6 Easy Ways to Reduce Triglycerides
Triglycerides are a type of fat found in the blood.
After eating, your body converts unneeded calories into triglycerides, which are stored in fat cells and subsequently used for energy.
Triglycerides are needed to provide your body with energy, but too many triglycerides in your blood can increase your risk of heart disease.
About 25% of American adults have high blood triglyceride levels, classified as 200 mg/dL (2.26 mmol/L) or higher. Obesity, uncontrolled diabetes, regular alcohol consumption, and a high-calorie diet all contribute to high blood triglyceride levels.
In this article, we explore 13 ways to naturally lower blood triglycerides.
- Lose weight
Whenever you eat more calories than you need, your body converts them into triglycerides and stores them in fat cells.
That’s why losing weight is an effective way to lower your blood triglyceride levels.
In fact, studies have shown that even a modest weight loss of 5-10% can lower blood triglycerides by as much as 40 mg/dL (0.45 mmol/L).
While the goal is to promote long-term weight loss, studies have shown that even regaining some weight has a lasting effect on blood triglycerides.
One study looked at participants who dropped out of a weight management program; although they regained the weight they had lost nine months earlier, their blood triglyceride levels remained 24-26% lower.
- Limit sugar intake
Added sugars play an important role in many people’s diets.
The American Heart Association recommends a daily intake of 6 to 9 teaspoons of added sugar, but in 2008, Americans consumed an average of about 19 teaspoons of added sugar per day.
Hidden sugars are often found in candy, soft drinks and fruit juices.
Excess sugar in the diet turns into triglycerides, which not only increases triglycerides in the blood, but also becomes a risk factor for heart disease.
A 15-year study found that people who got more than 25 percent of their calories from sugar were twice as likely to die from heart disease as those who got less than 10 percent.
Another study found that consumption of added sugar was associated with higher levels of triglycerides in children’s blood.
Fortunately, several studies have shown that diets low in carbohydrates and added sugars are associated with lower triglycerides in the blood.
Replacing sweetened beverages with water can lower triglycerides by 29 mg/dL (0.33 mmol/L).
- Continue a low-carbohydrate diet
Just like added sugar, excess carbohydrates in the diet are converted to triglycerides and stored in fat cells.
Not surprisingly, low-carb diets are associated with lower blood triglyceride levels.
A 2006 study looked at how different carbohydrate intakes affected triglycerides.
People who followed a low-carb diet, in which about 26% of calories came from carbohydrates, had a greater drop in blood triglycerides than those who followed a high-carb diet, in which 54% of calories came from carbohydrates.
Another study looked at the effects of a low-carb diet versus a high-carb diet over a one-year period. Not only did the low-carb group lose weight, but there was also a greater reduction in blood triglycerides.
Finally, a 2003 study compared a low-fat diet with a low-carbohydrate diet; after 6 months, researchers found that the low-carbohydrate group had a reduction in blood triglycerides of 38 mg/dL (0.43 mmol/L), while the low-fat group had a reduction of only 7 mg/dL (0.08 mmol/L).
- Eat more fiber
Fiber can be found in fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
Nuts, grains and legumes are also good sources of fiber.
High fiber content reduces the absorption of fats and sugars in the small intestine, which lowers blood triglyceride levels.
In one study, researchers showed that supplementing with fiber and rice bran reduced blood triglycerides by 7 to 8 percent in people with diabetes.
Another study looked at how diets high and low in fiber affected blood triglyceride levels. The low-fiber diet increased triglycerides by 45% in just 6 days, but during the high-fiber phase, triglycerides returned to below baseline levels.
- Exercise regularly
The “good” HDL cholesterol is inversely proportional to the triglycerides in the blood, i.e., high HDL cholesterol helps lower triglycerides.
Aerobic exercise can raise HDL cholesterol in the blood and lower triglycerides in the blood.
Studies have shown that aerobic exercise is particularly effective in lowering triglycerides when combined with diet.
Aerobic exercise includes walking, jogging, bicycling, and swimming.
In terms of quantity, the American Heart Association recommends at least 30 minutes of exercise five days a week.
The effect of long-term exercise on triglycerides is most pronounced. One study found that jogging for two hours a week for four months resulted in a significant decrease in blood triglycerides.
Other studies have shown that high-intensity exercise over short periods of time is more effective than prolonged moderate-intensity exercise.
- Avoid trans fats
Artificial trans fats are a type of fat that is added to processed foods to extend shelf life.
Trans fats are often found in commercial fried and baked products made with partially hydrogenated oils.
Because of the inflammatory nature of trans fats, they can contribute to a number of health problems, including an increase in “bad” LDL cholesterol and heart disease.
Trans fat intake can also increase blood triglyceride levels.
One study showed that triglyceride levels were significantly higher when participants ate a diet high in trans fats compared to a diet high in unsaturated oleic acid.
A similar result was found in another study. After three weeks on a diet high in trans fats, triglyceride levels were higher than on a diet high in unsaturated fats.
Diet and lifestyle can have a significant impact on blood triglycerides.
By choosing healthy unsaturated fats instead of trans fats, reducing your carbohydrate intake, and exercising regularly, you can lower your blood triglycerides in a short period of time.
A few simple lifestyle changes can help lower your triglycerides and improve your overall health.