Triglycerides are an important indicator of heart health, and for this reason, it is essential to keep blood levels in the optimal range. In this article, we’ll see the list of food that lower triglycerides, the diet to follow for high triglycerides, and what foods to avoid.
When we talk about triglycerides, we mean the type of fats (or lipids) that we introduce more into our diet, formed by the union of a glycerol molecule with three fatty acids.
In our body, triglycerides are the main constituent of adipose tissue. They accumulate inside the adipocytes representing a precious energy source (1 kg of fat provides about 7000 kcal) and an excellent thermal insulator, creating a natural barrier against low temperatures.
Triglycerides and cholesterol are two different things.
Triglycerides are often confused with cholesterol, a different fat from other functions. Specifically, triglycerides store unused calories and provide energy to the body (double that provided by carbohydrates and proteins = 1g provides 9 kcal, against the 4 kcal provided by carbohydrates and proteins).
They also use cholesterol for building cells and some hormones such as progesterone, estrogen, and testosterone.
The moment you are regularly employed in more calories than you burn, in particular, due to a diet too rich in simple carbohydrates (sugars) or unbalanced in the assumption of fat and protein, increases the accumulation of triglycerides in adipocytes with consequent hypertriglyceridemia.
It is one of the factors that, together with hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, and an increase in waist circumference, aggravate the risk of incurring a cardiovascular disease, the primary cause of fatality in Western countries.
In particular, high triglycerides can contribute to the thickening of the artery walls (arteriosclerosis), which escalates the risk of stroke, heart attack, and heart disease.
Furthermore, excessively high levels of triglycerides can also cause acute inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis).
A simple blood test allows you to check if triglycerides are within the normal threshold or not. Below are the values of triglycerides in the blood:
- Normal: less than 150 mg/dl
- Borderline-high: 150 to 199 mg/dl
- High: from 200 to 400 mg/dl
- Very high: over 400 mg/dl
Even values that are much lower than normal can be a wake-up call.
Diet and high triglycerides: general guidelines
As in other non-physiological conditions, in the case of increased levels of triglycerides, it is good to act first of all by changing your lifestyle. This means changing your eating habits and those relating to physical activity.
Especially for this purpose, the World Health Organization (WHO) has defined the recommended physical activity levels for three different age groups.
For children and teenagers (5-17 years), at least 60 minutes a day of moderate-vigorous activity are indicated. This must include at least three times a week strength exercises consisting of movement games or sports activities.
For adults (18-64 years), on the other hand, we recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate activity per week. Another option can be 75 minutes of dynamic activity (or equivalent combinations of the two) per week.
Finally, for the elderly (≥65 years), the indications are the same as for adults, with the warning to carry out activities aimed at balance to prevent falls.
Those who cannot fully follow the recommendations must exercise at least three times a week and adopt an active lifestyle appropriate to their conditions.
In addition to physical activity, it is advisable to improve eating habits to lower triglycerides and, above all, regain a state of well-being and prevent cardiovascular diseases.
An adequate intake for adult women is 2 liters per day and 2.5 liters for men. During pregnancy, this quantity must increase to 350ml and 700ml throughout breastfeeding.
Five meals a day.
It is wise to distribute the day’s calories in 4 or 5 meals to avoid too high a calorie intake in lunch or dinner only. Splitting meals also improves digestion, avoids glycemic peaks, and improves satiety.
Never skip breakfast.
Breakfast is the fundamental meal of the day as it is eaten after a prolonged fast. The typical breakfast of coffee and croissants is not a complete, nutritious, satiating meal but low in proteins, good fats, and fibers. It is instead too rich in simple sugars and fats of low nutritional quality.
The risk is the immediate glycemic surge, whose collapse occurs after about an hour and causes a further hunger for sugars. Learning how to carve out the right time to compose a balanced breakfast is advisable.
Eliminate sugary drinks.
Sugary drinks predispose to overweight, diabetes, and heart disease. They provide empty calories, are exclusive sources of simple sugars, are addictive, do not hydrate (but nourish!), and swell the stomach, predisposing to binge eating.
0, light or diet drinks are even worse because, despite not providing calories, they favor the production of insulin from the pancreas and modify the composition of our bacterial flora, with the consequence of equally increasing the risk of obesity and diabetes over time.
