Fatty liver disease is the build of up fat in the liver. It can be caused by excessive alcohol consumption or can be associated with other metabolic co-morbidities such as diabetes, hypertension, or hyperlipidemia as is the case for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. This build up in fat can cause inflammation or irritation of the liver which, if left untreated, can cause cirrhosis or liver cancer. Currently there is no medication for fatty liver disease. Treating non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is multifactorial, but weight loss through diet and exercise are usually the first interventions recommended. Losing 10% of your body weight is a good first goal for weight loss. This can be done by creating a calorie deficit in limiting calories consumed or expending calories through exercise. Dietary modifications for fatty liver disease often include limiting the amount of calories, saturated fats, and fructose consumed and focusing on a diet high in fiber, lean proteins, and polyunsaturated fatty acids.
The Mediterranean Diet is great for this! It is based on the traditional cuisines of countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. The diet is high in vegetables, legumes, fruits, whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, and olive oil! Some key components of the Mediterranean diet include eating vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and healthy fats daily. Fish, poultry, beans, and eggs should be eating weekly. Dairy products should be eaten moderately. A limited intake of alcohol, particularly red wine, may also be part of the diet, but be sure to talk to your health care provider on whether alcohol can or should be included in your diet.
Making dietary changes of any kind are hard. Some easy ways to start adding the Mediterranean Diet into your daily regimen is think about adding foods rather than thinking about what you have to limit! Start with adding a fruit or vegetable to every meal and snack. Incorporate whole grains into your diet by using whole grain breads or pastas and using brown rice rather than the “white” alternatives (white bread, regular pasta, or white rice). Limit the amount of red meats and start eating more lean meats such as chicken or turkey. Snacks can include nuts and berries. Even a small amount of dark chocolate is allowed!
Always remember that small changes can lead to big rewards. Consistency is key!