While you may worry about the effects your diet has on your waistline or energy level, there’s a surprising body part your food and drink choices may be having a profound effect upon without you even realizing it: your liver. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 4.5 million Americans have been diagnosed with liver disease, and up to 20 percent of Americans have non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), a type of liver damage that stems from sources other than alcohol.
If you want to protect your liver and avoid a lifetime of health problems, read on to discover which foods can do serious harm to your liver, according to experts. And if you want to slim down and improve your liver health, check out these 15 Underrated Weight Loss Tips That Actually Work.
Alcohol isn’t the only drink that can wreak havoc on your liver health. According to physician Ian Braithwaite, MBBS, co-founder of Habitual, sweetened beverages can do a number on your liver, as well.
“In low doses, fructose is handled by the small intestine, however in high doses recent research has shown it to lead to liver toxicity. The foods that deliver the highest doses of fructose are those which contain highly refined sugars, [like] soda,” says Braithwaite. Wondering why booze is such a common culprit in liver ailments? Here’s What Happens to Your Liver When You Drink Alcohol.
Condiments with Hidden Sugars
It’s not just the obvious sources of sugar in your diet that could be causing serious damage to your liver.
“Often the more dangerous sources of fructose are those in which the sugar content is less obvious, such as ketchup [and] salad dressings,” says Braithwaite.
Get more healthy tips delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for our newsletter!
Those French fries are doing more than just adding a boatload of calories to your diet—they could be harming your liver, too.
“French fries are high in saturated fats. Diets high in saturated fats lead to increased liver fat and insulin resistance,” explains physician Leann Poston, MD, of Invigor Medical.
Not all oils are created equal when it comes to your liver health. “Vegetable oil, containing omega-6, becomes oxidized more quickly with cooking and contributes to liver damage by way of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease,” explains nurse practitioner Kelly Cole, MS, CRNP-PC, founder of Energy to Thrive Tribe.
However, this doesn’t mean you have to resign yourself to a future of oil-free cooking to protect your liver health. “Coconut oil will not cause this damage to the liver,” says Cole.
If you’re worried about your liver health, you might want to think twice before picking up that deli meat sandwich.
“Deli meat is a hidden source of sodium in the American diet,” says certified nutrition counselor John Fawkes, NSCA, CPT. Fawkes explains that excessive sodium intake can cause an imbalance in your body’s fluid ratios, which “makes it harder for the liver to carry out efficient filtering,” and may cause more severe liver trouble down the line.
Related: 7 Dangerous Side Effects of Eating Deli Meats, According to Experts
Unfortunately, the bread you’re serving that sandwich meat on may not be much better when it comes to your liver health.
“Refined carbohydrates lack the fiber of their whole-grain cousins. This leads to glucose surges in the blood, then insulin release, followed by deposits of fat on and around the liver,” says Fawkes. While you can include whole grain bread in your diet in moderation, you should definitely avoid 9 Breads to Always Leave on Grocery Store Shelves.