I recently had a client come to a nutrition consultation for a severely elevated triglyceride level. While his elevated triglyceride level was a challenging and depressing situation for him personally, it was what his cardiologist told him to eat which was really depressing! His physician actually told him to “eat grass and cardboard.” Obviously, this doctor was being sarcastic, but the comment implied that the diet needed to be overly restrictive. As is often the case with nutrition advice, this particular advice was misleading, incomplete, and inappropriate in terms of helping the patient improve his medical outcome.
6 ways to decrease triglycerides without eating grass and cardboard
Maintain or get to a healthy weight.
Triglyceride and cholesterol reduction may result from losing weight if overweight. Maintaining an ideal weight is important for all aspects of health, including triglyceride reduction.
Increase physical activity
Aerobic exercise can aid with weight loss and decrease triglyceride levels at the same time.Triglyceride reduction occurs with short bouts of aerobic exercise as well as long-term repetitive exercise. Most studies support doing 30-45 minutes of moderately intensive exercise five times a week. Have your doctor sign off on your exercise if you have been inactive!
Cut down on carbs
Carbohydrates are basically divided into two categories: simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates tend to be sweet, such as soft drinks, desserts, candies, and syrup. Bread, pasta, rice, fruits, and vegetables are sources of complex carbs.
It is generally recommended that people with high triglycerides avoid simple carbohydrates. Some people are so sensitive to sweets that their triglyceride levels increase drastically when they eat too much sugar. In any healthful diet, complex carbohydrates should be in the 45-65% of overall calorie intake, but even too much high-fiber, nutrient-dense complex carbohydrates can aggravate triglyceride levels when eaten in amounts exceeding 60% of total calorie intake.
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), even small amounts of alcohol can increase triglyceride levels. For some people, cutting out alcohol can elicit a marked decrease in their triglyceride levels. In the case of my patient, his triglyceride decreased a whopping 90%.
Choose fats wisely
Up to 30% of the calories you get from fat should come from foods higher in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, according to the AHA.
Eat more fish
Most health experts also recommend eating more fish because of the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish, which have been associated with decreased triglyceride levels. Omega-3 fatty acids also help make the blood less sticky, so it is less likely to forms clots that contribute to heart attacks. Fatty fish like sardines, herring, and salmon are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Other good sources of omega-3 fatty acids include: tofu, soybeans, flaxseed, nuts, and green leafy vegetables.
While these are steps to start you off, a licensed dietitian can personalize your food plan to meet your goals. You do not need to eat cardboard and grass!
What’s on your plate to lower triglyceride levels?