Q: How do triglyceride levels differ from cholesterol levels — and how do I get my triglyceride levels down if my doctor tells me they are elevated?
A: Triglycerides, like cholesterol, are a type of lipid (also called fat). Most of the triglycerides in your body settle in your fat tissue, where they’re used to store energy as fat. However, some triglycerides are always circulating in your blood to provide fuel to muscles. Both cholesterol and triglycerides (two separate, but equally important blood readings that measure circulating fat) are indicators that can be used to assess heart health and evaluate your risk of heart attack and stroke. In fact, cholesterol and triglycerides are typically measured by your doctor in the same blood test as part of a complete Lipid Profile. Of course, high levels of either will indicate a red flag.
If your triglyceride levels are higher than 150 mg/dl, it’s time to take action. Even though cholesterol and triglycerides have their differences, bringing their levels down to a proper range can be done with many of the same steps. So if you’re familiar with cholesterol, then you probably know the drill already: lose weight, exercise, and limit your intake of saturated and trans fats.
But when it comes to lowering triglycerides, there are a few other Food Cures you’ll especially want to focus on:
- Avoid sugary and refined carbohydrates, including sugar, honey, and other sweeteners, soda and other sugary drinks, candy, baked goods, and anything made with white (refined or enriched) flour, including white bread, rolls, cereals, buns, pastries, regular pasta and white rice. You’ll also want to limit dried fruit and fruit juice since they’re dense in simple sugar. All of these poor–quality carbs can spike triglyceride levels.
- Cut way back on alcohol. If you have high triglycerides, alcohol should be considered a rare treat — if you indulge at all, since even small amounts of alcohol can dramatically increase triglyceride levels.
- Eat lots of fatty fish, like salmon and sardines, as often as possible. They’re loaded with omega–3 fats which are incredibly effective at reducing triglycerides. In fact, omega–3 fats are so effective at lowering triglycerides that people with particularly high numbers should speak with their physician about fish oil supplements.