A plan to reduce triglycerides is vital because, although high cholesterol has gotten most of the press for years, researchers have recently discovered that high triglyceride levels may be the most significant risk for both stroke and heart disease – no matter what your total cholesterol count is.

There is good evidence that people with diabetes have similar levels of total and LDL cholesterol to the rest of the population. However, their HDL cholesterol is lower and their triglyceride levels are higher than people without diabetes.

What are triglycerides?

“Triglycerides” is just the scientific name for fat, the white fat we find in food and in our body. Triglycerides in our body come from the fat we eat in foods, but they are also made in the body from excess glucose. When we ingest more calories in our meals than we use, the excess calories can be converted into triglycerides and transported to fat cells where they are stored. Excess triglycerides circulating in the blood is a common characteristic of diabetes.

Here are the 5 reasons to reduce triglycerides

Triglyceride levels rise gradually after a meal. In a person who doesn’t have diabetes, they return to normal levels after 4-6 hours, but in people with diabetes, the body takes longer to clear them from the circulation. Having high levels of triglycerides in your bloodstream for a long time can cause the following:

  1. They interfere with insulin’s action, preventing glucose to enter the body cells, which means it hangs around in the blood vessels.
  2. They stimulate the liver to make more glucose, raising blood glucose levels even further.
  3. They cause the liver to form fatty particles that can damage blood vessels. Damaged blood vessels are the first step in the formation of plaque which in turn narrows the arteries.
  4. They accumulate in the liver and cause “fatty liver”
  5. They interfere with insulin secretion, possibly by accumulating in the pancreas and disrupting beta cell function.

According to the National Cholesterol Education Program, when dealing with triglycerides, the following parameters apply:

  • Normal, less than 150 mg/dl (milligrams per deciliter of blood)
  • Borderline high, from 150 to 199 mg/dl
  • High, from 200 to 499 mg/dl
  • Very high, 500 mg/dl or higher

Factors that increase triglycerides:

  • Eating too many foods that have high glycemic values
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Not eating enough omega-3 fats
  • Overweight and obesity
  • Lack of exercise
  • Uncontrolled blood glucose

A diet to lower triglycerides should include these 3 main principles

Moderate weight loss, regular exercise and good blood glucose control are crucial to lower your triglyceride levels. And when it comes to food, make sure these 3 principles are part of your diet:

Eat less saturated fat. Saturated fats have a powerful effect on triglycerides as well as on cholesterol. Most foods that are high in saturated fats are from animals, thus to minimize this type of fat in your diet, do the following:

  1. Eat reduced-fat or low-fat milk, cheese, yogurt.
  2. Eat lean meat and chicken and trim off any visible fat before cooking.
    Avoid butter, lard, cream, sour-cream, coconut milk, coconut cream and hard cooking margarines.
  3. Limit pastries, cakes, puddings, chocolate, cookies, and chips to special occasions.
  4. Limit the use of processed meats such as bologna, luncheon meat, salami, chicken loaf, hot dogs and sausages.
  5. Avoid fast foods such as French fries, fried chicken, butter-dipped fish, pizza and hot dogs

Eat more omega-3 fats: According to research and the American Heart Association, the fats found in salmon and other fatty fish, not only decrease triglycerides, but they can also cut your risk of stroke and sudden cardiac death by more than 44%. What’s more, omega 3 fish oil has been shown to reduce irregular heartbeat, blood clotting, hardening of the arteries, overall cholesterol and blood pressure.

Omega-3 fats are found in:

  1. Oily fish such as herring, mackerel, sardines, salmon and tuna.
  2. Certain nuts and seeds such as flaxseed, canola, walnut, and wheat germ among others.

Avoid foods that break down quickly during digestion:

These are the foods that have high glycemic values. Most modern starchy foods, especially processed ones such as bread and breakfast cereals, are high in starch and have high glycemic values; these foods can have a major impact on blood glucose levels. Rapid starch digestion causes blood glucose to rise quickly and can cause disturbances in body functions.

On the other hand, foods that have low glycemic values break down slowly, releasing glucose gradually into the blood vessels. The slow and steady digestion of foods with low glycemic values produces a smoother blood glucose curve, greater feeling of fullness and reduced disturbance in our body organs.

A word on drugs to lower triglycerides:

Drugs for lowering triglycerides can have serious side effects, a reason why the American Heart Association recommends that medications should only be considered after every natural avenue for lowering triglycerides has been exhausted. However, if you are taking medication at the present time, don’t stop it without checking with your physician.

Final Thoughts:

Preventing or reversing high levels of triglycerides may require some changes in our actual diet, but it would be worth it. The best way to go with the changes you may need to make, is to implement one at the time until they become part of your daily routine. Trying to change too many things at the same time can be confusing and you may get discouraged.


I am Andy Carpenter and I would start by saying that I have a Bachelor Degree in Nutrition Science conferred by California State University, Los Angeles and that I am certified as a Registered Dietitian.

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