Tips To Decrease Your Triglycerides: 6 Easy Steps

tips to decrease your triglycerides

Do you need tips to decrease your blood triglycerides? Triglycerides are the blood fat not readily discussed during your doctor’s appointment. The focus may be more on your blood cholesterol level. But, blood triglyceride levels are still very important to your heart heath. If your blood triglyceride value is elevated, your blood is thick like motor oil. This can contribute to heart disease as well as other medical conditions.

In addition to being present in your blood, triglycerides are the common fat found in all food as well as your body. In fact, 95% of the fat found in food and the human body would be classified triglycerides.

Normal ranges for triglycerides

These test results are part of simple routine blood work. When blood is checked for various types of cholesterol, triglycerides can also be measured. An elevated triglyceride level can be an independent medical problem, or related to another medical problem. For instance, poorly controlled diabetics often have elevated blood triglyceride levels. Those people with thyroid disease, obesity, and kidney disease also often have elevated triglyceride levels. Hypertriglyceridemia is the technical term for an elevated blood triglyceride level.

The National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) classifies ranges of fasting triglycerides as follows:

  • Normal-less than 150 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL
  • Borderline high- 150-199 mg/dL
  • High- 200-499 mg/dL
  • Very high- more than or equal to 500 mg/dL

In addition to increasing heart disease risk, elevated triglycerides increase risk of stroke and pancreatitis. When a stroke occurs, blood flow is cut off to the brain. Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas. The pancreas gland is necessary for producing insulin which then regulates blood sugar levels.

Six simple tips to decrease your triglycerides:

1. Decrease triglycerides by limiting alcohol

For some people, cutting out all alcohol drastically lowers triglyceride levels. And, while you may like it if your doctor tells you red wine is healthy, your dietitian knows it can increase your triglyceride levels. So, I tell patients to eat grapes instead! I know it’s not as fun, but it works. And, if you must have a beer, consider going the non-alcoholic beer route. Doing so will not cause your triglycerides to increase.

2. Choose fats wisely with appropriate swaps

Replace highly saturated fats with more unsaturated fats. For instance, replace butter with olive oil. Don’t forget to swap these fats for each other! Simply adding olive oil to your diet on top of your usual butter intake will NOT decrease your triglyceride level. That also goes for topping your salad with a whole avocado. While an avocado has heart healthy fat, the impact on your triglycerides will be the same as too much olive oil. Scale it back to a small wedge or 2 Tbsp. Serving sizes of fats matter. Keep in mind that a serving of oil is only 1 teaspoon (not 1 tablespoon).

In addition to olive oil, consider using canola and peanut oil in your diet when needing fats. Add raw unprocessed nuts and seeds to the diet as another method of adding healthy fats to your current diet.

3. Decrease simple carbs

simple carbohydrates and triglycerides

Carbohydrates are basically divided into two categories: complex and simple. Bread, pasta, rice, fruit, and vegetables are examples of complex carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates tend to be sweet, such as soft drinks, desserts, candies, and syrup. Individuals should avoid simple carbohydrates in order to decrease triglyceride levels. Some people are so biologically sensitive to sweets that their triglyceride levels drastically increase when they eat too much sugar.

In any healthful diet, complex carbohydrates should be in the 45-65% range of overall calories. But even excessive amounts of healthy complex carbohydrates can elevate triglycerides. Triglycerides often decrease when complex carbohydrates are less than 60% of the overall diet. Complex carbs that are rich in fiber will also aid in lowering your blood cholesterol, if that is of concern!

4. Eat more omega-3 fatty acids

Fatty fish like salmon, sardines, and herring give us omega-3 fatty acids. Other good sources of omega-3 fatty acids include: tofu, soybeans, milled flaxseed, chia seed, walnuts, and even green leafy vegetables. And, if you eat a food from an animal that ate a rich omega-3 fatty acid diet, you will reap the omega-3 fatty acids. For instance, when you buy eggs that say they are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, it’s because the chickens were fed an omega-3 fatty acid rich diet!

5. Increase physical activity 

Aerobic exercise can help with weight loss. Aerobic exercise can also decrease triglyceride levels while aiding with weight reduction. Triglyceride reduction occurs with both short bouts of exercise and longer term repetitive exercise. Most studies find that the best bet is to do 30-45 minutes of moderately intensive exercise five times a week. Have your doctor approve an exercise program if you have been inactive.

6. Manage your weight

A healthy body weight has been shown to correlate with lower blood fats-including both triglycerides and cholesterol. In addition to reducing all blood fats, weight loss helps with decreasing blood pressure and diabetes.

