PLEASE NOTE: This article does NOT refer to fatty liver / NAFLD for those who also suffer from diabetes!
Many people are tempted to believe that when you have a fatty liver (NAFLD), the only thing you have to care about is the amount of fat that you consume: reduce that and you’re done in terms of treatment. The reality, however, is a bit different: even though greatly reducing the amount of saturated fat is the first and most important step to take in order to start reversing your fatty liver, it’s not the only thing that you have to do. Apart from completely eliminating alcohol from your diet, you also have to be very careful with the amount of added sugars you eat each day.
Why_are sugars (and, up to a point, all types of carbs or carbohydrates) bad for your health and especially bad for a fatty liver? Well, it’s pretty simple, actually: the extra sugar also becomes fat, so even though you’re not directly consuming unhealthy fat by eating added sugars, in the end, it’s still unhealthy fat that ends up in your body.
So what is the recommended amount of added sugar to eat per day? According to the American Heart Association, the MAXIMUM amount of added sugars an adult should eat each day is 37.5 grams or 9 teaspoons for men and 25 grams or 6 teaspoons for women. However, these numbers are for healthy individuals and it’s also worth mentioning that different people react differently to added sugars: if you are extremely active, not overweight or you simply have a great metabolism, then you might have no problem from the extra sugar. Others, however, respond differently and less amounts of sugar do more harm.
The truth is that added sugar is not required in our diets and our body simply does not need that: it serves no purpose whatsoever – it does make some foods and drinks taste better than what we’re used with, but otherwise it’s empty calories that we’re eating. Empty, harmful calories, especially if you are suffering from a fatty liver.
So… what is this added sugar? Unfortunately, it does not refer only to the classic white sugar. You can notice added sugars by terms like sucrose, glucose, fructose (corn syrup for example) and generally everything ending in “ose”. All of these add some sweet flavor, but also a ton of extra calories and fat for your body and liver to deal with later. Try to stay away from these types of foods and consume as few amounts of added sugars as possible – way under the recommended amounts above if possible. The idea is that the less you consume, the better your health will be.
Just for fun’s sake, let’s mention that a regular, 12 oz can of coke has 35 grams of sugar, while a bar of Snickers contains about 25. This probably paints a clearer picture of things you should eliminate from your diet or eat much, much less of.
Does this mean you can’t eat any fruits?
Although fruits and other foods (like grains or pasta) have natural sugars, they fortunately don’t make it to the blacklist. In this article, we are only talking about added sugars, and not all sugars. It’s actually recommended to have a diet rich in fruits: despite the fact that they have a fair amount of sugars, they also have fibers, vitamins and minerals and are considered natural sugars. Not to mention the fact that our bodies are used to consuming these nutrients for thousands of years… so no, don’t even think about cutting down on fresh fruit to reduce your sugar intake. Dried fruits? Kiss them goodbye because they usually have added sugars!
As a conclusion, it’s worth nothing that even though the maximum amounts of added sugar per day should be considered safe even for those suffering from a fatty liver disease, it’s best to reduce the consumption of sugar as much as possible because, really, you get nothing but empty calories along with the sweet taste. Always opt for fruits when you feel the need to eat something sweet and learn to sweeten your foods with fruits also (use, for example, a banana instead of sugar when baking sweets).
It might not be the easiest thing in the world to get used with the fewer amounts of sugar in your diet, but it’s healthy and the right thing to do. I managed to do it and I am sure you can do the same!