Your liver has more than 500 functions to keep you alive and healthy, so it deserves your care and attention. Although the liver always contains a small amount of fat, certain lifestyle choices can lead to a build-up of too much liver fat, which can lead to possible liver damage or other problems.
According to Johns Hopkins, you can have excess fat in your liver, but that doesn’t necessarily mean there is liver damage. However, excessive liver fat can lead to inflammation and cell damage over time, which can be very serious.
So what exactly causes liver fat? Things like a high-fat diet, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, and heavy drinking can all cause too much liver fat. To learn more about how to avoid this, we spoke to some dieticians about their advice on the best drinking habits to reduce liver fat.
Read on and for more healthy drinking tips, check out The 9 Worst Drinking Habits for Your Body.
“Consuming too much sugar can cause your liver to produce more fat. Reading the nutrition label can help people navigate whether a drink has added sugars or not,” says Lauren Manaker, MS, RDNauthor of The First Time Mom’s Pregnancy Cookbook and Fueling Male Fertility.
Not only can too much added sugar lead to increased liver fat or liver damage over time, but studies show it can also affect your healing. A study found that diets with more added sugars are known to slow the recovery process in people who already had liver damage, especially from non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
“Drinking too much alcohol can also lead to fat buildup in the liver. While drinking occasionally seems okay, excessive drinking should be avoided,” says Manaker.
Looking at the two types of fatty liver, heavy drinking is expected to be one of the leading causes of alcoholic fatty liver. But studies have shown that heavy drinking can also affect your chances of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
Protecting your liver doesn’t just have to be about limiting certain drinks. It can also be about including certain healthy foods and drinks in your daily diet. And one of the ways you can do this is by making a smoothie with liver-healthy ingredients, like broccoli!
“Broccoli contains a compound called indole that can help to reduce liver fat. Adding frozen broccoli with rice to smoothies can be an easy way to increase your intake of this cruciferous vegetable,” says Manaker.
As we mentioned earlier, too much added sugar can affect your liver fat levels over time. And one of the sneaky ways people overdo it with drinking their sugar calories is with energy drinks.
One drinking habit that can contribute to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is the overconsumption of energy drinks. People often drink energy drinks for the boost it gives them, but they don’t always realize how much added sugar they contain. -28 grams of sugar per can, so a healthier option would be to choose low-sugar varieties or drink unsweetened or slightly sweetened coffee or tea for your caffeine boost,” says Stephanie Wells, MS, RD.
Fruit juices can also be full of sugars, even though the sugars are natural. While a juice cleanse may not have the problem of providing too much “added” sugar, it can still deliver a heavy dose of sugars without fiber or protein to slow down their digestion.
“Juice cleans, especially fruit-heavy ones, are predominantly fructose. When too much fructose overwhelms the liver, the liver converts it to fat. Consuming excessive amounts of fructose can lead to the development of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease,” he says. Whitney Stuart, MS, RDN, CDCES, a dietitian and diabetes educator for Whitness Nutrition. Because juices don’t use the fruit’s skin — where much of the fiber is — Stuart says it’s easy for your blood sugar to spike during a juice cleanse, which can “promote insulin resistance.”