In Summary

Tips to decrease your triglycerides start with cutting down your alcohol and total fat. Add some more omega-3 fatty acids to your diet. Be careful to add more healthy fats to your diet while decreasing more saturated fats. And, lastly, ramp up your physical activity and get to a healthy weight. These steps usually get the job done when trying to decrease triglyceride levels. For additional technical information on triglycerides and how to treat, visit here.

Do you have a success story about how you lowered your triglyceride numbers?

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Doctor Refusing Obese Patients: Weighing In

doctor refusing to treat 200 pound patientAs I turned on the morning news the other day, the attention grabbing “teaser” headliner was about a physician in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts who refused to treat anyone weighing more than 200 pounds (link to the story). If you haven’t heard it, the recap is that an internal medicine physician has decided to reject all new patients weighing over 200 pounds. She indicates that her staff has been “hurt” by handling these heavier people (not sure what she means by this), and that those patients already in her practice and weighing 200 pounds were grandfathered in. She  notes that some of these grandfathered patients proceeded to lose weight after her office policy was implemented. The physician further states that there is an excellent university affiliated medical facility nearby that can better treat the obese. Will your doctor be the next provider refusing obese patients?

This scenario seems to beg the question, “is this a new trend in the medical profession?”  Will the United States evolve to medically managed weight loss centers for all people classified as obese?

If a doctor is refusing obese patients, then who should take responsibility?

Mayor Bloomberg restricts soda pop. Michelle Obama encourages us to plant vegetable gardens. But what can individuals and society really do to take responsibility? This will become even more pressing of a concern to individuals if primary care physicians begin to refuse treating heavier patients on a wider scale. If those heavier people are required to find access to health care in settings equipped to handle their special needs, this could also potentially handicap the weight loss process even more.

Failing at weight management

failing at weight loss

Right now, we are clearly failing in managing our weight as a nation. We did not come to this point because of one problem. As a society, we are not inclined to move. For safety reasons, we may stay inside (dodging bullets). We sit in front of computers all day, play video games rather than dodge ball, and we eat out constantly. While eating out is a great treat, doing so too often really insures your energy intake is too high. This translates to weight gain. Unless you are training for a marathon or triathlon, you still need to manage your calories to manage your weight. All too often, those that workout regularly still forget the energy content (meaning calories) of the food they consume. So, again, what are some solutions?

What’s the societal solution?

I do not have a simple solution because there is not necessarily a simple solution to a laundry list of factors causing this national crisis. Our current societal complexities seem to set us up for obesity at this point. Both physicians and patients need to take responsibility for slimming down the nation. But, if the new trend is your doctor refusing obese patients, more of the responsibility will end up with the patient.

Other options

Apparently, it is perfectly legal for this physician to screen her patients according to weight limits. If this is her prerogative (and it’s her practice), she should make a point of offering some other options. While she was relying on a nearby medical facility affiliated with a teaching hospital, she and other physicians have other options. How about business cards of dietitians, therapists, and trainers and referring to those professionals! And, patients need to take responsibility as well. There is no magic solution here. The message to move more and eat less is perceived as “boring” by many. And to many, this simple message is not really simple.  After all, how much should one really eat and move in order to both prevent and manage obesity?

What can we do as a nation? Please provide input to this question directly on my blog.  I look forward to your comments.

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Cereals With Too Much Iron? Pick These, Not Those!

does your cereal have too much ironUpdated December, 2019

Do your regularly eat cereal? Did you ever stop to think that the cereals you choose may be loaded with too much iron? While cereal can be a great source of nutrients such as fiber, many cereals have too much iron for certain people. Clearly, adequate iron consumption is critical for the health of all-especially women of childbearing age, infants, and children. And, iron deficiency can cause a wide range of symptoms from energy draining anemia to disruptive behavior in children. Because adequate dietary iron is so critical to health, many foods are fortified with iron to lessen the public health risk of too little iron.

Cereals are probably the most widely iron fortified food in this country. For infants, iron fortified baby cereal is an excellent way for babies to get the iron they need to grow. For older children and adults, a single serving of cereal can provide 100% of the recommendation for iron. A complete list of iron requirements across all ages is available on this updated blog on cereal and iron.

