By Willow Jarosh, R.D., and Stephanie Clarke, R.D.
Q: I have high triglycerides. Is there anything I can do, diet or lifestyle-wise, to help reduce them?
Yes! There are many dietary and lifestyle changes that can help lower your triglycerides. Triglycerides are less commonly talked about than other measures of cardiovascular health (such as blood pressure and cholesterol), but they’re just as important to monitor in order to keep your heart healthy.
Triglycerides are a type of fat (lipid) that circulates in your blood. After you eat a meal, your body converts any extra calories that it doesn’t use right away into triglycerides. Those triglycerides are then used for energy between meals. However, if you consistently eat more calories than your body really needs for energy, your triglyceride levels can rise. Over time, that blood-fat overload can cause a hardening of your arteries, which can then increase your risk of heart attack and stroke.
Here are important changes you can make in your diet and lifestyle to help lower your triglycerides:
Get to a healthy weight: If you’re overweight, losing even five to ten pounds can help lower your triglycerides. If you need help, seek out the advice of a registered dietitian or join a reputable online weight loss program. For more tips on losing weight effectively, with healthy long-term changes, read this Smart Balance Q&A post.
Cut the white stuff: Reducing the amount of sugary foods you eat as well as refined carbohydrate products like white bread, white pasta and white rice can help lower triglycerides, too. These foods are digested quickly, which means they turn into triglycerides quickly. And because they’re particularly easy to overindulge in, they are often responsible for many of the excess calories in many of our diets.
Lower alcohol intake: Alcohol has a particularly strong effect on raising triglycerides. If your triglycerides are already high, talk to your doctor about cutting back or eliminating alcohol completely. It’s a move that can speed weight loss, too.
Eat more healthy fats: Substituting healthier fats for some of the saturated fats (found in high-fat meats, cheeses, butter, lard, etc.) can help reduce triglycerides as well as cholesterol. You’ll find mono- and polyunsaturated fats in most fatty fish, vegetable oils, nuts and nut butters (including Smart Balance® Rich Roast Peanut Butters) avocados, olives and many butter alternatives such as Smart Balance® Buttery Spreads. An example of an easy and beneficial change would be to choose salmon with an almond crust instead of a high-fat beef burger with cheese or a prime rib the next time you are out to eat. It’s also important that you focus on replacing saturated and trans fat with healthier fats instead of making up the calories with more carbohydrates.
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