Do you know how to manage your triglyceride level? These fatty type of lipids, found in your blood, can be burned away in the process of losing weight, but they can also be dangerous for your health. Similar to LDL (the bad form of cholesterol), high levels of triglycerides can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke, even when LDL levels are regulated.
“We are increasingly recognizing that elevated triglycerides represent a major issue and should not be ignored,” says cardiologist Steven Nissen, MD.
You are what you eat
Similar to cholesterol, triglycerides come from the food we eat and our liver. When levels are normal, triglycerides are used for energy. The problems arise when levels are high, explains Dr. Nissen. When we make more triglycerides than we use, the rest are stored as fat. That’s why many people who are overweight or type 2 diabetes have high levels.
“Poor diabetes control is a major factor in causing high triglyceride levels,” Dr. Nissen says. He stresses the importance of watching your carbohydrate consumption. “Eating a low-carb diet and getting plenty of exercise are often effective in lowering triglyceride levels.”
Is there such a thing as good carbs?
Different carbohydrate-loaded foods also contain very different nutritional levels.
Dr. Nissen recommends scaling back or eliminating:
- Refined grains.
- White rice.
- Starchy vegetables (like white potatoes).
“It’s particularly important to reduce the consumption of sugar and foods with high-fructose corn syrup,” he says.
Foods that contain good carbs and plenty of fiber include:
- Apples (with skin).
- Sweet potatoes.
- Whole grains.
- Brown rice.
Dr. Nissen advises that increasing your fiber intake may lower triglyceride levels. “If you have high triglyceride levels, there’s a good chance you don’t ingest close to the recommended 25 to 30 grams of fiber a day,” he says.
Weight gain isn’t just from food
High triglyceride levels can be caused by excessive alcohol consumption as well. So if your levels are higher than normal, it might be a good idea to eliminate alcohol completely.
“Weight has a profound impact on triglycerides,” says Dr. Nissen. “If you lose as little as 5 to 10% of body weight, your triglycerides can drop as much as 20%.”
This article was adapted from Cleveland Clinic Heart Advisor.