Iron needs are based on age and gender

pregnancy iron needsBut, what happens if a lot of this highly fortified cereal is eaten by men and older women who have significantly lower iron requirements than younger women and children?  Women of childbearing age need 18 mg of iron. But men, and women in menopause, need only 8 mg of iron. While a healthy body can actually exert some control over absorbing too much iron, once in the body, it can be problematic to excrete. If too much iron is absorbed on an ongoing basis, it can cause a range of symptoms from increased infection to organ failure in susceptible individuals. This condition is called hemochromatosis.

Use labels to avoid cereals with too much iron

cereals with too much iron

How much iron is in your cereal? How much iron do you need?

If you walk down the cereal aisle and start looking at the Nutrition Fact Label on cereal boxes, you will see that some of the most popular cereals-including some of the healthier high fiber whole grain varieties- are often packed with 50 to nearly 100% of the recommended 18 mg suitable for younger women. So, what about a man or older woman who chooses to eat multiple servings of a these cereals in a given day? They would be ingesting much more iron than they need, potentially placing themselves at medical risk over the long run.

Let’s look at how some popular cereals stack up per serving with regard to the 18 mg iron requirement:

  • Cheerios have 6.3 mg
  • Special K has 6.3 mg
  • Wheaties have 8 mg
  • Corn Chex has 9 mg
  • Corn Flakes have 9 mg
  • Raisin Bran has 6.3-10.8 mg (depends on the brand)
  • Corn Chex has 11 mg
  • Special K has 11 mg
  • Rice Krispies have 11 mg
  • Wheat Chex has 14.4 mg
  • Cheerios Oat Crunch has 14 mg
  • Grape Nuts have 16 mg
  • Frosted Mini Wheats have 16.2 mg
  • Multi-Bran Chex has 16.2 mg
  • Total has 18 mg

For cereal lovers needing less iron

  • Kashi cereals range from virtually no iron up to 2 mg depending on the variety selected
  • Puffins have less than 1 mg
  • Kind Healthy Grains (all varieties) have less than 1 mg
  • Cascadian Farm Cereal Berry Vanilla Puffs Organic have less than 1 mg
  • Raisin Bran Crunch has 1 mg
  • Cooked oatmeal has less than 2 mg (more updated oatmeal information)
  • Flax Plus Multibran Flakes has less than 2 mg
  • Shredded Wheat has 2 mg
  • Nature’s Path Flax Plus has 2 mg
  • Fiber One has 4.5 mg
  • Frosted Cheerios have 4.5 mg
  • Basic 4 has 4.5 mg
  • Fiber One has 5 mg
  • Frosted Flakes have 5 mg
  • Honey Nut Cheerios have 5 mg

Tactics for cereals with too much iron

Given that many people eat more than the standard  ½-1 cup serving size, there is little doubt that some of you are consuming very large amounts of iron from cereal. Couple large serving sizes of iron fortified cereal with a glass of orange juice, and the iron absorption triples. The vitamin C from the orange juice keeps the iron in a readily absorbed form as the iron travels through the small intestine during digestion. The orange juice with vitamin C should clearly be avoided as a breakfast beverage with cereal if iron overload is a concern. Best tactics for those needing less iron are to read labels, watch your portions, and avoid fruit juice with vitamin C. Then, enjoy your cereal!

Thinking about the sugar content in your cereal, here’s a list on that as well!

Should you change your cereal choice based on your iron requirements? I hope this gave you something to think about.

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Fabulous Flaxseed: Easily Add to Your Diet

add flaxseed to your diet

Whole flaxseed

It’s relatively easy to add flaxseed to your diet in order to reap some significant health benefits. Flax seed is a rich plant based source of omega-3 fatty acids, making for a nice dietary alternative to fish. Omega-3 fatty acids are protective against heart disease, hypertension, certain cancers, and some autoimmune diseases such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. Americans typically do not eat enough of these healthful essential omega-3 fatty acids so, understanding how to add flaxseed to your diet can help improve your diet.

Flaxseed and fiber

Flaxseed is a good source of soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber aids in reducing blood cholesterol and insoluble fiber prevents constipation. The anti-cancer benefits of flaxseed are due to plant estrogens called lignans. Flaxseed contains more lignans than any other known plant material.

 Easy ways to add flaxseed to your diet

  • a topping for salad
  • a thickening ingredient for soups
  • a topping for cottage cheese
  • adding to yogurt
  • adding to condiments such as mustard or mayo when making sandwiches
  • using as part of a baked product recipe or pancake mixture*
  • adding to hot and cold cereal

Purchasing and storage

Flaxseed can be purchased as a whole seed, or a milled or ground meal. Whole flaxseed, such as pictured above, is shelf stable for up to a year, but needs to be ground up to derive the health benefits. If the product is purchased already ground or milled, once the package is opened it should be kept in the refrigerator in an air tight container for up to 3 months.

