Fatty Liver Foods & Diet

Fatty Liver: Foods to Avoid or Stop Eating

If you have been diagnosed with a fatty liver, 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 to avoid. Or, in some cases, types of foods to completely cut off your diet.

Here, we always see the same things listed again and again, which is a good thing because the foods you should stay away from are probably more important than those you can eat, due to the damage they can deal. But which foods to stop eating if you have a fatty liver?

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

Moderation is the key to success here, and I truly believe that if you practice this with all types of foods that are not “banned” for fatty liver, you will have taken the most important step for reversing it. And you will see that you have a ton of options available.

All, as long as you cut some very important foods and categories – or have them as rarely as possible. Here is what you should keep away from your diet if you have a fatty liver (aka NAFLD):

1. Fried / 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 it’s your health that we’re talking about.

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 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?

Because the oil used to fry the foods heavily increases the amount of fat – and especially the extremely harmful saturated fat – in your food. And what one thing you don’t need in excess right now? FAT, exactly!

If you don’t want to eliminate oil completely 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 taste and the 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 (two portions, so a maximum of half a teaspoon per portion) 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 saute 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

foods to stop eating with fatty liver processed foods

Processed foods, although delicious and easy to eat, are also extremely bad for your overall health and especially for your liver. These highly 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.

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 sugars and/or is too high in fat (especially saturated fat), it’s not good for you.

Why avoid processed foods with fatty liver?

Because usually these are foods filled with chemicals, and our liver doesn’t need any extra damage from these dangerous substances.

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

3. Alcohol

foods to stop eating with fatty liver 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 a 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 six 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

foods to stop eating with fatty liver sugar

They usually are part of the “highly processed foods” category, but I want to make sure that you understand that they 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 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

foods to avoid with fatty liver pin

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.

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.

[Update note: This article was originally published back in 2014, soon after I was diagnosed with a fatty liver. I have updated it in 2020 with some additional information based on my experience reversing this condition, as well as a lot of extra research.]

Lynn

After being diagnosed with a fatty liver back in 2014, I started doing serious research about it and I didn't stop until I reversed mine in just 1.5 years. I decided to share all my expertise and findings in these blog - all based on my personal experiences and tons of research. I also run a highly successful Fatty Liver-related Facebook Group (see the sidebar!) and moderate the Fatty Liver reddit.

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51 Comments

  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

    1. 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.

  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

    1. 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.

  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!

    1. 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.

  4. My dr said I have bad fatty liver scanned showed normal liver size and not fatty liver but blood work show high 302 no pain.

  5. 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 ?

    1. 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.

        1. 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.

  6. Hi Lynn,
    I was diagnosed with NAFLD several months ago, although I have been on a strict diet for the last 10 years tgat included low fat, ZERO alcohol and restricted sweets, I’m still at a loss as how I got this? I keep a daily dairy of my food intake and I wanted to know if you take on clients as a nutritionalist? I consume about the same thing everyday. With little change. I just need a bit of tweaking here and there…thanks for taking the time to read this.
    Sincerely
    Powe

    1. I have had NAFLD for at least 3 years. I am a health care professional and have argued with my docs for years. It originated –
      In order-
      1.car accident
      2. lots of steroid injections and radiation from multiple testing followed by surgeries.
      3. Thyroid symptoms- docs ignored my complaints over and over again.
      4. Finally found an increase in TSH- and diagnosed with subclinical hypothyroidism
      5. Hashimoto’s symptoms began to emerge- more complaints to the docs….
      6. ignored for at least 2 more years.
      7. pain in R upper quadrant began… with substantial increases in pain….
      I noticed that my abdomen appeared twisted.
      8. My Rehab/OMT doc thought it was my back and L ribs were out of place so I had countless adjustments.
      9. I went to gastro doc @ UM who did countless tests which all surrounded my liver…
      10. Finally, I brought family who helped to convince the specialist that I needed LIVER testing– she did a complete MRI of my body… yup the whole thing- from hips to neck. She found a severely — >33% fibrous liver-
      11. So now I have to wait until MAY 2019 for a next appointment! I have sent multiple messages to the office to find out what the DOcs plan is… no answer. It’s a ridiculous situation.
      — IN THE MEANTIME- I AM WORKING DILIGENTLY TO LOSE WEIGHT– AS HASHIMOTOS HAS CAUSED ME TO GROW FORM A HEALTHY 120#s TO 235#’S! CURRENTLY, I WEIGH 200# AND DECREASING WITH A LOW FAT, HIGH FIBER-FRUITS, AND VEGIES- SPECIFIC MEAT PROTEINS DIET. MY EXERCISE IS LIMITED DUE TO MY ACCIDENT. KEEP WORKING– WE CAN BE SUCCESSFUL.

