Review | Healing Fatty Liver Disease



***This is a sponsored post. A copy of Healing Fatty Liver Disease by Raman, Sirounis, and Shrubsole was provided for the purpose of review. No other compensation has been received. All opinions expressed are my own. Now that we’ve got that out of the way…***

A few years ago, as I was dealing with a number of converging health issues, an abdominal ultrasound revealed some “fatty infiltration” of the liver. At the time this was the least of my concerns and I joked that I was “foie gras.”

Fatty Liver Disease isn’t much to laugh about in all reality. Having measurable fat deposits in the liver may not progress to any sort of decrease in liver function, or it may progress so far as NASH or non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (which is to say, liver disease with inflammation and scarring), not to mention an increased risk of developing cirrhosis. And while fatty infiltration can be detected, to an extent, by ultrasound, a liver biopsy is necessary to determine the extent of the infiltration and the severity of the disease.

Since I was already going in to have my gallbladder removed, my surgeon opted to do the biopsy then, which is when we found out that while there is fat in my liver, I also have A1AT (alpha-1 antitrypsin) deficiency–a rare, genetic condition that makes both my lungs and liver more susceptible to disease. Thankfully, regular liver function testing since then shows that my liver is just fine for now and we’ll continue monitoring it, probably for the rest of my life. And I need to not antagonize my liver too much to help keep those levels where they need to be.  This is one of the many reasons I jumped at the chance to take a look at Healing Fatty Liver Disease: A Complete Health & Diet Guide by Dr. Maitreyi Raman, MD, MSc, FRCPC; Angela Sirounis, BSc, RD; and Jennifer Shrubsole, BSc, RD.

Like many similar guides from the Robert Rose publishing house, the first part of the book is chock-a-block full of basic information about the role of the liver and general health information, as well as the ways the liver is affected by Fatty Liver Disease in particular. Since weight and it’s related contributions to daily life plays a part on the stress put on the liver, managing weight is a large part of the idea behind the Healthy Liver Diet.

Healthy Liver Diet Program Principles:

  • Low-calorie
  • High-fiber
  • Balanced food groups
  • Rich in micronutrients
  • Sustainable

Which is pretty much the same advice given to anyone advised to lose weight in a safe and healthy manner. The question for many, though, is how.

Since fatty liver disease is not something that’s looked for in the general way–it’s  usually discovered as a result of another health inquiry–most people are dealing with more things than just a liver concern, and it seldom surprises me (what with the massive food marketing pushes out there that often based on profit margins and not health) that folks don’t know how to go about refitting their daily needs to a liver-healthy (or heart-, etc.) diet. The authors apparently share this view, and that’s why they’ve not only included recipes that will work to that end but even 2-week menu plans that include 3 meals and 3 snacks a day based on 3 different calorie needs.

The recipes focus on “increasing total and prebiotic fiber, monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats such as omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamin D” and minimizing omega-6 fatty acids and saturated fats. In fact, this book included the most clear and concise explanation and examples of the difference between the omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. They do use margarine in some of their recipes, which I usually balk at, but at least these days there are better options for buttery spreads that do not include trans-fats.

Of course we tried out a few of those recipes, and I think they do a good job of showing that meals designed to meet the above requirements don’t have to feel like restrictions and can be tasty and satisfying.

Local Veggie Egg Scramble served with bacon and half a gluten-free English muffin

Local Veggie Scrambled Eggs served with bacon and half a gluten-free English muffin

The Local Veggie Scrambled Eggs (p.148) are almost more like a frittata than scrambled eggs, but they were very tasty nonetheless. For another meal we made their Oatmeal Banana Pancakes (p.149) and while they had a more waffle-batter texture than pourable pancake batter (something we’ve found to be pretty common in the “healthy” pancake recipes), the oatmeal was a nice touch and made for some very filling pancakes.

Oatmeal Banana Pancakes--very thick and fluffy when done!

Oatmeal Banana Pancakes–very thick and fluffy when done!

Ever since I first encountered jicama during my stint at the Plantation, I’ve been in love with it’s crisp, bright flavor and crunchy texture. Consequently, the Beet, Orange and Jicama Salad (p.187) was a bit hit with me. Meanwhile, the dressing on the Greens with Strawberries (p.189) salad was quite a hit but the sprouts in the salad part didn’t go over quite as well.

Greens with Strawberry Dressing

Greens with Strawberries

Beef Tenderloin with Blue Cheese Crust served with a baked potato and steamed bok choy.

Beef Tenderloin with Blue Cheese Crust served with a baked potato and steamed bok choy.

As entrees go, the Beef Tenderloin with Blue Cheese Herb Crust (p.198) was positively decadent yet very simple to prepare, similar can be said for the Sweet and Sour Pork (p. 204), it’s always a good staple recipe to have on hand. 

Sweet and Sour Pork served with Ginger Carrots

Sweet and Sour Pork served with Ginger Carrots

Chicken in Butter Sauce served over Basmati rice with green beans on the side

Chicken in Butter Sauce served over Basmati rice with green beans on the side

The Chicken in Butter Sauce (p.210) is similar to what you’d find at your local Indian restaurant and filled our home with wonderful aromas. Continuing with the updated ethnic cuisines, I’d been craving Pad Thai (p.212) for a while, so when I saw that there was a version in this book I had to try it out. The sauce was possible the best I’ve tasted and did not use peanut butter so I didn’t even have to make any substitutions (Todd’s preferences).

Pad Thai with Beet, Jicama and Orange Salad

Pad Thai with Beet, Orange, and Jicama Salad

Thai Turkey Stir-Fry

Thai Turkey Stir-Fry

The Thai Turkey Stir-Fry (p.213) (recipe below) needed truly minimal adjustments to fit a Low-FODMAP diet (as with many of the recipes, the biggies were subbing garlic oil for garlic and the occasional onion substitutions) since bok choy and red bell peppers are already a-okay. Even though I subbed angel hair for the linguine (gf pasta availability is a bit hit-or-miss at our usual grocery store), the Linguine with Chile Shrimp (p. 230) was still quite tasty, though somewhat on the small side, portion-wise. All the more reason to serve a filling side dish!

"Linguine" with Chile Shrimp

“Linguine” with Chile Shrimp

Eggplant Lasagna tasted a lot better than it photographed!

Eggplant Lasagna tasted a lot better than it photographed!

Roasting the long, thin slices of eggplant for the Eggplant Lasagna (p.240) was a different way of going about thing but I can see where it helps move the cooking along and adds to the flavor. This dish was a bit of a mess when it was served up, but the flavor was hard to beat. And whereas you’d expect Ginger Carrots (p. 253) to be sweet, their recipe leans more to the savory–another nice change of pace.

By combining more than 100 pages of good, solid inner-working information and 100 recipes to get someone into the habit of cooking healthy meals, I think the authors have put together a good reference manual for someone who’s left the doctor’s office with a diagnosis of Fatty Liver Disease and wondering what to do next. I appreciated their candor when they talked about the non-sustainability of so many of the diet plans on the market today and the solid information they’ve presented, even if it can be a bit dry at times (it’s a tough road, making liver function interesting, so I don’t hold it against them too much). The only thing I wish they would have done is fill out the case studies they included throughout the learning section of the book with more information on the results, not just the decisions that the patients and the doctors made.

An online friend of mine, Tea Silvestri of The Word Chef, was recently diagnosed with fatty liver disease as well as a few more issues that part of the whole package. I suppose the real question about this book is whether I would recommend it as a reference for her own situation and, yes, I definitely would.