Triglycerides are a type of fat present in the blood. High levels of triglycerides can be a risk factor for different health conditions. Therefore, a doctor may advise a person to change their diet to try and lower their triglyceride levels.
Certain health conditions, genetics, medicines, and lifestyle habits are risk factors for high blood triglycerides. For example, a diet high in refined carbohydrates, added sugars, saturated fats, and excessive alcohol can raise a person’s triglyceride levels.
By changing their diet, the person may be able to manage their blood triglyceride levels.
This article explains what triglycerides are and what a doctor may class as a healthy level. It discusses which foods may lower triglycerides and what foods to avoid. It also offers an example meal plan and outlines other options a doctor may recommend.
Triglycerides are a type of fat, or lipid, in the body. They are the most common form of body fat, as the body stores most of its fat as triglycerides.
Triglycerides circulate in the blood, and a doctor can measure their levels with a blood test.
A triglyceride consists of three molecules of fatty acids combined with a molecule of glycerol, which is a form of glucose. People consume triglycerides as fats in food. Human bodies can also convert glucose in foods to triglycerides.
Triglycerides serve as one of the body’s main sources of energy. If the body does not require the energy straight away, it stores triglycerides as fat.
Spherical particles known as lipoproteins package triglycerides and travel through the bloodstream to deliver them throughout the body.
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), high blood triglyceride levels are a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Research also indicates that there is a link between high triglycerides and the following conditions:
According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, normal fasting blood triglyceride levels are:
- less than 75 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl) for children under the age of 10
- less than 90 mg/dl for children aged 10 years and older, as well as adults
Doctors refer to high blood triglycerides as hypertriglyceridemia. A person may receive a diagnosis of hypertriglyceridemia if their fasting blood triglyceride levels are consistently 150 mg/dl or higher.
However, different clinical guidelines may classify high triglycerides at different levels.
Research indicates that blood triglycerides are higher in men and increase with age in both men and women.
Some people also have a genetic predisposition to high triglycerides, and doctors refer to this as familial hypertriglyceridemia.
The AHA recommend that people focus on eating certain foods to help manage triglycerides levels. Foods that may help lower triglycerides include:
- Lower fructose vegetables: These include leafy greens, zucchini, butternut squash, green beans, and eggplant.
- Lower fructose fruits: Examples include berries, kiwi, and citrus fruits.
- Fiber-rich whole grains: Brown rice, wholemeal bread, quinoa, oats, barley, and buckwheat belong to this food category.
- Oily fish: Some oily fish are salmon, herring, and sardines.
- Fat-free or nonfat dairy products: These include milk, yogurt, and cheese.
Additionally, the AHA advise people to:
- limit added sugars to no more than 10% of their total daily calories
- limit carbohydrates to 50–60% of their total daily calories
- keep dietary fat to 25–35% of the total diet
- reduce or avoid alcohol
The following is an example meal plan that may help people lower their triglycerides.
In addition to advising a person to make dietary changes, a doctor may also recommend the following to lower triglyceride levels:
- Engaging in physical activity: The AHA advise at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity at least 5 days per week for a total of minimum 150 minutes per week.
- Reaching a moderate weight: According to the AHA, 5–10% weight loss results in a 20% decrease in triglycerides.
- Taking omega-3 fatty acids: Research indicates omega-3s may prevent and treat hypertriglyceridemia.
- Taking nicotinic acid: According to research, nicotinic acid, also known as niacin, may help lower triglyceride levels.
- Taking fibrates: Evidence also suggests that fibrates are effective in lowering triglyceride levels.
Learn more about other ways to lower high triglycerides here.
People can try to lower their triglyceride levels by changing their diet, reaching a moderate weight, and exercising regularly.
People may consider avoiding refined carbohydrates, added sugars, and saturated fats. By replacing these with low sugar fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and oily fish, people may be able to lower triglyceride levels and their risk of obesity and cardiovascular disease.
It is important that a doctor decides whether this approach is sufficient to make a difference or whether a person also requires medication. A person should contact their doctor to see what approach will be most suitable for them.