Many people believe that when you have a fatty liver, you should only look at the amount of fat that you consume. However, sugar is just as bad for NAFLD and today we’ll try to answer just how much sugar can you eat per day if you have a fatty liver.
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 and you should discuss them with your doctor.
With these in mind, we should know that sugar (we’ll also refer to them as carbs) are really bad for a fatty liver. Sugar, if had in excess, will be stored as fat by our body. And this exactly what we don’t need more of!
So apart from completely eliminating alcohol from your diet, and keeping an eye on the fats you consume, 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?
When talking about added sugars, the maximum allowed amount per day is 37.5 grams or 9 teaspoons for men and 25 grams or 6 teaspoons for women.
The recommendations come from the American Heart Association, but refer to the amount of added sugars that a healthy person should consume. If you already have a fatty liver, those numbers should be as low as possible – and as close to zero as possible.
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 foods and drinks taste better, but otherwise it’s just empty calories.
Empty, harmful calories, as long as you do get your carbs from other healthier sources.
Yes, the human body does need carbs for energy – but we get all that from fruits and grains, from vegetables and all types of food that we eat. Plus, these carbs are natural and absorbed slower by our bodies, avoiding the excess and a blood sugar spike.
So… what is this added sugar, in the end?
Unfortunately, it does not refer only to the classic white sugar. Companies are using various names for this added sugar – tens of variants, to be precise.
The most common, however, are names like sugar, sucrose, glucose, fructose, corn syrup or other types of syrup. Generally, everything ending in “ose” is sugar although not always added sugar (for example, lactose is naturally found in milk and rarely added to anything else).
All of these sugars 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 around 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.
Why are added sugars bad for your health?
Sugar (and, up to a point, all types of carbohydrates) are bad for your health and especially bad for a fatty liver because any of them that are in excess are turned into fat and stored for later use.
But later, you will eat an excess of sugars as well, which will be also turned into fat.
Plus, refinded sugars like all these added ones, are absorbed faster by our body. In other words, 10 grams of carbs from plain sugar and 10 grams of carbs coming from a fruit you ate won’t be used the same: the former will invade the bloodsteram faster and stored instantly as fat.
The latter will release slower into your body and provide it with energy, but fewer amounts (if any) will be stored as fat. This is just a crude example, used to show you how things actually work.
While not all carbs are bad (our body needs them), anything that is in excess is. And added sugars are the easiest method of getting unneeded carbs into your body.
This will in turn make the recovery from a fatty liver a lot more difficult
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.
I did write an article about the best sugar alternatives for fatty liver, though and I recommend going through that as well.
Realistically, though, it will be extremely different to cut sugars off completely – especially early on after being diagnosed.
Unfortunately, we are eating so much sugar in our food – in most foods (you will be surprised if you read the lists of ingredients!) that said foods will just taste bad without it.
And then we’ll have the sugar cravings that we’ll have to deal with. And they are a real beast for most (myself included). But it is something that must be done if you want to get rid of your NAFLD.
However, you will most likely not be able to reduce the amount of added sugars to zero. Therefore, an acceptable compromise is to reduce it 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 for your taste buds, 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. If you just can’t cut out sugars instantly, take it slower. But do set a goal and make sure you get there ASAP (in a couple of weeks, not several months: that would be too slow!).
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 in my opinion – 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 carbs, 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 that are absorbed slower, and therefore do less harm.
Not to mention the fact that our bodies have been consuming fruits for tens of thousands of years… so no, don’t even think about cutting down on fresh fruit to reduce your sugar intake, as long as you don’t go overboard.
Dried fruits? Kiss them goodbye because they usually have added sugars (and some preservatives too).
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!