Dr Sten Eckberg breaks down 10 super foods that are claimed to be good for healing a fatty liver. Watch this to make sure you are eating the right ones and avoiding the bad ones.
Hello Health Champions. This is a liver. And if you don’t take really good care of your liver it can turn into a fatty liver a cirrhosed liver and eventually liver failure. Your liver handles over 500 essential functions and it’s the number one organ that will clean out your toxins. It used to be that all fatty liver was caused by alcohol, but chances are that if your liver is fatty today, then it’s because of the foods that you’ve been eating.
I hear so often that people are frustrated with all of the conflicting information out there and there’s a number of YouTube videos on this topic, but I find them all Incorrect and incomplete. So in this video I’m going to help you understand how it really works so you can take care of your liver and stop being confused.
First of all though, we need to talk about what not to eat and here I’m going to talk about some my recommendations, but also comment on some of the myths and misconceptions. So when I looked around, the first thing that I found in many places was sodium. They tell you to avoid salt because it has sodium and sodium causes water retention. Now this is true in a sense because water follows sodium, but it’s only true that it causes water retention if you can’t regulate your sodium. So if you have a hormone problem, if you have an endocrine tumor, or if you have kidney failure to where you can’t regulate sodium, now that is a reason to limit your sodium intake because your body doesn’t know what to do with it. However for the average person, you don’t need to worry about sodium and it really has nothing to do with a fatty liver. So that recommendation is incorrect.
The next one is added sugar. They tell you don’t eat added sugar. I couldn’t agree more because added sugar will increase the liver fat and we’ll talk a lot more about that. So big green check mark on that.
The next thing we see a lot is red meat. And they tell you that avoid red meat because it’s high in saturated fat. Well it is high in saturated fat, but that is not a problem and we’ll talk about that in just a little bit. So that claim is also incorrect.
Also a lot came up about fried foods. To avoid them and they’re saying that this is a bad thing because they’re high in fat and calories. Now I give this a question mark because they are correct; fried foods are not a great thing for the most part because they are using bad oil. It’s not about calories or the amount of fat. It’s the quality of the oils and virtually all fried foods you’re going to find are you using plant oils, vegetable oils, and in order for those oils to tolerate heat (because they’re naturally very heat sensitive), they have to destroy those oils. They have to process them, oxidize them, bleach them, deodorize them and they become toxic and rancid. That’s why you avoid fried foods. If you wanted to have some fried food on occasion and you use a saturated fat like lard or coconut oil, then that would not be a problem.
I want to address this confusion about you are what you eat. All right, that’s not really how it works. And this is why people think that if you eat saturated fat you’re going to store saturated fat in the body. But if we take a look at a cow and we say that the cow, the meat and the cow is the source of the saturated fat, then we know that the cow has a bunch of saturated fat in its body and its meat and tissues, but then the question is, “If we are what we eat, then how does the saturated fat get into the cow?” Because cows don’t eat saturated fat. If the cow is allowed to eat what it wants to eat then it’s going to eat grass and then somehow this grass turns into saturated fat; and that’s called a biotransformation.
So if that happens in the cow then why would it happen very differently in a human? Meaning, not that we eat grass but that the saturated fat in our bodies don’t necessarily come from saturated fat. So in humans it’s also about biotransformations, but in humans the source of it is not grass; it is excess fuel. When we eat more than then we need, then that excess fuel is going to be turned into fat for storage and when that excess fuel is accompanied by excess insulin (because insulin like we’ve said is a storage hormone) and then in humans that is how we end up with our saturated fat. It does not come from the saturated fat that we’re eating and there’s so much confusion on this because people talk about how the studies say that if the liver is full of fat, full of saturated fat, then that liver is insulin resistant. Which is true, but it’s not the saturated fat that caused the insulin resistance, it’s the other way around. It’s the excess fuel and the insulin that creates the saturated fat and now when the liver is congested it becomes insulin resistant.
Now in order for these foods to make sense we need to understand and the real cause of fatty liver and the real cause is overwhelm. When we give the liver more to do than it can handle, then it’s going to get congested and the things congesting the liver are all the substances that only the liver can process. If every cell in the body can process it, it’s much harder to become a burden, but if only the liver can do it now it clogs up pretty quickly. And the first thing that everyone knows about is alcohol and this is why it’s a regulated substance. It’s restricted; they don’t want us to drink a lot, we don’t give it to kids and so forth.
