Fatty Liver: Foods to Avoid or Stop Eating

You should stop eating foods from a few important categories if you want to reverse your fatty liver faster. And today, this is exactly what we’re going to check out: the list of foods that you should no longer eat to heal your liver.

If you have been diagnosed with NAFLD, you might know already that there are different opinions regarding the perfect diet to reverse this condition.

But there are a few common grounds when checking out all the diets recommended to cure a fatty liver: the foods one should avoid. Or, in some cases, types of foods to completely cut off your diet.

As long as you avoid (or ideally, completely eliminate) the foods on this list, you can consume anything else in moderation. If a type of food is permitted, it doesn’t mean that you can eat a few pounds per day!

But let’s focus now on the foods you should avoid if you have a fatty liver. I know that it’s difficult to cut them off your diet – it definitely wasn’t easy when I did it, but having in mind that this does help tremendously, it’s something worth doing, without a doubt.

So let’s check out below all the types of foods you should avoid if you have a fatty liver:

1. Fried / deep fried foods

deep fried foods

I have a personal saying that goes like this: if you have a fatty liver, don’t even smell the fried foods! That’s how bad they are for your overall health and especially for NAFLD.

From French fries to fried chicken, hamburgers and even fried vegetables, everything that is cooked in oil (no matter how much) should be completely eliminated from the diet.

I know that this is insanely difficult: I loved to eat my fried foods and the taste of things that you loved won’t be the same when they’re no longer fried, but since it’s your own health on line, it has to be done.

Also, every recipe out there seems to begin with frying some ingredient (or all) in oil, so there will be a bit of adapting left to do.

After I was diagnosed with a fatty liver, I managed to go on a lengthy run of more than one year without eating any fried foods (not even sauteed) and all I can say is that it’s perfectly doable, even though difficult.

But right now my taste buds got used to eating foods that are not fried and I am starting to lose interest in eating anything fried anyway. So yes, cooking without oil is doable while food remains tasty.

Later update: It seems that I was right with this decision as I have managed to reverse my fatty liver after 1.5 years.

Why should you avoid fried foods with fatty liver?

You should avoid eating fried foods if you have a fatty liver because the extra oil increases the amount of fat you’re consuming, especially the extremely harmful saturated fat. And what one thing you don’t need in excess right now? FAT, exactly!

If you don’t want to completely eliminate oil when cooking (like I did), you can use tiny amounts. Less than any recommendation in any regular recipe and less than what you used to add.

Basically, just add enough to give a bit of taste to the food you eat, but never have them soaked in oil or deep fried! You will lose some of the taste and crunchiness, but you will win in the health department.

For example, use spraying oil and spray twice on your portion of vegetables if you really have to.

Never add more than a teaspoon of oil when cooking (per two servings, so a maximum of half a teaspoon per serving) and do try it without adding any extra oil: you’ll be surprised to see how many types of foods still taste almost the same if cooked without oil!

Tip 1: try roasting your vegetables or other foods in the oven instead of cooking them in a pan as they taste better when cooked without oil!

Tip 2: If you need the base, simply replace cooking oil with water to sauté vegetables, meat and anything else.

Just make sure to add water when it evaporates: a couple tablespoons will vanish almost instantly from a pot in medium/high heat.

2. Highly processed foods

ultra processed cold cuts

Processed foods, although delicious and easy to eat, are also extremely bad for your overall health and especially for your liver. These ultra processed foods are usually very high in fat or sugar too, making them real bombs for our liver.

The foods on this list include all sorts of foods you might consider healthy or at least neutral, like white grain flour, white rice and all the snacks and crackers that you can find on the market shelves, as well as cereal and drinks or most cold cuts out there.

Basically, if it comes in a bag, it’s bad for you (this is a slight exaggeration, of course, but proves a point!) If there are 40 ingredients on the list, it’s bad for you.

If the content of fat or sugar/carbohydrates is too high, it’s bad for you. Preservatives, flavorings and all sort of additives: all of these are highly processed and bad for you!

So always check the label or, even better, stay away from all these products and learn to snack on healthy stuff like fruits or veggies or nuts.

When checking the label, always look at the two important things: the list of ingredients (anything that’s highly processed or any type of preservatives or chemicals should be considered a big no), but also the nutritional value: if it has too many carbs (aka sugar) and/or is too high in fat (especially saturated fat), it’s not good for you.

Why avoid processed foods with fatty liver?

