Weekly Wellness: Is There a Diet that Lowers Triglycerides?
COLUMBIA- As we age, we have to pay attention to things like cholesterol and triglycerides. So what exactly are they? Triglycerides are a type of fat (lipid) found in your blood. When you eat, your body converts any calories it doesn't need to use right away into triglycerides. The triglycerides are stored in your fat cells. Later, hormones release triglycerides for energy between meals. It is important to monitor triglyceride levels because more and more research is showing that their levels appear to be an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease and possibly even more significant than cholesterol for both heart disease and stroke.
Your doctor can perform a simple blood test to determine your levels.
- Normal — Less than 150 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL), or less than 1.7 millimoles per liter (mmol/L)
- Borderline high — 150 to 199 mg/dL (1.8 to 2.2 mmol/L)
- High — 200 to 499 mg/dL (2.3 to 5.6 mmol)
- Very high — 500 mg/dL or above (5.7 mmol/L or above)
If your doctor has mentioned that your triglyceride levels have elevated, consider cutting back on:
Saturated fats: Diets higher in most saturated fats seem to have more detrimental effects on blood lipid profiles. Limit these foods (i.e., butter, red meat, cheese) and choose more heart-healthy fats like olive oil and avocado.
Refined carbs: If your overall diet is more than 55% carbohydrate intake, you may be at greater risk for higher triglyceride levels. For optimal carbohydrate intake, avoid processed foods and stick to whole grains and vegetables that come packaged with vitamins, minerals and fiber.
Sugar: Limit foods high in added sugars like sodas, sports drinks and processed sweet treats.
Alcohol: Moderate drinkers may be at greater risk for higher triglycerides since excess calories in the bloodstream are converted into triglycerides. For many of us, those excess calories exist in the form of alcohol and can add up quickly.
Are there foods that might help to lower your triglyceride levels? YES! Time to add these items to your grocery list:
Fatty fish: Omega-3 fatty acids found in many fatty fish are effective at significantly lowering blood triglyceride levels. Options like salmon, tuna, mackerel and sardines all contain the daily recommended amount (2–4 grams/day) to help lower triglycerides.
Beans and legumes: These plant-based finds are high in fiber, protein, magnesium and potassium, all nutrients that have a positive impact (especially when replacing red meat) on blood lipid levels.
Blueberries: In addition to being a great source of antioxidants, blueberries are also high in pterostilbene, a compound that may reduce triglyceride and cholesterol blood levels as much as prescription drugs.
Olive oil: Substituting fats high in saturated fat like butter, palm oil, shortening (both found in lots of highly processed foods) and animal fats with oils high in monounsaturated fats (like olive and walnut oils) can help improve blood lipid profiles by lowering triglyceride levels and increasing good-for-you HDL cholesterol.
Spinach: This dark leafy green is one of the few food sources of alpha-lipoic acid, an antioxidant that may help lower triglycerides.