But very few people know about fructose. They’ve heard kind of about sugar, they know sugar is a bad thing, but the real reason sugar is so bad (that white sugar is so bad) is that 50% of sugar is fructose. So if you eat 100 grams of sugar which most people people do in a day, you’re getting 50 grams of fructose which is going to clog up that liver.
The third thing only the liver can do is to process toxins and clean those out and if the liver is already busy with alcohol and fructose, now it’s kind of backed up and it’s not going to be able to process those toxins very effectively. And therefore those toxins build up as well.
And the fourth factor we need to understand is insulin. Now, insulin is the smaller player in this. Insulin doesn’t necessarily cause the fatty liver, but when the liver is already fatty and we have a lifestyle that maintains a high insulin level, now insulin aggravates it. It makes it worse. Insulin is a storage hormone so it’s going to prevent the fat burning in that liver and it’s going to perpetuate the insulin resistance in the liver. So we can’t clean out a fat liver if we still have high insulin levels. And now that we understand the real causes, then it’s pretty simple to know what to avoid.
The first thing, of course, is alcohol because we all know that causes liver failure, but again the second thing is the sugar and we want to avoid all sugar (both the added and the natural) because people have this hang up that added sugar is very different and it’s not. It’s just a quantity that’s different. We’re concentrating it so the quantity builds up faster but even if it’s a natural sugar and you eat a ton of fruit, if you’re just downing the watermelon and the bananas and the mangoes and the pineapple thinking that you’re doing yourself a favor in eating natural fruit, then you’re mistaken because it can still add up and you can still eat a hundred grams of sugar or even 200 grams of sugar from fruit. And then you have to realize that the fructose is the same. The liver doesn’t care if it comes from natural or added sugar. It’s still fructose that can only go through the liver.
So a few berries not a big deal, but don’t think fruit is this saving grace that you’re gonna eat more and more.
The next thing to avoid is starches because starches are made up of glucose that becomes blood glucose that stimulates insulin and, like we said, without any sugar ever in your life you can tolerate some starches and some insulin and some glucose but once you have a fatty liver, once you’re heading that way, now your insulin is much too high and those starches are going to keep driving it up. And this is for both natural and processed. So the processed food is always worse because they have taken away the fiber, they have made that starch even faster to absorb, but there’s very little difference between white rice and brown rice, white flour whole wheat flour. It’s still almost pure glucose.
And then you absolutely want to avoid the foods fried in plant oils. If they’re so-called vegetable oils, you know that is an oxidized toxic oil and that’s the reason to avoid it. It will absolutely damage and put strain on the liver.
And the final thing we need to understand is so many people say that, “well, look at me I eat some starches I eat some rice I eat some potato and I’m doing fine.” And that’s true and we have to understand there’s a big difference between reversing a condition and maintaining health. So if you’re insulin sensitive you can tolerate a certain amount of these foods, even some starch. But if you’re trying to reverse a condition and you have a fatty liver and your insulin levels are super high, then you have to do much much more. You have to be much stricter than a person who’s just trying to maintain their insulin sensitivity number.
Whole grains is an item that makes it onto every politically correct food list regardless of the topic for that list, but is it a health food, is it a superfood? Well most of the time when they promote whole grains all they’re saying is that it’s better than. And what is it better than; it’s a little better than sugar and white bread and that’s not saying a whole lot. Is it because we all know that sugar and white bread is about as bad as it gets? So if something’s a little better than sugar and white bread, that does not make it a health food. In fact, grains have a little bit of fiber and protein and so forth, but most of it is pure glucose. It breaks down very quickly and that glucose becomes blood glucose and stimulates insulin and you have that blood sugar roller coaster that is really not a good idea to make things even worse.
Grains are some of the top allergens of any food out there. There’s so many people, the majority of people are sensitive to wheat. A lot of people are sensitive to gluten. Some people are sensitive to rice and oats and so forth, but it’s very very common. So because of this we’re going to give this food a big red X in general, but especially as far as reversing a fatty liver whole grains are not going to help you. So I’m going to give this a little question mark still though because if you don’t have a fatty liver if you’re insulin sensitive and you tolerate grains well, then you can probably have some right now. Don’t overdo it and don’t think that modern wheat is a good food for anybody, but you may be able to have some. Just don’t think of it as something that’s going to reverse a fatty liver.
