Your liver is in charge of many more functions than you may even realize. According to Cleveland Clinic, it performs hundreds of functions for your body, such as cleaning out toxins, helping you digest and break down food, regulating your blood, and helping your body produce healthy levels of blood clotting. As you can see, this organ is crucial to your health and well-being, and because of that, it deserves the utmost care!
Caring for your liver involves different lifestyle choices like limiting your alcohol consumption, not smoking, and eating a balanced diet. The American Liver Foundation places an emphasis on not only eating a healthy diet but specifically eating plenty of fiber. Maintaining a nutrient-dense diet is key in helping you maintain your liver health, but recent research has also found that it's absolutely crucial to limit your amount of ultra-processed foods in order to have a healthy liver.
Read on to learn more about the impact of processed food on your liver health. And for more healthy eating tips check out 4 Best Vegetables for Your Liver.
The British Medical Journal links ultra-processed foods, which include things like fast food, packaged baked goods, soda, many candies, etc., to multiple health issues like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and even heart disease.
And now, researchers have also found a connection between these foods and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), which is caused by the buildup of excess fat in the liver. According to the International Journal of Epidemiology, consuming ultra-processed food is linked to an increased risk of NAFLD.
One of the reasons that this food group can be linked to liver fat is due to the fact that NAFLD can be caused by too much fat or too many triglycerides in your blood, and triglycerides can be raised by too many refined carbs, saturated fats, and added sugar—all of which are found in high levels in many ultra-processed foods.
In another study published in Liver International, it was found that consumption of ultra-processed foods increased the risk of metabolic syndrome in generally healthy participants. More specifically, for those who had existing NAFLD, ultra-processed foods were associated with nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, a serious condition caused by liver inflammation.
Try these types of foods instead
It's important to limit your consumption of ultra-processed foods, but it may be helpful to have a guideline for what counts as a "liver-healthy" diet to replace some of your favorite processed items. Many studies have found that following a Mediterranean-style diet can be helpful in maintaining a healthy liver.
One study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology found that "closely adhering" to the Mediterranean Diet was associated with a decreased risk of NAFLD. Another study found that this way of eating may help your overall liver health and act as a protective measure against NAFLD by way of lowering your risk for conditions that are considered to be a factor for liver disease. These factors include obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.
To follow the Mediterranean diet, incorporate things like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, olive oil, and fatty fish, and significantly limit your consumption of processed foods, added sugar, and refined carbs.