You should avoid eating processed foods with a fatty liver because these are filled with chemicals and go through various stages of processing during the cooking phase, some potentially unhealthy.

Also because they are usually high in fat (saturated fat too) and/or sugar (usualy labeled as “carbohydrates”) which are also bad for our fatty liver.

3. Alcohol

no alcohol

I know that this is not considered a food by many, but it’s one thing that you have to completely cut off your diet if you want to reverse fatty liver.

Even though I wasn’t a big drinker, I still feel the desire now and then for a glass of wine or a bottle of beer. I have to say no – and you should do the same, even if your diagnosis is, like mine, non alcoholic fatty liver.

(Update: It’s been almost 10 years since I was diagnosed and I also reversed my fatty liver in the mean time, and I still haven’t had a single sip of alcohol during this time. It’s definitely doable and easier than you think it is).

There are many people and doctors who say that you can still drink some alcohol if you have a fatty liver, but what if they are wrong?

What if that one glass of wine turns into cirrhosis ten years from now, because you couldn’t say no? Are you willing to take that risk?

I am not, and you shouldn’t either. As difficult as it might seem, living without alcohol is not that hard! You will see that you can still have fun, have a social life and generally feel well without drinking a drop of alcohol.

So if you have a fatty liver, just say no to alcohol!

4. Foods high in sugar

sugar and fatty liver

They usually are part of the “highly processed foods” category, but I want to make sure that you understand that these are not good. So all sweets bought in the store and sugar itself should be avoided as much as possible.

Cakes, candy and all foods with added sugars that are easily absorbed should be avoided or only consumed a couple of times per month.

You can still eat a lot of fruit because the human body is used to handle the sugar intake from fruits (since it’s doing this for millions of years) and fruits are not on the “easily absorbed sugars” list – but don’t overdo it. Don’t eat 5 pounds of bananas each day. Remember: moderation is key!

Don’t add sugar in your coffee, don’t use sugars that you think are healthier (like brown sugar) because they are generally not.

If you really, really can’t stop adding it to some foods (or coffee), try to go for a sugar alternative that’s better for fatty liver but use at most half of the amount you normally would.

Unfortunately, sugars are extremely bad for you and your liver: they turn into carbs, which turn into fat among other things.

But again – speaking from my own experience – it is doable. Probably cutting off sugars will be the most difficult thing you will have to do and you will have incredible cravings, but it is doable.

Eat fruits and if you really, really can’t cut these out completely, use only a fraction of what you normally would (so turn a teaspoon into a 1/4 of a teaspoon). You HAVE to do it!

Conclusion

I know that this list seems to eliminate everything that is good eat (in terms of taste), because we are so used to consuming all these unhealthy foods. They are usually cheaper and extremely easy to get/eat too.

I have completely changed my eating habits since being diagnosed, I am using very low amounts of fat or no fat at all when cooking and no sugar at all either and I can assure you that you won’t starve, you won’t eat the same things over and over again and you can easily do it without feeling that you’re living in a nightmare.

The first month is the most difficult – probably after two weeks or so, when your brain starts asking you for the unhealthy foods it’s used with.

Say no and you’re on a path to a better, healthier life! You can do it! So do it for yourself and your family!

I’ve been doing this for six years now, even after having reversed my fatty liver. Once you get used to it, you will see that it’s actually easy to do.

Surprisingly, food will start to taste better and you will be able to fully appreciate the flavor of the things you eat.

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29 thoughts on “Fatty Liver: Foods to Avoid or Stop Eating”

  1. In have fatty liver as well. My pain at the moment is there always. Its not bad pain but its there. I also find that my stomach or below rib cage in the middle like food sits there, uncomfortable. Did you have this as well. Would a wholefood plant based diet be good for fatty liver You opinion

    Reply
    • Yes, people are experiencing similar problems like yours. It’s usually a slight discomfort in the right area below the rib, but it can be towards the middle as well. I am sure that a wholefood plant based diet would be good for your liver, but you still have to stay away from sugar and extra fat.

