The best foods to eat to lower triglycerides include salmon and other fatty fish, soy products, leafy green vegetables, and tree nuts.
The best foods to eat to lower triglycerides include salmon and other fatty fish, soy products, leafy green vegetables, and tree nuts.

Triglycerides are a kind of fat that travels in the blood. You may get some triglycerides from food, and some may be made by your body. Like cholesterol, triglycerides are necessary for life, but if they’re present at high levels, they can be bad for your health.

If you have high triglycerides, your cholesterol levels may be high too. This combination raises your risk of heart disease. Experts aren't sure if high triglycerides alone are bad for your heart, but some studies suggest they are.

If your triglyceride levels are very high, you may also be at risk of harming your pancreas. Changes in lifestyle can lower triglycerides, and eating triglyceride-friendly meals and snacks could help too.

Are high triglycerides a common problem?

Experts recommend you keep your triglycerides below 150 milligrams per deciliter. About one-quarter of the people in the United States have high triglycerides. These numbers have declined since 2001, probably because more people take statin drugs and fewer people smoke cigarettes.

The U.S. FDA's ban on trans fats in food could be another reason triglyceride levels have dropped among Americans. Trans fats increase the levels of not only LDL cholesterol — also called the "bad" cholesterol but also triglycerides.

Even though trans fats may be banned by the FDA, you should choose unsaturated fats over saturated ones.

Change your diet to reduce triglycerides

Follow these dietary guidelines to reduce your triglycerides:

  • Choose unsaturated fats — Reduce your intake of saturated fats by eating less red meat and less full-fat dairy.
  • Reduce total fat intake — Get no more than 30 percent of your calories from fat.
  • Eat less sugar — Cut down on table sugar, syrup, sweets, and sugary drinks.
  • Go for complex carbohydrates — Substitute whole grains for refined grains like white bread and white rice.
  • Cut back on alcohol — If you drink, talk to your doctor about safe amounts.

Create triglyceride-friendly meals with these foods

Salmon and other fatty fish

Experts agree that some of the best triglyceride-friendly meals include salmon — which is high in omega-3 fatty acids that help you lower triglycerides. You can also try other fatty fish like albacore tuna, sardines, and herring.

The American Heart Association — or AHA — recommends two servings of fish per week. The AHA warns against certain fish, like sharks, swordfish, and king mackerel, because they may contain mercury.

Soy products

Soy foods containing isoflavones can reduce triglycerides. Isoflavones are plant hormones similar to estrogen.

In one analysis of 23 studies, soy foods containing isoflavones were found to significantly lower both cholesterol and triglycerides. Soy comes in many forms, including tofu, tempeh, edamame, roasted soy nuts, soy milk, and textured soy protein.

You may worry that the isoflavones in soy will act like estrogen in the body. Recent studies have shown that most people can safely eat soy several times a week.

Check with your doctor if you aren't sure if you should be eating soy.

Leafy green vegetables

Leafy green vegetables are great additions to triglyceride-friendly meals. The best choices are dark greens like chard, spinach, arugula, and kale.

To add these vegetables to your daily diet, you can try:

  • Simmering them in soups
  • Using them in a stir-fry
  • Adding them to salads
  • Including them in omelets
  • Including them in wraps and sandwiches

Greens contain vitamins and minerals, and they are high in fiber. Getting more fiber in your diet has many benefits.

In one study, increasing fiber lowered triglycerides and other risk factors for metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome can lead to heart disease and diabetes.

Tree nuts

Tree nuts are nutritious and can significantly lower triglycerides. Try pecans, walnuts, pistachios, almonds, macadamias, and hazelnuts. The suggested serving for tree nuts is 50 grams or about one-fourth of a cup.

Nuts are often eaten as a snack, but they are high in calories. But, you may eat too many while snacking.

Instead, use them in side dishes and entrees. Try these ideas:

  • Toss them into your cereal, oatmeal, or yogurt at breakfast
  • Add them to a salad to make a satisfying lunch
  • Add them to a healthy grain like quinoa
  • Mix them with vegetables and legumes for a healthy meatless meal

Next steps toward lowering triglycerides

Changing the foods you eat may not lower your triglycerides without other lifestyle changes. You may need to:

Some medications can reduce triglycerides. But lowering these via lifestyle changes is better because it can have improved health effects overall.

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Medically Reviewed on 9/29/2021
References
American Heart Association: "Fish and Omega-3 Fatty Acids," "Triglycerides: Frequently Asked Questions."

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: "Meta-analysis of the effects of soy protein containing isoflavones on the lipid profile."

Annual Review of Nutrition: "Trans fatty acids and their effects on lipoproteins in humans."

BMJ Open: "Effect of tree nuts on metabolic syndrome criteria: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials."

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Trends in Elevated Triglyceride in Adults: United States, 2001–2012."

Current Developments in Nutrition: "Dietary Fiber Is Independently Related to Blood Triglycerides Among Adults with Overweight and Obesity."

Harvard Health Publishing: "How to eat nuts the healthy way."

Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health: "Straight Talk About Soy."

Heart UK: "Triglycerides."

University of Rochester Medical Center: "The Truth About Triglycerides."

U.S. Department of Agriculture: "Dark Green Leafy Vegetables."