    2. Powe, unfortunately your situation is a bit more complicated – even uncontrolable factors like genetics can come into play here. I am sorry to hear that despite following a healthy diet you still got this.

  7. 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

    1. 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.

  8. Hello Lynn,

    What is the most accurate test in determining FL? Ultrasound, fibroscan, CT or MRI?

    Thank you,
    Michelle

    1. I found the MRE was the most accurate. I had the ultrasound, CT, MRI, and a Fibroscan. The Fibroscan actually probably saved my life heading me in the right direction and scared me to death., but because I was overweight my numbers came out higher than they were. After being scared from results, I switched my diet to plant based with a little bit of chicken and salmon, no sweets since Dec 31 and no processed food. I’ve lost 41 pounds to date , but I went to Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, FL as I knew they were top notch and wanted to know what was actually going on with my liver. They did an MRE and got an accurate result of a fatty liver at 9 percent which was way better than the numbers I got from the Fibroscan. They said because of my BMI the machine wasn’t able to reach my liver as well and at the time of Mayo I had lost 26 pounds and it gave them better results. Hope this helps!

    1. Sue, this is probably because you live a sedentary life. Any type of exercise would do – I would suggest going for cardio (like running) combined with a bit of strength to build up a bit of muscle.

  9. Most of my woes, including fatty liver, started within a year of having a hysterectomy. This procedure alters a woman’s body forever. I wish I had never had it done. It was devastating to the rest of my health. However, I have found that most people don’t know of its severe effects and don’t take it into account when discussing how to improve one’s health. These effects are hardly addressed, if ever, in discussing diet, general health etc.

    Since keto teaches the body to burn fat instead of carbs, I’m wondering why it is considered so negatively. It seems that once that changeover period is over-in other words, things will get worse but then start to get better-ketosis does not differentiate between what fat it burns. It will burn the fat in the liver as well as any other fat stores. It has also shown great promise in the treatment of other diseases also. As you know, it is not something new and knowledge about it was starting to grow until the infamous Dr. Keyes began to propagate his nonsense, and the rest is diet history.

    Thank you for creating this website!

  10. 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.

    1. 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).

  11. 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!

    1. 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

  12. 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!

    1. 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.

      1. According to their website:

        “Natural Flavors
        Great taste is what defines Polar Seltzer. Our secret is that we use only the highest-quality blends of flavors and aromas. They are extracted from natural sources (such as lemon peel, lime, mint, etc) and then distilled into highly concentrated “essences”. Relying on copious amounts of these very precious oils, we never skimp when it comes to taste.”

        Almost sounds too good to be true, what with the near impossibility of finding a product that is truly pure. Hope this helps (I’m going to try Polar and see if it tastes as good as it looks!)

        1. It’s a brand that’s pretty popular in and around New England. I’ve been drinking it for years. It became a soda replacement for me and I’ve always liked it a lot. Almost positive those extra “natural” flavors are not added sugar in any way. I’ve been risking it.

  13. not familiar with keto diet, just have heard of it lately. Would that help? I was just told today that I have a fatty liver. I have Diabetes 2. Seems like what I can eat is getting more limited and is very disparaging. Do colon cleanses help or liver detox? so much info on the internet it is confusing.

    1. It is indeed more difficult to tackle this if you also have diabetes. I personally don’t have a good opinion about keto – it might be good for a few months, but for a complete lifestyle change, I think it’s a bit too much.

