If you’ve recently been told that your triglycerides are too high, you may be concerned about the associated risks and are unsure how to fix the problem. In short, triglycerides are fat molecules that circulate in the blood. A normal amount of triglycerides in the blood is 150mg/dL or less. If your triglycerides are over 200mg/dL, you may be at a higher risk of developing heart disease. Have no fear! With some dietary and lifestyle changes, you can lower your triglycerides.
Luckily, natural treatments for lowering triglycerides can coincide with several other healthy habits for weight loss, reducing chronic disease, and getting more active. Let’s discuss 8 ways to lower your triglycerides naturally (and get healthier in general):
Tip #1: Control your calorie intake
One of the biggest contributors to high triglycerides is eating too many calories. Not sure if you are eating too many calories? If you don’t track your calorie intake on a food tracker app, you may not know if you’re eating too many calories, however, there are several ways to tell if you are eating too much:
- You’ve had unintentional recent weight gain.
- You have a history of being overweight or obese.
- Your clothes have gotten tighter.
If you can relate to any of the above, you may be eating too many calories, and these excess calories could be causing triglycerides to build up in your blood. While there are many apps that can calculate a calorie goal, you can modify your calorie intake based on how your weight changes (or lack thereof).
One thing to keep in mind, however, is that very low calorie diets can actually hinder weight loss. According to the Harvard School of Medicine, women should consume no less than 1200 calories per day and men no less than 1500 calories per day, even when trying to lose weight (1).
Tip #2: Achieve a healthy weight
For overall health, weight management, and lowering triglycerides, make sure you achieve a healthy weight. Here are the basics to achieving a healthy weight (whether you need to lose weight or gain):
- Eat the right amount of calories for your needs.
- Exercise and track your progress with a fitness tracker.
- Restore and nourish your body with adequate sleep and nutritious foods.
A healthy weight differs from person to person, so make sure to talk to your registered dietitian to determine the best weight for you.
Tip #3: Go Mediterranean
The Mediterranean diet is a well-researched diet that has been shown to slow cognitive decline and lower the risk of chronic diseases like cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. It even shows promising research to lowering the risk of diabetes, which can arise from high triglycerides and a combination of other factors. For a great Mediterranean cookbook, click here.
Tip #4: Choose healthy fats
Healthy fats are your friend for lowering your triglycerides and risk of heart disease. Aim to incorporate healthy, unsaturated fats into your diet. Here are sources of healthy, unsaturated fats:
- Cooking oils (i.e. vegetable oil, olive oil, grapeseed oil, canola oil)
- Nuts and seeds (i.e. walnuts, pumpkin seeds, crushed flaxseed)
- Nut butter
- Fatty fish (i.e. tuna, salmon, mackerel, sardines, trout)
Tip #5: Get more omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are great for lowering the risk of heart disease and other factors that contribute to heart health (2). We get omega-3’s from a variety of foods like flaxseeds, walnuts, and cod liver oil. Some of the highest sources of omega-3’s, however, come from fatty fish. In fact, consuming just 8 ounces per week (2-3 servings) of non-fried fatty fish can provide the recommended dose of omega-3 fatty acids.
If you’re thinking about taking omega-3 supplements, however, think again. Consuming too much omega-3’s (especially from high-dose supplements) may put you at risk for excessive blood thinning, inhibiting your ability to clot.
Tip #6: Get more active
According to the American Heart Association, adults should be getting at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week. If you’re interested in weight loss, it is recommended that you get 300 minutes per week. Are you meeting these requirements? To get there, you can split up the exercise into 30 to 60-minute sessions 5 days per week. Join a gym or invest in home fitness equipment like an exercise bike or total body gym.
Tip #7: Choose complex carbohydrates
Complex carbohydrates are found in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. These types of carbs digest slowly and give us long term energy. We also get fiber from complex carbs which is helpful for digestion, moving things through the gastrointestinal tract and reducing cholesterol absorption, which can contribute to heart health. Even though overconsumption of calories from any food can raise your triglycerides, complex carbs can help you feel full, thus preventing you from eating more calories during that meal.
Tip #8: Limit refined sugars and alcohol
Refined sugars and alcohol can pack in a lot of calories, make us gain weight and raise our triglycerides. Strive to keep refined sugars and alcohol intake to less than 200 calories per day. Here are some foods to limit:
- Alcohol (i.e. beer, wine, liquor)
- Cakes, pies, cookies
- Sugar-sweetened beverages (i.e. sports drinks, juices, soda)
- Loaded coffee and teas (i.e. coffee with sugars, syrups, and creams)
- Packaged snack foods (i.e. chips, crackers)
While we may not be able to completely eliminate some of these foods from the diet, learn to control the portion sizes of these foods. Use alcohol and refined sugars as the occasional treat or replace them with complex carbohydrates. For example, instead of consuming a piece of cake each day, switch it out with a piece of fresh fruit for dessert.
The Overall Approach
As you can see, lowering triglycerides is one problem that can be remedied using the same strategies you may already be trying to use. Whether you are trying to lose weight, eat more heart-healthy, or exercise more, you can work on lowering triglycerides naturally as part of your overall approach to better health.