Last week I talked about triglycerides and how they affect our health, and this week we want to go a little further in that discussion, to look at some of the dietary changes which will help you reduce your triglyceride levels.
Three Ways to Lower Your Triglyceride Levels
1. Reduce your processed carb intake
The standard advice, which gravitates towards a diet lower in fat as a way to protect your heart, may be doing more harm than good.
The fact is, that when most people go on a low fat diet they replace those calories from fat with calories from carbohydrate foods.
Think about how much bread, pasta, potato chips, cookies, breakfast cereals you eat in the course of one day"¦. do carb foods make up the highest percentage of your energy intake (compared to proteins and fats)?
If your diet is high in these sugary foods, then you will be increasing your triglycerides levels as a result.
A 2008 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, compared a low-carb diet versus a Mediterranean diet versus a low-fat diet. They found that triglycerides were reduced most in the low-carb group "” 23.7 mg/dL as compared to 2.7 mg/dL in the low-fat group.
They also found that the ratio of total cholesterol to HDL cholesterol decreased during both the weight-loss and the maintenance phases. The low-carbohydrate group had the greatest improvement, with a relative decrease of 20 percent, compared to a decease of 12 percent in the low-fat group.
So, which foods should routinely be avoided?
- Sweetened drinks "” see next point
- Table sugar
- Sugary breakfast cereals
- Cakes, cookies, pastries, granola bars, candies, ice cream
- Be aware of foods labeled "fat-free," which normally contain more sugar and equal calories than the full-fat varieties.
Also remember that naturally occurring sugars, when eaten in excess, can also raise your triglyceride level.
2. Watch your drinks
Alcohol increases triglyceride levels, in fact, even small amounts of alcohol can lead to large changes in your triglyceride levels.
Men should definitely not be exceeding 2 alcoholic drinks per day, and women should limit to their intake to one drink per day, or less.
Soft drinks, fruit drinks, bottled iced tea etc., are also high in sugar, and should not be part of your regular consumption.
So, what can you drink?
Well, first and foremost, water. Green tea is also helpful (catechins are though to help reduce triglyceride levels, however you need to be drinking a lot to get the benefits), unsweetened tea and coffee are also acceptable beverages.
3. Lose weight
If you have high triglycerides, you must try to get to your ideal weight for height.
Another study published in 2010, found that for every kilogram of weight lost, triglycertides were reduced -2.6 mg/dL, and HDL cholesterol increased 0.22 mg/dL per kilogram body weight.
So, what was the most successful diet? In this case, highest weight losers in the low glycemic group consumed,
- 44 percent carbohydrate calories
- 32 percent fat calories
- 22 percent protein calories
- 2 percent alcohol calories
What foods can you eat to help reduce high triglyceride levels?
Moderate amounts protein from lean meats, poultry, fish and legumes.
Fruits and vegetables
Eat lots of vegetables (aim for 7+ per day), particularly green veg, and some fruit (up to 2 per day). Avoid fruit juice.
Limit your portion sizes of carb-rich foods like mashed potatoes, yams, corn and peas to one ½ cup at a time. These starchy vegetables are an excellent source of fiber and nutrients, however, if you are eating them in excess, they can contribute to high triglyceride levels.
Be aware that refined foods, like breads, cereals, rice, pasta and crackers, will be converted to sugar very quickly, and these foods should be avoided. Wholegrain varieties do so more slowly, but you must still limit your portion size and frequency of intake.
Eat healthy fats from monounsaturated and polyunsaturated sources, and increase your intake of omega-3 fats (mackerel, lake trout, herring, sardines, albacore tuna and salmon, or fish oil supplements) "” the healthy fat found in oily fish can help to lower triglyceride levels. Plant-based forms of omega-3s may also be helpful, such as those found in soy foods, flax seeds and walnuts. Avoid trans fat.
Melanie Thomassian, registered dietitian, online health coach, and author of Dietriffic.com, cuts through the misconceptions about diet and fitness to help you transform your health for life. Visit her website to learn more, or check out her new healthy eating guide.