The type and amount of carbohydrates you eat have a direct effect on your triglyceride levels. Starchy vegetables like peas and corn supply ample amounts of carbohydrates per serving. Your body turns excess carbohydrates that are not used for energy into triglycerides. Fill your plate with lower starch veggies that will not increase your triglycerides including cauliflower, mushrooms, and kale. Avoid foods that contain simple sugars like fructose. These increase triglyceride levels.
Beans are great sources of fiber and other nutrients, but if they are loaded with sugar or have pork, pick another version. Choose black beans without sugar. They are high in protein and fiber and do not have saturated fat. The American Heart Association recommends those who have high triglycerides limit their intake of saturated fat, added sugar, and salt and increase their intake of whole grains, fruits, lean meats, legumes, fat-free or low-fat dairy, seafood, poultry, nuts, and non-starchy vegetables. This helps lower triglycerides and reduces the risk of coronary heart disease, fatty liver disease, and diabetes. Eating this way provides your body with vitamins and nutrition to support optimal health.
Fruit is part of a healthy diet, but too much fruit may hinder your ability to lower your triglycerides. Fruits contain varying amounts of fructose, a type of monosaccharide (sugar) found in some foods. People who have high triglycerides should limit their intake of fructose to no more than 50 to 100 grams per day. Excess fructose increases triglycerides. Eat 2 to 3 servings of fruit per day. Dried fruits, like raisins, are high in fructose. Have no more than 2 tablespoons per day. Dates, raisins, figs, and dried apricots are high in fructose.
Alcohol contains sugar and excess sugar increases triglyceride levels. Beer, liquor, and wine all contain sugar, so all types of alcohol may be a problem for those with high triglycerides. Talk to your doctor if you have high triglycerides. Your doctor may recommend that you limit your intake of alcohol or that you avoid it altogether. In addition to increasing triglycerides, alcohol consumption is linked to an increased risk of head and neck cancer, esophageal cancer, breast cancer, liver cancer, and colorectal cancer. If you find it difficult to cut back or stop drinking alcohol, your doctor can recommend strategies that can help you quit.
Fish is a heart healthy food, but read the label carefully when you buy canned fish. Doctors recommend that you watch your intake of fat when you have high triglycerides, especially saturated and trans fats. It is a better idea to buy canned fish that is packed in water. You will get all the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids in fish without the downside of additional fats that may contribute to high triglyceride levels. The American Heart Association recommends that people eat at least 2 servings of fatty fish per week. Fatty fish that are high in omega-3 fatty acids include salmon, herring, trout, mackerel, sardines, and albacore tuna.
Coconut is a trendy food these days. Coconut milk, coconut cream, coconut oil, and coconut flakes line grocery store shelves. Too much coconut can be a bad thing as it is high in saturated fat. If you need to lower your blood triglyceride levels, ask your doctor if you can safely consume coconut and if so, how much. In addition to increasing triglycerides, diets high in saturated fats such as those found in coconut products increase total cholesterol and bad LDL cholesterol. If your doctor says it is safe for you to consume some coconut products, choose low-fat coconut milk and low-fat coconut flakes to further limit your intake of saturated fat.
When you have high triglycerides, it is especially important to watch your intake of starchy foods like potatoes, pasta, and cereal. Your body turns excess carbohydrates into triglycerides if the calories are not used for energy. Ask your doctor how many carbohydrates you can consume per day. What counts as a serving of carbohydrates? One slice of bread, 1/3 of a cup of rice or pasta, 3/4 of a cup of dry cereal, one 6-inch tortilla, and 1 small piece of fruit or 1/2 cup of fresh or canned fruit all count as one serving of carbohydrate. Eating too many carbohydrates, especially simple carbohydrates, is bad for your blood sugar and it can even decrease good HDL cholesterol. Make whole grains and complex carbohydrates part of your daily dietary plan.
If you have high triglycerides (hypertriglyceridemia), sugar is especially bad for you. You may not know that many beverages contain added sugar. Fruit juice, regular soda, sweetened coffee drinks, sports drinks, energy drinks, and sweetened waters all contain sugar that may turn into triglycerides. The average adult in the U.S. consumes 145 calories from a sugar-sweetened beverage per day. Drinking sugar-sweetened beverages contributes to obesity, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, high triglycerides, and other chronic health conditions. Lower triglycerides by steering clear of sugar-sweetened beverages. Have some water with a squeeze of lemon juice or a splash of reduced-sugar or sugar-free juice instead.
Table sugar is not the only kind of sugar you need to be wary of when you have high triglycerides. Honey and maple syrup can increase your triglyceride levels, too. One tablespoon of honey has 64 calories and approximately 17 grams of sugar. One tablespoon of maple syrup contains 50 calories and approximately 13 grams of sugar. If you want to indulge in these sweeteners, use less of them or look for low-calorie or sugar-free maple syrup. Sugar comes in many forms. Read the labels and watch for brown sugar, corn syrup, corn sweetener, fruit juice concentrate, fructose sweetener, glucose, invert sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, maltose, lactose, malt syrup, molasses, sucrose, turbinado sugar, and trehalose. They are also bad for your blood sugar.
Baked goods may taste good, but they are loaded with sugar and saturated fat that can make triglyceride levels climb. Bake goods and pastries may also contain dangerous trans fats. These types of fats should be avoided in all amounts. Read nutrition labels before you indulge in baked goods. If you strive for weight loss, to reduce high cholesterol, and to modify other factors for cardiovascular disease, limit your consumption of baked goods. Eat high-fiber, whole grain foods instead of baked goods. Just be mindful to stay within the carbohydrate intake limit your doctor has established for you to reach your triglyceride goals.
Fatty meats are not good for you if you are trying to get lower triglycerides. Saturated fat in meat increases bad LDL cholesterol and contributes to high levels of triglycerides and cholesterol. Switch to lean cuts of meat if you do indulge. Avoid processed meats including cold cuts, bacon, ham, and sausage as these contribute to an increased risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and even cancer. Fatty fish is a better protein choice as it supplies healthy fats that boost heart health. Omega-3 fatty acids in salmon, trout, mackerel, herring, and tuna boost heart health and may help reduce your risk of a heart attack. However, avoid large game fish like swordfish, sailfish and king mackerel as they may contain mercury.
Butter and margarine are high in unhealthy saturated fat and trans fats, which raise triglyceride and cholesterol levels. Use olive oil in place of these fats when you are cooking meat, sautéing vegetables, or whipping up a salad dressing. Olive oil is high in monounsaturated fats and it has some polyunsaturated fats, both of which are better for you than saturated fat. Other alternative oils that can be used for cooking to reach your triglyceride-lowering goals include canola, flaxseed, and walnut oils. Swapping high saturated fat butter and margarine for healthier oils is an easily lifestyle change that may help lower triglycerides and improve cholesterol levels.
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- American Heart Association: “Triglycerides: Frequently Asked Questions.”
- FDA: “Interactive Nutrition Facts Label: Sugar.”
- National Cancer Institute: “Alcohol and Cancer Risk.”
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: “Carbohydrate Counting & Diabetes.”
- Pharmacy and Therapeutics: “Overview of Omega-3 Fatty Acid Therapies.”
- USDA National Nutrient Database: “Honey,” “Maple Syrup,” “Olive Oil, Salad or Cooking.”
- World Journal of Clinical Oncology: “Historical Review of the Causes of Cancer.”