Now even though the title of this video has to do with superfoods. And that’s a very very popular concept. People just go crazy for that idea. I want to clarify a few things and I have a real problem with the very word and the concept of superfood. So one question is if we took a vitamin would it be possible to undo a poison? Let’s say that we’re getting some Mercury exposure and we’re getting it on a daily basis, is there any vitamin that we can take to get truly healthy? No, there isn’t. Because as long as we have that exposure we’re going to get sicker and sicker and sicker and maybe that vitamin can help us tolerate it just a little better, but we’re not going to get healthy until we stop the exposure.
Same thing if we have a lake; could we add something to reverse the toxicity of that Lake if all the fish were dying and going belly up? Could we add a vitamin or an antioxidant and all of a sudden those fish would be healthy again? No. If we keep pouring toxins into that Lake there’s nothing we can add that’s going to make those fish clean and healthy until we stop the exposure.
So when we talk about superfood we’re missing the big picture because we’re getting the idea that there’s this miraculous thing like a medication that’s just going to stop things, they’re going to protect me, right? There is no such thing. Now I believe that the only reason that we even buy into the notion of a superfood as a remedy is that we’ve been indoctrinated, we’ve been conditioned for decades into the thinking of an allopathic model. And what is that allopathic model say? It says that if we have a symptom, then we can take something for that symptom so we have a symptom and then we take a remedy now that’s going to have an effect so because of that remedy now we get relief and we’re made to believe that that’s going to make everything okay. But if we understand that that symptom only happened because something isn’t working, then we also understand that that remedy is not actually going to make anything work better because that symptom came about because something is missing or something is interfering. And that remedy is not going to provide anything that’s missing and it’s not going to remove anything that’s interfering. It’s just going to stop the symptom. It’s going to block the signals. So now that we’ve blocked the signal with the remedy we get relief but we also have the continued dysfunction because nothing really changed. We didn’t make anything work better. So we have dysfunction and we have some damage because when something isn’t working, whatever damage is being created is going to be allowed to continue and this is why there is no such thing as a superfood. Because whatever is going on, if it’s a symptom or a fatty liver, we can’t just take a remedy and allow the damage to continue.
We have to do something different and this is where we get into the holistic model. And in the holistic model instead of the symptom and the remedy we do what’s called handle the root cause. Okay, when we handle the root cause we are addressing the real problem. So if there’s something missing, we provide it. If there’s something interfering, we help the body eliminate it and in doing that we still get the relief, we get the same result in that sense, but instead of continuing the damage we have actually handled the root cause.
So now we have improved function. The thing that’s supposed to work is working again so the symptom goes away; not because we block the signal, but because we handled the root cause. And that’s why we want to think of food as good food and there’s bad food. There’s good food that support, there’s bad food that interfere, but there’s really no such thing as a superfood.
Number nine is unsaturated fats. And this is another item that shows up on almost every list. We hear it all day long that saturated fat is bad, but unsaturated fat is good. That’s not really true. All right, but we need to understand when it is and when it isn’t. So the first type of unsaturated is called monounsaturated or MUFA – monounsaturated fatty acids, and this we want to think of as a macro nutrient. It’s something that we eat enough of to give us substantial calories. And these can be things like extra virgin olive oil and we can also get it from meat.
We hear all the time that meat is all saturated fat. When in fact it’s about half. Half of the fat in meat is monounsaturated and about half is saturated. It’s the same in humans. That’s just the way that we store energy. We’re about half of our fat is monounsaturated so so far they get a big green check mark because monounsaturated fats are really good for us as long as they’re minimally processed.
Okay that’s why we talk about the extra virgin olive oil. That’s the first pressing that is done as a cold pressing. They apply minimal heat, minimal pressure so there’s no damage to that oil. Now, the other type of unsaturated fatty acid is called a polyunsaturated fatty acid and here’s where the confusion sets in.
So monounsaturated is relatively stable because it it has one place on the molecule that’s kind of bendy. That is unsaturated polyunsaturated means that there’s more than one place and now this molecule is really really squiggly and that also makes it very unstable. So what they do with these, they’re very unstable they’re highly reactive. so in order to turn them into oil and to fry food and to have salad dressings and not have them taste terrible, they have to process them very very harshly. And now these oils become toxic oxidized and highly inflammatory. So as long as you get your unsaturated fats from things like olive oil and meat you’re good, but when you fall prey to the common recommendation of using more vegetable oil instead of butter and saturated fat, now that’s a huge mistake because now you’re turning this polyunsaturated into a macronutrient. And it is highly oxidized and highly inflammatory. So for that portion we’re going to give it a big red X.