Nutrition information

One tablespoon of flaxseed has 45 calories, 2 grams of fiber, a little protein, and a large amount of the omega-3 fatty acids. This is definitely food worth chewing on. Here’s a great recipe to use up that garden zucchini and get your flaxseed eaten:

Add flaxseed to your diet with this easy muffin recipe

*Chocolate Zucchini Muffins~ Recipe makes 24 muffins

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 cup ground or milled flaxseed
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 cup margarine
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 cup sugar
2 eggs or 1/2 cup egg substitute
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 cups finely grated zucchini

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine flour, cocoa, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and ground flaxseed in a bowl. Cream the margarine, oil and sugar in another bowl. Add the eggs, buttermilk, and the applesauce. Then, add the flour mixture to the creamed ingredients and lightly mix. Lastly, add the grated zucchini.

Use paper baking cups to line muffin pan or generously oil or use baking spray on muffin pans. Fill tin or paper cups half way. Bake about 18 minutes or until a toothpick comes clean. Remove, cool and enjoy.

Nutrition information 

Calories-175             Fiber- 1 gram               Potassium-85 mg

Sodium-250 mg        Fat-6 grams                Carbohydrate-26 grams

Do you have a favorite recipe or way you add flaxseed to your diet?

For more detailed information on flaxseed, visit this site. 

Healthy Eating Strategies to “Beat the Clock”

 

beat the clock eating strategies

Are you constantly feeling like you’re up against the clock when it comes to getting a meal on the table? Healthy eating strategies must be planned, as healthy meals do not magically appear on the dinner table. You most likely have been in the situation where you had no food to pull a meal together. The lack of food staples for meal preparation then became an excuse to dine out or order in. Poor planning when it comes to grocery shopping can lead to the same scenario. If you constantly rely on food prepared by others, chances are pretty good that you are eating too many calories. And most likely too much sodium, total fat, and saturated fat as well!  Do this too often, and your overall health will eventually decline while your waistline goes the opposite direction.

Time management is key for healthy eating strategies

One key aspect to eating a healthy diet is time management. And, its imperative to apply your time management skills to your food activities. Considering the huge impact one’s diet has on health, it seems wise to budget a certain amount of time for meal planning. This planning can make a huge difference in getting healthy meals on the table for you and your loved ones. While eating is basically instinctive, healthy eating needs some thoughtful planning.

Suggestions for pulling off healthier eating

Dinner planning is also key for healthy eating strategies

As dinner is typically the most problematic meal, take about 20 minutes on the weekend to map out your dinner eating strategies for the entire work week. This advance planning allows you to think through your evening commitments and plan appropriately. For instance, you can keep dinner very simple if you need to run to a school function or evening meeting. For the tough evenings, you can plan on cooking ahead or purchasing already cooked entrees such as a roasted chicken. Or, with some advance planning, you can use a slow cooker or pressure cooker/instant pot.

Have a well stocked kitchen

Having a well stocked kitchen can allow you to eat a healthy meal without any effort. There is nothing wrong with cereal, milk, and fruit for dinner or a sandwich and fruit. Such labor-free meals can easily have the same nutrients as a hot meal. Granted, a hot meal is more comforting, but nutritionally speaking it really makes little difference to your health!

Prep your produce well in advance of eating

While most people say they like fruits and vegetables, very few people eat the 5 servings a day recommended by the National Cancer Institute. I have concluded, in part, this is due to the fact that fruits and vegetables can take some time to prepare and even eat.  A little planning and preparation for the week’s menus can cut down on the struggle to find the time during the week to get these foods into your diet.

Chopped vegetables for the week. Planning ahead for healthy meals.The above photo is from an organized mother of an infant and toddler. She works full-time and still manages to feed her family an extraordinarily healthy diet. With her well thought out eating strategies for the week, she is ready to start cooking with either a slow cooker or on the spot when arriving home. All she needs to do is pull her ingredients out of the refrigerator to pull this off.

Her family will be dining on Rose Family Baked Stew and another family favorite of penne pasta with chickpeas, tomatoes and low-fat feta cheese. She will also be serving several slow cooker recipes including sweet potatoes with red beans and rosemary chicken with white beans.

Once we learn to manage our food related activities as well as we mange our work and recreational activities, we are on the way to reaping the enduring health benefits of good nutrition.

What tips can you share?