      Reply
  2. Hello Lynn,

    Is it okay to add honey instead of sugar? Also I roast my vegetables and add only 1 table spoon of olive oil is this okay? also I like omelettes and only put one yoke when I use 3 eggs, but only use a small amount of oil? I have also started to eat tofu which does require some oil. I was diagnosed with Fatty liver over 1 year ago but did not really change my diet until about 2 months ago when the bloating and pain above the ribs became too much. I was always walking around with this uncomfortable swelling around my mid- section. I struggled to change my diet straight away but I have really begun to eat veg and fish and I have started to have green smoothies which can be a bit bitter hence why I asked if I could add honey. I found your website when I was looking for information and it has been so useful. I am really determined to change for the sake of my health. I have already lost some weight and I have more energy. I still have the odd chocolate but not everyday. Thanks for your help

    Reply
    • Hello Theresa,

      Honey is better than sugar – but not a lot. I wrote about it and sugar alternatives on this blog, you can perform a site search to find out more. But the conclusion is that honey is a better option, although you should still consume it in quantities as small as possible. You can try pure stevia powder (read the ingredients to make sure it’s 100% stevia) in smoothies as a sweetener.

      Regarding the oil, remember that 1 tablespoon of oil equals about 14 grams of fat. For a healthy person, 44 to 78 grams of fat are considered OK on a daily basis. With this in mind you can decide if it’s OK to use the oil or not, depending on what else you eat. But as a rule of thumb, you can always try to reduce the amounts used, no matter what.

      Reply
  3. Recently diagnosed with FLD and a cyst on my liver. Doctor said it was not terribly concerning, and I have to have another ultrasound in 6 months. I love my fruits; clementines, apples, bananas, berries (for fruit smoothies), and read somewhere that they are too high in sugar, and have been ‘tweaked’ over time to be bigger and sweeter 🙁 I do not cook anything in oil, all meat is baked or broiled, so is it okay to still eat it? My guilt is sugar, specifically related to chocolate. Grocery shopping today picked up more veggies for me; now I have to work on my willpower to quit the cocoa bean!

    Reply
    • Janet, it is OK to eat fruits. As long as you are eating their pulp as well (so not just juices), they are safe. It is indeed better to cut down a bit on the sweetest fruits like bananas, melons or grapes – but all in all, they are still a healthy, solid food.

      Regarding the meat, it depends what type of meat you are consuming. If the meat itself is fat, you should switch to low fat one like chicken or turkey breast and white lean meat. As for sugar, it must unfortunately be completely wiped out of your diet. If you want to make the transition easier, look for chocolate sweetened with Stevia but don’t overdo it either as it’s still high in calories, even though it has no sugar.

      Reply
  4. I have a constant pain under my right rib and have been feeling dreadful for months. I am awaiting a ultra sound scan after my doctor looked at my blood results. He suspects fatty liver. I have been reading that good fats, improve liver function. Should I stay off fats altogether ..like olive oil, coconut oil and, salmon and avocado ?
    Also I find exercise really helps with the pain is this normal ?

    Reply
    • Hello Matt,

      You can still get some fat in your body – healthy fat, that is – like extra virgin olive oil, or avocado. Regarding exercise, it’s perfect if it helps with the pain because exercising is one of the most important things – together with changing the diet – when it comes to reversing a fatty liver.

      Reply
        • Yes, I would say that fat should be restricted as well since our liver already has too much of it to start with. You asked a really good question and I think I should write an article on that.

          But to keep it short, I would look at the dietary requirements for a healthy individual. The reommendation for a 2,000 calorie diet is 44 – 78 grams of fat per day. As we are not healthy, I would try to stick to the lower side and keep fat to a maximum of 50 grams per day.

          Reply
  5. Hi,

    Can you fry vegetables (courgettes & aubergine etc) in a frying pan with extra olive virgin oil? Likewise can you fry qourn in it also?

    Thanks.

    C

    Reply
    • No, as I said in the article, you shouldn’t fry anything. If you really, really can’t do it without oil (try preparing them in the oven, both aubergines and courgettes taste great in the oven without oil), add half a teaspoon on a paper napkin and rub the pan with it before cooking.

      Reply
  6. My husband was recently diagnosed with fatty liver. Since I do most of the cooking, I have questions. Can I boil ground beef for his meals? I won’t be buying any more, but there’s loads in the freezer. (I’ve prepared meals with boiled ground beef before. Looks a little gray so I put it in spaghetti, etc.)
    This is the man who makes fun of me for eating veggie burgers and putting chickpeas on my salads. Still, I haven’t yet said I told you so.

    Reply
    • Beef is unfortunately very fat and should be avoided. If you really want to make the transition a bit easier, you can use a bit of that beef – but lower amounts than you usually do and gradually eliminate it from the diet (or have it on very rare occasions).

