Ask the experts
How can I lower my triglycerides?
Triglycerides can be found in the fat that we eat, as well as in our blood. Elevated blood triglycerides, called hypertriglyceridemia, can usually be reduced by modifications in diet and activity. In some cases, hypertriglyceridemia can be a consequence of a disease, such as untreated diabetes, so it's important to discuss the reasons for an elevated triglyceride level with your physician.
My recommendation for making changes to your diet would be to focus on one thing at a time. Initially, any change that you make will help, so pick the one that you are most likely to stick with. Each of the following will help lower your triglycerides:
- Decreasing your intake of sugar: If you have a sweet tooth, try to set limits on how often and how much sugar you consume. You can cut your intake in half to begin with, and continue cutting back from there. Remember to read the labels to check for sugar content in both food and beverages.
- Changing from white to brown: If you eat white rice, bread, and pasta, switch to whole wheat products. It may take a little while to get used to the difference in taste, but it's worth the effort for the benefits to your health. There are lots of new products on the market, so experiment until you find the one that you like best.
- Cut back on the booze: Even small amounts of alcohol have been shown to elevate triglycerides, so cut back to as little alcohol consumption as possible. If you choose to drink, try to cut down on the amount of alcohol in your drink by mixing it with non-caloric beverages such as seltzer, tonic water, or diet soda.
- Switching fats: To lower your triglycerides, you want to change the kind of fat that you eat. Limit or avoid foods with saturated and trans fat. These include fried foods, lard, butter, whole milk, ice cream, commercial baked goods, meats, and cheese. Switch to monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. The best sources of these fats are olive oil, canola oil, nuts, and fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, lake trout, sardines, herring, and albacore tuna. The food labels will tell you which kind of fat you are eating, so be sure to check them out.
The ultimate goal for lowering your triglycerides would be to eventually make all of these changes, increase your physical activity, and lose weight if you are overweight. You will be amazed at how much of an impact these changes will have on your triglyceride level.
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Medically reviewed by John A. Daller, MD; American Board of Surgery with subspecialty certification in surgical critical care
"Lipid lowering with diet or dietary supplements"