PLEASE NOTE: This article does NOT refer to fatty liver and sugar for those who also suffer from diabetes. In that particular case, the numbers are completely different.
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 the required lifestyle changes that you need to make.
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.
And that’s exactly what we’re going to tackle in today’s article: how much sugar to eat per day when you have a fatty liver?
First, why are sugars (and, up to a point, all types of carbohydrates) bad for your health and especially bad for a fatty liver? Well, it’s pretty simple, actually: the extra sugar is turned into 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.
This happens with all the excess sugar (sugars are still needed to provide energy to our cells and body) and it’s even worse than regular fat, because turning the sugars into fat requires extra work from our body. That is extra work that our liver has to do as well, and putting more pressure on a liver that’s already suffering is obviously not the best idea.
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 problems with a bit of 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 it: 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 little amounts of added sugars as 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.
So how much sugar should you eat if you have a fatty liver?
Ideally, you should completely eliminate all added sugars from your diet. This goes for all the processed sugars, from the classic white sugar, to all the other sorts of glucose syrups, fructose and other similar additives, including starches and sugar alternatives.
Realistically, though, it will be extremely different to cut it off completely – especially early on. Unfortunately, we are fed so much sugar in our food that eating them without it will seem unnatural and the taste will be, in most cases, horrible.
Therefore, an acceptable compromise – in case you really can’t cut it to zero – is to reduce the amount of added sugars (or its alternatives) by as much as possible.
For example, if you used to drink your daily coffee with 2 teaspoons of sugar, reduce that amount to only a quarter of a teaspoon, and use something natural instead (like honey). If it’s too much of a shock, add a teaspoon for a week or two, then add just a half, then get to the lowest amount possible.
Same goes for all the other types of foods and things you eat. Remember that your goal is to completely stop adding sugars or anything similar, but if that’s not possible, reducing the quantity by as much as possible (think something like cutting 90%) is an acceptable approach – at least this is how I did it and I still managed to reverse my fatty liver.
Do fruits count as added sugar?
Although fruits have a lot of 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 and vegetables: 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 since thousands of years ago… 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! Anything with added sugar must go, but I personally believe that fruits are safe to consume.
Sure, you will need to eat fruit with moderation as well – two pounds of bananas each day, on top of a few pineapples and watermelons are definitely too much. But eating fruits as snacks and toppings is definitely healthy and useful.
Remember: our body needs these sugars (carbs) for energy. It doesn’t need added sugars though, or more sugars than what it needs to function properly!
It’s worth nothing that even though the maximum amount of added sugar recommended by the AHA can be considered generally safe, remember that your liver is already under a lot of stress and pressure, so it’s best to reduce the consumption of these sugars 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). And if you can’t really cut out all sugars overnight, take it slow, but make it your main goal to reduce sugar consumption drastically if you want to reverse your fatty liver.
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!