Number eight is soybeans and other types of beans. And these also make it onto almost every politically correct list with phrases like this may help with such and such, or it’s associated with and so forth. And typically when they say that you should eat beans and they say that it can help with things like blood sugar and insulin resistance, now we’re back to the argument that they use with white bread that they’re saying that you know beans are better than. So yeah, I agree beans are better than grain for example, but it doesn’t mean that they’re a good food.
On top of that, virtually all soybean in the world today is GMO (genetically modified) and just like we talked about before about allergens; soy is one of the top allergens. It’s one of the things that people have the most sensitivities to. If you’re sensitive to it, then it causes inflammatory reactions and it is very counterproductive. So I’m going to give this a question mark and an X because I don’t recommend soy to anybody except you get something like organic tofu or miso, but if you are insulin sensitive and you want to have some lentils or some other types of beans and you tolerate them well, then that can be okay. But if you’re insulin resistant with the fatty liver, then beans are not going to help you.
Number seven is oatmeal. It makes it onto a lot of lists and we often hear phrases like “fiber rich foods like oatmeal.” So they’re kind of grouping things together and generalizing without really having any idea of why it would be good. If there’s one piece of research that suggests that oatmeal might help with cholesterol in the blood because it’s better than white bread, now oatmeal becomes a health food. So it’s not the worst. It’s one of the better grains if you have to have a grain. But it is still almost pure starch and it is going to break down pretty easy and turn into glucose. And a lot of people are Gluten Sensitive. And if you don’t buy it with a certified gluten-free oats then you’re pretty much guaranteed to get some traces of gluten in that package. But even if you get certified gluten free, there’s still something called a cross reaction. So a lot of those little markers. A little about the identifying markers on the molecule of oat looks a lot like gluten. So once the immune system has been triggered and a little confused now in a lot of people it’s going to start reacting to oats as well. But like I said, it’s not the worst food. There’s a lot of people that do pretty well with it, but if you’re going to eat oats make sure that they’re steel cut oats because steel cut oats is the whole grain. It’s going to be broken down and absorbed pretty slowly. It’s going to contribute to glucose much much slower than the highly processed. And if you get the instant oats, they’re just barely better than jelly beans. So overall I would give this a red X if you’re trying to reverse liver disease. But if you’re just looking in general and you do pretty well with it, then it’s not the worst food they can eat.
Number six is coffee. And there’s been quite a bit of research done on coffee, but everywhere they report they’re saying things like it may be protective against non alcoholic fatty liver disease. And they’re using phrasing like “associated with”. Nowhere could I find any indication of a mechanism. So they’re saying that we think this is good, but we have no idea why. So in my mind though, then I always want to think what are they comparing it? So in a sense, coffee is just better than something else. And if people drink coffee they probably drink less soda and sweet tea and other things like that so I’m not opposed to coffee. I drink coffee myself. I don’t think it’s a bad thing I’ve never really found any convincing arguments against it. I think if you have weak adrenals, you should not drink six cups a day. But most people can probably drink two cups and be totally fine. Just don’t think about it as some superfood that’s going to help you reverse fatty liver.
Number five is walnuts. And in my mind it’s a good food. It is high in protein and fat. It is low in carbohydrate and as such it’s really no different than most other nuts; especially things like Macadamia and pecans, which are some of my favorites. And when you have something that’s low carb and high fat and protein it’s going to be satisfying it’s going to help you reduce insulin and reverse insulin resistance so in that sense I’m all for it. Just don’t think of it as a superfood that’s going to help fix anything, but again when they put these in lists of superfood and they quote different studies they’re looking for some magical molecule that’s going to start protecting you and reversing disease and it just doesn’t work like that. So overall, we give it a green check mark because it’s a good food. Just don’t think of more as better.