      Reply
  7. Hello. Here i am. A 21 year old with chronic fatty liver. Im not even that overweight. Life just hates me… anyways i wanted to know if substituting usual cooking oil with avocado oil makes any difference. Like if i wanted to fry an egg in avocado oil, would it benefit me more or be the same. Thanks!

    Reply
    • Hello Zuk… I am sorry to hear that. Unfortunately, frying food is not recommended when dealing with a fatty liver, so it would be best not to do it all. Or use as little oil as possible if you can’t without it.

      Regarding the oils itself, while I am not very familiar with avocado oil, what makes an oil type better than the other when fried is their resistance to high temperature (smoking point): the higher, the better.

      EDIT: Did some research and it seems that avocado oil has a really high smoking point, so it would be a better option than most. You can check out the various values here on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smoke_point

      Reply
      • Note that most avocado oils are adulterated ( 60% or more) with cheap soybean oils. Studies on olive oils show that many of them are adulterated with cheaper oils. For more information on oils and lineolic acid, see Dr. Mercola articles. This is an important topic for people with FLD.

        Reply
  8. Hit there. What about seltzer products like polar? They say they have 0 sugar, but I have always wondered what the “natural flavors” could mean? Thanks!

    Reply
    • I am not familiar with the brand and their products, but a quick search on google was helpful. Indeed… one can only wonder what those natural flavors are 🙂 I would risk it and say that they are probably safer than most other types of drinks, but I would still not have them in excess.

      Reply
  9. Lynn, I just stumbled upon your site because I’m feeling a little peckish and was looking for a healthy snack that I could eat with fatty liver. Your blog appears to be loaded with info and written in an easy-to-digest way. I’m glad I stumbled upon this blog, and thank you for sharing your experiences with us! My doctor recently told me I have mild fatty liver and that I need to make lifestyle changes to halt its progression and try to reverse it. I am aiming to do just that and will be visiting often. Congrats on your reversal!

    Reply
    • Thank you for the kind words, Mark! If I did it, anybody can do it 🙂 You’re on the right track looking for the info you need – so just keep it up and stick to eating healthy!

      Reply
  10. Hello waiting on US liver enzymes are AST 101 ALT 193 was swollen and pain along with feeling poisoned. I changed diet even more then I was doing. I am over weight but thing don’t seem to budge not able to do major exercise but will be doing something small. Pain is gone and still seems swollen and the crappy feeling comes and then goes. My question is where can I find a good list of foods to eat and not eat or even diet plan. I have been looking and getting so many diff answers. Also supplement to help Like milk thistle? Nac? Chanca Piedra? Or Artichokes extract. Any help is helpful I really need to get back killing this lyme I have.

    Reply
  11. If our brains need fat to work correctly, then where do we get that? This post seems to suggest we should remove fat from our diets altogether. It has been suggested by other sources that a low fat diet is the leading cause of Alzheimer’s. This is a concern because I have watched my friends and friends parents go through it.

    Cooking oils is bad. I get that. Eating fried foods is a bad idea. I get that. But at what point do we allow the fat in our diets so we do not cause other issues beyond NAFLD?

    Reply
    • I am only suggesting to stop anything with too much fat (like most red meats, bacon and such) and also to stop eating fried foods.

      We will get the amount of fat we need from healthy sources (extra virgin olive oil used fresh in salads, fat from fish and low fat meats, avocados, nuts & seeds).

      Our body needs around 40 grams of fat per day and one avocado has around 22. So it’s very easy to get the required amount of fat on a daily basis without going to the unhealthy options mentioned in the article.

      Reply
  12. I am/was a heavy drinker of whiskey, as much as a pint a day mixed with water for decades. My first fibroscan test result shocked me. Stage 3 fatty liver with a CAP of 380 dB.m, but a F0-F1 (kpa). With diet changes my CAP went down 310, 238, and up again to 288.
    A recent ultrasound show cysts (of fat?) in my liver. I am now 15 days zero alcohol and junk food and getting used to it, and have lost 5 lbs already. Your “no cooking oil” hurt, but I’ll be eating my breakfast eggs boiled from now on. Thanks for making me aware.

    Reply
  13. Hello there! thank you for such an informative blog, I am currently on day 5 of my fatty liver journey. I know you’ve suggested 40-50g ish of fat a day I was just wondering if you also have/had a recommended daily intake of carbs? thamk you 🙂

    Reply

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