Lowering Your Triglycerides By Changing Your Diet
Your doctor has told you to lower your triglycerides. Medicine and exercise can help, but changing your diet can be a good idea, too. If you want to lower your triglycerides without medicine, talk with your doctor so that you can work together and set goals.
Why It Is Important to Lower Your Triglycerides:
Triglycerides are a type of fat. They are in the food we eat. Our bodies can make triglycerides from sugars, too. Excess calories (those the body does not use right away) are turned into triglycerides and stored in fat cells. When the body needs energy, it can break down these stored triglycerides.
High triglycerides make it easier for plaque to build up on blood vessel walls. This increases the risk of heart disease, heart attacks, and stroke. High and normal levels are:
- Less than 150 milligrams/deciliter (mg/dl [1.7 mmol/L] = normal
- 150-199 mg/dl (1.7-2.2 mmol/L) = borderline high
- 200-499 mg/dl (2.3-5.6 mmol/L) = high
- 500 mg/dl and above (5.7 mmol/L) = very high
Here's How To Do It:
If your triglyceride level is high, these steps may help you bring it down:
Eat a Balance Diet
Balance fats in your diet. All heart-healthy diets are low in saturated fat. Saturated fat is found in full-fat dairy products (whole milk, cream, butter, cheese, ice cream), meats, lard, fried foods, coconut palm, and palm kernel oils. They increase fats in the blood. Limit foods high in saturated fat or swap them for foods with healthier fats. It is important to eat less saturated fat, but do not cut back too much on total fat. You should get 25–35% of your total calories from fat.
Unsaturated fats are good for your heart in proper amounts. They can help lower your triglycerides if you eat them often and may also help avoid other chronic health problems. Many foods contain these healthy fats. They are found in canola oil, olive oil, nuts, avocados, olives, and fatty fish. Fatty fish like mackerel, trout, albacore tuna, and salmon are good choices because they are rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
Try these tips to eat less saturated fat and more unsaturated fats:
- Order fish over beef when eating out.
- At the barbecue, go for grilled tuna steak instead of a hamburger or hot dog.
- Put lox (smoked salmon) on your bagel instead of butter.
- Cook with olive oil instead of butter.
- Put slices of avocado in your sandwich instead of cheese.
- Snack on nuts and dried fruit instead of potato chips.
Cut Down on Simple Carbohydrates (Sugar)
Too much sugar can raise your triglycerides. It can also lower HDL (“good) cholesterol. Limit sugary foods such as candy, soda, and sweets. Choose whole grain carbohydrates, such as whole wheat bread and brown rice. To get started, slowly switch out simple carbohydrates like white bread or pastas with whole grain versions.
Lose Excess Weight
Often losing as little as 5 to 10 pounds can help lower your triglycerides. To lose weight, cut down on excess calories from all sources, not just fat. Make sure your diet has plenty of fiber rich foods such as fruit, vegetables, and whole grains. A regular exercise program can also help you burn more calories.
Limit Alcohol Intake
Alcohol may raise triglycerides. Drink alcohol in moderation. Moderate alcohol intake is 1 drink per day for women and up to 2 drinks per day for men.
The American Heart Association suggests being physically active for 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week. If you are not active already, you can start with 10 minutes of moderate activity like walking, swimming, or yoga, and slowly increase your activity. Talk to your doctor before starting an exercise program. Exercise may help decrease triglycerides and improve overall heart health.
Eat Right—Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
United States Department of Agriculture
Dietitians of Canada
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Last reviewed November 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Last Updated: 11/9/2020