Simple cooking methods that enhance the raw material are preferable, using spices, aromatic herbs, wine, and vinegar to avoid the abuse of added salt (sodium) and preferring raw extra virgin olive oil.
We should not demonize any cooking method from the former, but limiting frying and preparations requiring excessive condiments is still good.
Digestion, as we know, starts from the mouth, and it is important to use this organ carefully. Those who eat voraciously and quickly, drink little, are predisposed to binges, suffer more easily from gastric acidity and abdominal swelling, and, not waiting for the satiety signal to arrive, eat more than they need, favoring weight gain and the accumulation of fat, conditions that favor the raising of triglycerides and cholesterol.
Diet for high triglycerides: what to eat and what to avoid.
The diet for high triglycerides involves the daily application of good dietary rules, which, among other things, will also positively affect the levels of triglycerides in the blood. It is important to know what to eat and what to avoid, both in the case of high cholesterol or triglycerides and as prevention and correct lifestyle.
To learn how to compose meals in a complete and balanced way, we can use a very practical tool, the Healthy Plate, to apply the principles of the Food Pyramid of the Mediterranean Diet in a simpler way.
The first half of the dish must be composed in equal parts of a source of preferably whole carbohydrates (pasta, rice, spelled, bread, polenta) and of healthy proteins, which must be varied over the week, preferring white meat, fish (in particular fatty and blue meat rich in Omega-3s), legumes and eggs.
Limit the use of cheese and meat.
One must limit the use of red meat and cheeses while avoiding cured meats and sausages because, as we know, their consumption increases the risk of developing cancer.
The other half of the dish should include vegetables, preferably in season, in varying colors, to take on more different vitamins and minerals. The same goes with the fruit, choosing it of the season and a different color.
It is good to use only extra virgin olive oil, rich in monounsaturated fatty acids, to cook or season dishes, which is useful for keeping the heart healthy.
Water to hydrate with or without meals.
On the other hand, limit the intake of alcohol. As it is very rich in calories (1 gram of alcohol provides 7 kcal) and, even more so, in the presence of high levels of triglycerides, it is advisable to reduce its dose and frequency.
In addition to simple water, it is also possible to supplement one’s diet with herbal teas, infusions, coffee, barley coffee, and tea while avoiding or limiting to a minimum the addition of simple sugars, which are empty calories whose daily percentage should be no more than 10% of the total requirement.
Abuse of sugar is bad!
The important message to convey is not “sugar is bad,” but its abuse that is harmful. We should therefore prefer those foods that naturally contain it, such as fruit and dark chocolate while eliminating the exclusive sources of sugars such as fruit juices, sugary carbonated drinks, snacks, packaged snacks, and sugar added to coffee that can become a big problem when you have many cups throughout the day. Even beer, if consumed in moderation, can be taken in case of high triglycerides.
It is good to open a parenthesis regarding the consumption of eggs in the case of high triglycerides, often demonized and condemned when a rise in cholesterol or triglycerides appears on blood tests.
Scientific research has largely acquitted eggs, and their (moderate) consumption is safe even in the case of high cholesterol or triglycerides. How many eggs to consume? One can eat eggs At the Food Pyramid 1-2 times a week (1 serving is equal to 2 eggs) as an alternative to meat, but they can also be taken more frequently if used, for example, as a protein source for breakfast as an alternative to the classic cup of milk.
Foods that lower triglycerides.
In the case of high triglycerides, it may be appropriate to pay particular attention to nutrition, increasing the consumption of particular foods that can help restore the values of these fats. Here are the foods that can most promote the lowering of triglycerides.
1. Seasonal vegetables.
Observe your dish: half of its components must be vegetables. Rediscover wholemeal rice and pasta with vegetables. It abounds with side dishes of fresh, raw, or cooked vegetables.
2. Whole grains.
Who doesn’t love pasta? How much we all love it! There is a little big change you can make in this choice: buy only the whole meal flour. We suggest you do not always eat that every day, but alternate it with grains (barley, spelled, always strictly whole-grain oats) accompanied by vegetables or legumes.
