Top 10 SUPER FOODS That Can Heal A Fatty Liver

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.

Credit: Dr Eckberg

Video Transcript:

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.