Number four is Omega-3s. And now we’re back to these polyunsaturated fatty acids. These are the polyunsaturateds that we really need. These are essential, but we only need them in very small quantities for specific reasons. One of the best ways to get them is through fish oil, through a supplement, or you can eat the whole fish. And there’s lots and lots of documentation that show the mechanisms and there’s just no doubt that it is anti-inflammatory it reverses it. It addresses the root causes of a lot of the metabolic syndrome. So when we’re talking about fatty liver we’re talking about cardiovascular disease or metabolic syndrome, it addresses the core mechanism in all of those. And for that we give it a big green check mark.
But we’re also going to start asking some questions here because a lot of people think that Omega-3s are all the same. And flax oil, flax seed has a lot of Omega-3s in it, but it’s not the type that we need. We need to convert the flax into something called EPA and DHA and the problem is that if you’re super healthy then you’re reasonably good at converting flax oil into EPA and DHA. However, if you’re not so healthy if you have a lot of oxidative stress and insulin resistance the worse off you are the less flax you’re going to convert into the stuff that you need. So the people who really need it they’re not going to be converting it and therefore flax is not a great source of Omega-3s. Not for that reason, I still eat some flaxseed because I like it. I like to grind it and put it on yogurt with Chia seeds, but I don’t eat it to get the Omega-3s. And I don’t eat more because I think it’s a superfood. And like we said before, we want to think of these very specific Omega-3s. These very specific polyunsaturated fatty acids as a micro nutrient, right? It’s like a vitamin or a mineral or something. We’re not supposed to turn it into energy, we’re not supposed to get large quantities. They’re for very specific reasons. They’re for cell membranes. They’re building blocks and hormone precursors and things like that. And some of the best sources, like we said, is fish. But if you eat good quality eggs you can also get virtually all your Omega-3s. The right ones from eggs. And if you don’t have access to quality fish and eggs, then I would suggest you get a supplement.
Number three is cruciferous greens. And cruciferous has to do with the shape of a flower that’s like the shape of a cross for certain plants. And these plants all have different phyto compounds. They have different chemicals in the plant that actually assist the liver in its detoxification processes. So these foods are things like arugula and bok choy and Brussels sprouts and broccoli for example. But it also includes things like cabbage, and cauliflower, kale, and even rutabaga. And as long as you tolerate these, well you can eat pretty much as much as you like. And the only one I would limit a little bit is the last one, the rutabaga, which is a root so it has a little bit more starch, but it’s very slowly processed. But if you’re trying to reverse something, then go easy on the rutabaga and eat the others. But again, you can have sensitivity so it’s only good for you if you tolerate it.
Number two on the list is meat. And here I might add this is what I added to the list. All right, I think this should absolutely be on the list and I still wouldn’t call it a superfood, but it’s probably as close as we get. With these last two items and interestingly these two last items which are my top two did not show up on any other list. Why? Because we have this misconception and fear of saturated fat and cholesterol. So, meat is a fantastic food it is packed with nutrients. It is a very rich food. It’s very very filling. It is a great protein source and a lot of what I talk about is sensitivities. Okay, a food can be good but if you react to it it’s not good. And the reason carnivore is getting so popular is people have all these food sensitivities and meat (beef) is arguably possibly the least allergenic food out there.
Red meat is also a very rich source of methane, which is a sulfuric amino acid that the body can use to make glutathione. And glutathione is the body’s most powerful antioxidant. Meat also has a lot of saturated fat and monounsaturated fat, both of which are very stable. So if you can get past the fear of saturated fat and you work on lowering your insulin, now saturated fat becomes an excellent energy source. And because it is stable, it is very non-inflammatory.
And number one on my list is eggs. And that’s interesting because I didn’t find it on any other list out there. And again, because we have this phobia and aversion to saturated fat and cholesterol which is completely misguided. Eggs are packed with nutrients. They have a lot of the same benefits that meat does, but it also has something called choline which is a vitamin that is kind of a catalyst for fat burning. It’s one of the things that’s going to help you burn through that fat in the liver. Eggs are also rich in certain vitamins, especially B6, B9, and B12. And these vitamins allow your body to convert a harmful inflammatory substance called homocysteine into a very useful substance called methionine. And then the body turns methionine into glutathione , which again, is our most powerful antioxidants. And not only do eggs have these vitamins to help us process methionine, but it’s also a rich source of methionine in itself. And eggs are also packed with essential fatty acids – the EPA and the DHA that we talked about before. And if you get the good quality, the pastured eggs, they’re going to be many times higher in these essential fatty acids. Very often you can get your complete supply just from eggs. So eggs also obviously deserve a big green check mark.