3. Fresh fish.
Choose bluefish and salmon as it is the one richest in good Omega 3 fats. Examples of oily fish are herring, mackerel, anchovy, garfish, bonito, and scabbard (or flag) fish.
4. Chia seeds.
Even chia seeds favor lowering high triglycerides. About 75% of the fats of which these seeds are composed are represented by alpha-linolenic acid, also called ALA, a fat that is part of the Omega-3 family. This high content crowns chia seeds as the best plant source of Omega-3! Moreover, thanks to the high content of fibers and proteins, chia seeds have strong satiating power, which is useful for those who have to embark on a weight-loss path.
Lentils, beans, chickpeas, broad beans, snow peas, and peas are excellent protein, fiber, and mineral sources. Avoid ready-made canned ones. Buy them dried and cook many (with a pressure cooker) as soon as you have a little time: so you will have them in the fridge for two or three days. Legumes are also a great protein source instead of meat.
6. Seasonal fruit.
Do not overdo the quantities; above all, eat fruit between meals. It is an excellent mid-morning snack, rich in vitamins and minerals, which we advise you to plan two or three days a week.
Nuts are a good option for improving the balance of fats in the blood! Yes, to walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, Brazilian nuts, and cashews (strictly unsalted). But pay attention to the quantity! Dried fruit is rich in “good” Omega3 fats but also very caloric. Eat no more than a dozen a day as a mid-morning and mid-afternoon snack, perhaps on days when you don’t eat fresh fruit.
Seeds are a valuable source of Omega 3, amino acids, fiber, vitamins, and minerals often snubbed in the kitchen. Enrich your dishes and salads with a teaspoon of sunflower seeds, hemp, flax, sesame, and pine nuts: they are delicious and good for your health!
Thanks to the low glycemic index and the high intake of proteins and fibers, oat flakes are the ideal food to consume in case of high triglycerides. Excellent to add to breakfast (for example, in porridge or homemade biscuits). You can also consume them in savory preparations such as soups, burgers, and meatballs.
10. Extra virgin olive oil.
The use of high-quality extra virgin olive oil allows the intake of specific substances. Such as oleic acid and phenolic compounds. The consumption of these is related to a lower incidence of chronic diseases, especially cardiovascular and cancer. Therefore, it is excellent to be used as a daily condiment even with high levels of triglycerides in the blood.
How to cook to lower triglycerides?
With high triglycerides, you should know how to cook and season foods before knowing what to eat. They are, in fact, key moments that can make the difference: eating fried fish or the same fish, but baked, is very different!
Another example: eating a mixture of cooked vegetables, seasoned with a teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil and a pinch of gomasio. It is not the same as eating the same amount of vegetables seasoned with oil added at random (by eye or by feeling!) and a lot of salt.
Measure the toppings!
Use teaspoons to measure the oil. Use it only raw and choose only extra virgin olive oil, flaxseed, or hemp. Say no to fried food, or your triglycerides will skyrocket!
Replace refined salt with the whole salt.
Replace regular refined table salt with gomasio or whole salt. Gomasio is a seasoning made from sesame seeds and sea salt that you find in organic shops. In this way, you do not consume excessive sodium (harmful to blood pressure) and integrate it with other trace elements.
Replace white sugar with brown sugar.
Also, replace the refined white sugar with real brown sugar (called muscovado, which is brown and has a sandy texture). This way, you reduce the glycemic stimulus in the blood. Remember that every additional sugar molecule in the body turns into fat!
Switch to a healthy cooking system.
The healthiest and most dietetic cooking systems are steamed, baked, or baked in foil. Limit everything to the grill. Do not boil the vegetables too much, or no vitamins and minerals will be left inside! Just try to blanch them, and use lemon or spices instead of salt to flavor the dishes!
Do you really need some butter to cook something?
You can always replace butter with a little hot water for blanching vegetables. Try ghee butter or coconut butter when you can’t do without it. Try ghee butter or coconut butter – they are healthier because they resist higher temperatures better.
Another important rule to lower triglycerides is to abandon a sedentary lifestyle. Increasing your physical activity directly affects the control of “bad fats” by helping to control body weight. Muscles engaged in motor activities “burn” excess triglycerides to provide essential energy for movement.