, he says. Hall.

As for foods high in sodium, there is also a strong correlation between diets high in sodium and NAFLD; people with a high-sodium diet are up to 60% more likely to be diagnosed with NAFLD.

Both experts also say that foods high in saturated fat should be minimized, when eating with liver health in mind. Foods high in saturated fat include bacon, sausage, red meat, butter, baked goods and ice cream. “Some saturated fat is fine in the diet, but too much saturated fat can lead to fat accumulation in the liver,” says Dr. Banna.

Hall explains why foods high in saturated fat should be minimized is that increased saturated fat intake is often associated with increased blood lipid levels, obesity and insulin resistance – all conditions that can increase the NAFLD risk. “The association between saturated fat consumption and these health conditions that are known to increase the risk of NAFLD is in part due to the creation of harmful ceramides. [lipids]says Hall. “When saturated fat is consumed in excess, it can result in the production of these ceramides, which are fat molecules that can have harmful effects, increasing the risk of conditions like insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.”

Related: Could this workout protect your liver from the effects of alcohol? weight of experts

What to Eat Instead to Support Liver Health

Now that you know what the worst foods are for liver health, comes the question of what to eat instead. As you can probably imagine, the same foods that are good for other parts of the body, including the brain, heart, and gut, also support liver health. “Eating a balanced diet rich in plant-based foods is a good way to maintain liver health,” says Dr. Banna.

Do not know where to start? She recommends focusing on fiber, a nutrient that Dr. Banna says most Americans don’t get enough of it, and it’s found in foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Scientific studies have found a strong connection between a high-fiber diet and improved liver health.

Unlike saturated fat, both experts say unsaturated fat helps maintain liver health. “As it is beneficial to limit saturated fat consumption for the sake of liver health, intake of unsaturated fat becomes increasingly important as our bodies require some fat for metabolic processes,” says Hall. Foods with saturated fat include avocados, olive oil and nuts and seeds.

Hall routinely recommends the Mediterranean diet to clients looking for an eating plan that supports liver health. This way of eating emphasizes foods high in fiber and unsaturated fats, as well as protein that comes primarily from plants and seafood.

It bears repeating that when you eat with liver health in mind, you end up supporting your entire body, including your brain, heart, and gut. If you’ve already been diagnosed with NAFLD, it’s also important to know that it can be reversed. That’s how powerful eating and lifestyle habits are. Nobody has to live with NAFLD. This is a disease we can control. Pretty empowering, right?

Below is a list of 110 foods you can eat on the Mediterranean diet.