      However, since you have both fatty liver and diabetes, you might have to check with a dietician since the information scattered over the internet can indeed be confusing and it won’t always come from people familiar with all potential problems.

  14. 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!

    1. 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!

  15. Hello Lynn,
    What do you think about amsety bars? Have you heard of them..suppose to be good for liver? So appreciate all of your wonderful information. Really keeps me motivated to live a healthier life..especially for my fatty liver.

    1. Judith, I haven’t heard of those bars until today, but a quick google search helped. I am not sure what to say about them… they still have a high amount of carbs from the honey and the agave syrup. It would definitely be even better if they had Stevia instead… but even so, every now and then as a treat I would have it. But definitely not regularly. Also, since it has added vitamins and minerals, make sure you’re not getting too much (if you are also taking supplements).

      Regarding the salads, I make my own dressing, using either only extra virgin olive oil or, where suitable, EVOO and apple cider vinegar.

  16. Lynn,
    Thank you for quick response. Appreciate your input. Have read so many different articles about hair coloring.. some say it does not effect liver and some say its toxic. Have you done any research on this? Thank you.

    1. Unfortunately, I haven’t done any research here as I keep it all natural. But this is something I will definitely have to look into and provide some thoughts about.

  17. Hi Lynn
    I had an ultrasound and apparently I was not diagnosed with NAFLD but this is what it shows on the ultrasound.
    Ultrasound Complete Abdomen and Retroperitoneum
    Findings Technically difficult study due to large amount of bowel gas….I did not feel before and while having the ultrasound that I had gas. Did you have this too? The liver measures 13.0 cm at the righ midelavicular line. There is mildly coarsened echogenicity. Nodular contour is questioned, however not convincing. not focal hepatic lesion demonstrated. No instra or exrahepatic biliary tree dilatation. Visualization of the pancreas and spleen is limited and spleen is limited by overlying bowel gas. Apart from a 2.0 cm parapelvic cyst involving the right kidney, visualized portions of both kidney are unremarkable. No abnoral fluid collections or masses are identified. Midly coarsened echotexture of the liver is again questioned. no imaging features of cirrhosis definitively seen. I have no pain. Looking forward to read your comments. Thank you so much Lynn I love reading your newsletter.

    1. Suzie, unfortunately I am not a doctor and I am not able to tell you more about your results, but the mildly coarsed echogenicity could be related to liver problems like a fatty liver. There are some pils that you can take against gas – maybe do that and go for a new ultrasound and get a second opinion. Until then, it wouldn’t hurt to eat healthy and act as if you had a fatty liver: it will only do you good. Hopefully it’s nothing!

  18. When I found out I had NAFL from the V.A. I changed my eating habits immediately. I’ve always exercised, so that wasn’t a problem. I found that as I lost weight I seemed to get more energy. I cut out all extra sugars, no longer consumed fried foods, candy, or junk food. I’ve only been doing this for about two months now but the results are amazing! My liver is no longer tender like it used to be. I’m hoping as I continue to drop my weight, (I gained 100 lbs when I had my artificial knees installed but kept eating like I was still running five miles a day), my energy and overall well-being have drastically improved. ( Lost 33 lbs in the last two months but still have another 67 to go)
    I’m 70 years old and cannot afford to play around with NAFL issues. So, for me, it’s a no-brainer. Thank you for your advice. Knowledge is power. Semper fidelis…

    1. You’re doing great, Mark! You lost quite a bit of weight and you’re definitely on the right track to reverse it. The best thing about fatty liver is, as you said it yourself, that you’re starting to feel the benefits soon after starting to take more care of your health and eating habits. Keep it up!

  19. 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.

    1. You will find most of the answers if you use the search function on this blog. For example, I have a recommended diet with things to eat and avoid here: https://www.fattyliverdiary.com/whats-the-best-fatty-liver-diet/

      I also wrote about Milk Thistle: https://www.fattyliverdiary.com/best-silymarin-supplement-for-fatty-liver-best-milk-thistle-for-nafld/ and much much more. Just take your time to browse through the articles a bit and you will find all the things you need to know to reverse this!

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