Fatty liver is a condition characterized by excessive accumulation of fat in the liver. While there are several factors that can contribute to the development of this condition, insulin resistance and the corresponding increase in body fat mass are the most common causes today. According to a review published by Clinical Liver Disease, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is a widespread concern as it affects up to 20% of the Indian population.
It's important to be mindful of the total dietary fat intake when managing a fatty liver. The good news is that making simple changes to your dietary regime can help prevent or even reverse a fatty liver. While many focus on increasing the intake of fibre, antioxidants, and omega-3 fatty acids, protein is a key nutrient that provides overall benefits to counter a fatty liver.
Protein is essential to produce insulin, as well as for the proper functioning of various enzymes in the liver and for muscle growth. Animal-based foods, which are naturally higher in fat (especially saturated fat), should be avoided. Instead, plant-based sources are a better option as they are already low in fat, rich in fibre and antioxidants, and provide essential vitamins and minerals to meet the body's daily nutritional needs.
Here are some of the best protein sources for individuals with fatty liver to consider:
There are multiple studies that have shown the positive impact soybean can have on fatty liver. Soy protein and soy isoflavones together improve antioxidant capacity, improve insulin sensitivity, and help reduce triglycerides. It is important to also note that in a country like ours’, Soy is one of the most economical and accessible plant-based sources of protein available.
Flaxseeds are a great way of boosting your protein intake. Just adding a spoon of ground flaxseeds to your dals can complete the protein and boost the overall intake. In addition to protein, flax also gives some amount of Omega 3 fatty acids which helps decrease triglycerides and has antioxidant properties.
Tofu, especially firm tofu, is a fantastic food to add for the management and reversal of fatty liver. Just like the bean, tofu is rich in protein and isoflavones. However, in the process of making tofu from soybeans, we end up improving digestibility making the nutrients a lot more available for absorption and use.
Indians have grown up eating dals and we all know the many health benefits dals as a group offer. Just 1 cup of dal will give you about 8-10g of protein. In addition, they are rich in fibre and minerals like zinc, iron, calcium, and magnesium. They are also easy on the pocket and environment friendly.
An unconventional addition to this list, amaranth Leaves are an excellent way of upping your protein intake. 1 cup of cooked amaranth Leaves gives you 8-10g of proteins. In addition, they are loaded with vitamin K, calcium, magnesium, selenium, and zinc. Each vitamin plays a crucial role in overall liver health.
The last Indian Market Research Bureau report states that more than 80% of Indians are protein deficient and unable to meet the daily requirement of 60g of protein. We, as a country, are protein deficient. As healthcare providers, we are seeing the benefits of protein-rich diets across the board, especially when it comes to metabolic disorders like fatty liver, type 2 diabetes, obesity etc.
Khushboo Jain Tibrewala is nutritionist & diabetes educator at The Health Pantry and a supporter of the Right To Protein initiative