All this talk of ‘good cholesterol’ and ‘bad cholesterol’ can be confusing enough, but there’s a new player in the game called triglycerides. Evidence shows that high levels of triglycerides can be just as harmful to heart health as bad cholesterol, although it’s unclear how. They may contribute to the hardening of artery walls which can increase the risk for strokes or heart attacks.1
What Are Triglycerides?
They are another type of fat that circulates in the blood stream along with cholesterol. Simply put, triglycerides are fats that the body stores away when they are not being used. Therefore, if you are eating more calories than you burn, particularly simple carbohydrates, it is likely that your triglyceride levels are high.2
Why Should You Care About Triglycerides?
High triglyceride levels can be an underlying sign of other health problems such as:3
- High blood pressure
- High blood sugar
- Liver disease
- Kidney disease
Ways To Lower Triglycerides
Here are some do’s and don’ts you should keep in mind when trying to keep your triglyceride levels under control.
1. Lose Body Weight
It’s been seen that even a modest amount of weight loss (5–10%) can greatly reduce your triglyceride levels by a significant amount. Make sure that you get at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise 5 days a week. This can include brisk walking, jogging, and swimming.4
2. Increase Intake Of Unsaturated Fats
Unsaturated fats can actually help reduce levels of triglycerides.5 These are the good fats which come from foods like
- olive oil
- tree nuts like almonds and macadamia
However, consume these in moderation as well because they are still high in calories. Include a healthy dose of omega-3 fatty acids as well which can really help control triglyceride levels.6 Sources of fatty acids include:
- oily fish like salmon, mackerel, and tuna
- soy products
3. Eat More Fiber
Fiber can help reduce LDL and prevent an increase in triglyceride levels caused by a high-carb diet.7 Choose complex carbohydrates like whole grain pasta and bread, brown rice, and oatmeal. Increase dietary fiber by adding plenty of fruits of vegetables into your diet.8
4. Try Natural Supplements
Natural supplements that may help include:
All of these have been shown to have positive effects on triglyceride levels. Try to include these ingredients in their natural form in your daily diet. However, before using any manufactured supplements, consult your doctor to see if they are right for you.
5. Drink Too Much Alcohol
While some studies show that a moderate amount can be good for heart health, other contradictory studies show that even a small amount leads to a significant increase in triglyceride levels.12 Alcohol contains sugars that can adversely affect blood glucose levels. Some people are especially sensitive and can show dramatic increases in triglycerides even with just a small amount of any type of alcohol. To know if this is the case, abstain from alcohol for a few weeks before getting tested a second time. If you must consume alcohol, it is recommended that you do so very occasionally.
6. Consume Saturated Fats And Trans Fats
These fats can make your triglyceride levels shoot up, increasing your risk of heart disease. If that fact doesn’t put you off, this might. After eating an especially fatty meal, the blood may have a milky tint to it which disappears in a few hours as it’s absorbed.13 Eating saturated fats like butter, cream, and lard and trans-fats found in most processed foods, only increases the amount of grease flowing through your bloodstream.
Triglyceride levels are significantly higher among smokers as compared to non-smokers and of course, can lead to a host of issues relating to the cardiovascular system.14 Not to mention, smoking comes with a plethora of other health problems that you’re much better off without.
8. Eat Too Many Carbs
To be more specific, avoid simple carbohydrates or refined carbohydrates like white bread, pasta, semolina, and white rice. These foods can definitely be harmful since they are extra carbs which will be converted to triglycerides and stored in fat cells.15 16
9. Eat Too Much Added Sugar
Added sugar can be harmful since, like carbs, added sugar is converted to triglycerides and stored as fat in the body. Stay away from sweetened beverages like packaged fruit juices, sports drinks, and mixed sweetened teas or coffees, since these products can have plenty of hidden sugar. Watch out for sugar in processed foods as well. It may be disguised with names like fructose, glucose, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, maltose, dextrose, and sucrose.
Following these guidelines should help you keep your triglyceride levels in check. However, make sure you visit your doctor and get regular checkups and tests done to monitor any risks associated with triglycerides.
|↑1, ↑2, ↑3||Triglyceride level. MedlinePlus.|
|↑4, ↑8||What You Can Do To Lower Your Triglycerides. University Of Massachusetts Medical School.|
|↑5||Lopez-Alvarenga, Juan C., Sven OE Ebbesson, Lars OE Ebbesson, M. Elizabeth Tejero, V. Saroja Voruganti, and Anthony G. Comuzzie. “Polyunsaturated fatty acids effect on serum triglycerides concentration in the presence of metabolic syndrome components. The Alaska-Siberia Project.” Metabolism 59, no. 1 (2010): 86-92.|
|↑6, ↑9||Friedberg, Cylla E., Martien JFM Janssen, Robert J. Heine, and Diederick E. Grobbee. “Fish oil and glycemic control in diabetes: a meta-analysis.” Diabetes care 21, no. 4 (1998): 494-500.|
|↑7, ↑15||Anderson, James W. “Dietary fiber prevents carbohydrate-induced hypertriglyceridemia.” Current atherosclerosis reports 2, no. 6 (2000): 536-541.|
|↑10||Rafraf, Maryam, Mina Malekiyan, Mohammad Asghari-Jafarabadi, and Akbar Aliasgarzadeh. “Effect of fenugreek seeds on serum metabolic factors and adiponectin levels in type 2 diabetic patients.” Int. J. Vitamin Nutr. Res 84 (2014): 196-205.|
|↑11||Singh, Ram B., Mohammad A. Niaz, and Saraswati Ghosh. “Hypolipidemic and antioxidant effects of Commiphora mukul as an adjunct to dietary therapy in patients with hypercholesterolemia.” Cardiovascular drugs and therapy 8, no. 4 (1994): 659-664.|
|↑12, ↑13||A promising new treatment for high triglycerides. Harvard Health Publications.|
|↑14||Willett, Walter, Charles H. Hennekens, William Castelli, Bernard Rosner, Denis Evans, James Taylor, and Edward H. Kass. “Effects of cigarette smoking on fasting triglyceride, total cholesterol, and HDL-cholesterol in women.” American heart journal 105, no. 3 (1983): 417-421.|
|↑16||A promising new treatment for high triglycerides. Harvard Health Publications.|