Triglycerides are a necessary form of fat found in the blood. They’re required as an energy storage and transport molecule, but can lead to cardiovascular problems if they are in excess. This means anything over the normal range of 0-1.70 mmol/L can be damaging your heart and blood vessels, leading to increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
Why are they high? Several factors can contribute to elevated levels including genetics, certain conditions like diabetes, polycystic ovary syndrome, and kidney disease, but the most common reason for high triglycerides is having a less-than-ideal diet. While you might require medications to reduce triglyceride levels, diet is also one of the most effective treatments. As an added benefit, following dietary recommendations for high triglyceride levels with benefit your overall health.
Reduce Intake of Refined Carbohydrates
Consuming carbohydrates, particularly ones that quickly elevate blood sugar levels, serve as the biggest indicator of triglyceride levels in the blood, according to Dr. Andrew Weil, a physician and integrative medicine expert. These foods cause the pancreas to release large amounts of insulin, which can contribute to excess production of triglycerides and storage of glucose as fat. It is strongly recommended to cut back on carbohydrates that lead to blood sugar spikes. For a list of foods to avoid, see below.
Watch General Carbohydrate Intake
While the aforementioned refined carbohydrates prove the most problematic, you must generally watch your intake of all carbohydrates, particularly starchy foods, according to the Palo Alto Medical Foundation. Starchy carbohydrates include breads, pastas, potatoes, corn and peas. If you have high triglyceride levels, aim for low carbohydrate vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, carrots, onions, tomatoes, beets, asparagus, cucumbers, and cabbage, to name a few.
Reduce Alcohol Intake
Put simply, alcohol elevates triglyceride levels. Weil notes that beer might be the worst culprit. If you cannot fully eliminate it, cut back as much as possible. He notes that even small amounts can negatively impact levels.
Reduce Saturated and Trans Fat
Reduce these as much as possible. Foods rich in saturated fat include full fat dairy, red meat, pork, duck and chicken and turkey with the skin on. You will find trans fats in fried foods, fast food, shortening, margarine, donuts and many commercially-prepared snack foods. Do not buy products that list partially hydrogenated oils among their ingredients.
Increase Intake of Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Just like carbohydrates, not all fats are created equal. Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna and trout, walnuts, flax and hemp, positively influence triglyceride levels. In lieu of eating fish, Weil recommends taking 1 to 2g of fish oil daily. However, do not use fish oil supplements if you take blood-thinning medications.
Triglyceride Diet Quick Facts:
- Sugar and alcohol are the two dietary factors associated with high blood levels of triglycerides.
- Milk contains a natural sugar called lactose. For adults wanting to control their triglyceride level, milk consumption should be limited to two cups (16 ounces) per day.
- Fruits contain natural sugars, and a maximum daily intake of three one-half cup portions of unsweetened fruit and fruit juice is recommended.
- Whole grain breads, cereals, crisp breads and homemade, sugar free cookies are recommended in place of similar refined products.
- It is essential to achieve and maintain ideal body weight. Triglyceride levels will increase if weight is gained.
- Avoid a large evening meal. Three well-spaced meals, each containing approximately the same nutrient value are recommended. Snacks may be necessary
FOODS TO AVOID:
- Alcoholic beverages, beer, wine
- Candy, chewing gum, carbonated beverages
- Commercial cookies, cakes, pies, chocolate syrup
- Dehydrated starchy snacks (pretzels, chips, etc.)
- Dried Fruits, sweetened, canned fruit, sweetened gelatin desserts, granola
- Honey, molasses, golden syrup, treacle, ice cream, ice milk, sherbet
THE FOLLOWING SUBSTITUTES ARE SUGGESTED FOR OCCASIONAL USE
Unsweetened or water packed fruits, unsweetened carbonated beverages (sparkling mineral water), jams, jellies, gelatin desserts.
Target Your Triglycerides
With a few months of concentrating on your food and beverage intake, you can make large shifts in your triglyceride levels and reduce your risk of developing cardiovascular disease and its related conditions. This can mean one less medication, one less heart attack, more years of healthy living, all with some simple but important diet changes.
- Weil.com:Triglycerides Too High?
- Palo Alto Medical Foundation: Dietary Guidelines for Reducing Triglycerides
- org Triglyceride diet