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How to Lower Triglycerides Naturally & Foods to Avoid

Written by Biljana Novkovic, PhD | Last updated:
Jonathan Ritter
Puya Yazdi
Medically reviewed by
Jonathan Ritter, PharmD, PhD (Pharmacology), Puya Yazdi, MD | Written by Biljana Novkovic, PhD | Last updated:

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Avoid Sugar if You Have High Triglycerides
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If your triglycerides are high, there are many steps you can take to normalize your levels. Many people are on the wrong diet and experience improvements once they make some basic changes. Read on to learn how you can change your diet, lifestyle, and supplements regime to lower your triglycerides naturally.

Address Underlying Health Issues!

Remember, although triglycerides can be high due to bad lifestyle and dietary choices, they can also be high due to an underlying health condition. The most important thing is to work with your doctor to find out what’s causing your high triglyceride levels and to treat any underlying conditions!

For example, triglycerides can be high due to liver disease, infections, underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism), autoimmune disease, or some genetic disorders – just to name a few [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6].

In these cases, simply changing your diet or lifestyle won’t help address the underlying issue and may actually be harmful!

In addition, high triglyceride levels can be dangerous for your body. If necessary, your doctor will prescribe triglyceride-lowering medication.

That’s why, if your triglycerides are elevated, you should discuss the lifestyle and dietary changes listed below with your doctor. None of these strategies should ever be done in place of what your doctor recommends or prescribes!

How to Lower Triglycerides with Lifestyle Changes

1) Lose Weight

Being overweight or obese often leads to insulin resistance, which is when tissues stop responding to insulin. As a result, glucose can’t enter cells to be used as energy. The liver tries to compensate by storing more fatty acids from dietary sources and producing more triglycerides [7].

If you are overweight, losing weight is a great way to improve your triglyceride levels [4].

2) Exercise Regularly

Cardio exercise, such as running, swimming, or cycling, for over 30 minutes several times a week can help lower your triglyceride levels [4, 8].

According to studies, cardio exercise before a high-fat meal reduced blood triglycerides in 38 overweight adolescents, 15 people with metabolic syndrome, and 9 obese men. Exercise lowered blood triglycerides in another study of 19 trained and untrained men [9, 10, 11, 12].

Plus, a single brisk walking session decreased blood triglycerides by 30% in 11 healthy women [13].

Lose weight if you are overweight. Also, try to get regular, cardio exercise to lower your triglycerides. Even a daily short jog or fast walk can go a long way.

How to Lower Triglycerides with Diet

3) Eat Less

Avoid overeating in general. Eat smaller portions and fewer calories. When the body gets extra calories, it tends to store them as fat.

Eat less sugary and processed foods and minimize your intake of saturated and trans fats – all of these are high in calories. Choose plant-based fats or fatty fish instead [14].

If your triglycerides are very high, your doctor may recommend a low-fat diet [4].

4) Eat More Protein & Unsaturated Fats

Compared to a diet high in carbs, diets rich in protein and unsaturated fat reduced triglycerides by about 10 mg/dL in a study of 164 people with high blood pressure [15].

Diets high in monounsaturated fats, found in olive oil and avocados, decreased triglyceride levels better than a high-carb diet over 7-weeks in 85 people with an increased risk of heart disease. An olive-oil-rich diet also decreased the buildup of triglycerides in the liver [16, 17].

A diet high in monounsaturated fats and omega-3s decreased triglyceride levels in 17 men with moderately increased triglycerides [18].

5) Choose Fiber

Eat more fiber-rich foods, such as fruits and vegetables. They can help decrease triglyceride levels [19].

6) Eat More Fish/Omega-3

A diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids (polyunsaturated fatty acid, PUFA diet) decreased triglycerides compared to a diet rich in saturated fatty acids (SFA) in a study on 67 obese people [20, 21].

In 12 healthy people, taking fish oil supplements lowered blood triglyceride levels by 48% [22].

Additionally, in a study of 300 adults, people who consumed krill oil for 12 weeks had reduced blood triglycerides compared to the placebo group [23].

Omega-3 fatty acids reduce blood triglyceride via 3 mechanisms:

  • Increasing the breakdown of fatty acids
  • Inhibiting enzymes that produce triglycerides in the liver
  • Triggering lipoprotein lipase activity, which burns fats [24, 25]

In 60 patients with metabolic syndrome, a 16-week omega-3 fatty acid supplementation decreased blood triglycerides by 22% compared to the placebo group. Omega-3 fatty acids together with niacin were even more effective, reducing blood triglycerides by 42% compared to the placebo group [26].

7) Try a Mediterranean Diet

There is a diet that combines lots of unsaturated fats with plenty of fiber and fish/omega-3s. It’s called a Mediterranean diet, and it’s a good example of a diet that can help lower your triglyceride levels and decrease your risk of heart disease. This type of diet includes lots of fruits and vegetables, fatty fish, olive oil, and nuts [27, 28, 29, 30].

Limit your portions. Switch to a diet high in unsaturated fats (olive oil), fiber, protein, and omega-3 fatty acids to reduce triglycerides.

Supplements to Lower Triglycerides

Discuss the following foods and supplements with your doctor. Research has shown they can help decrease triglyceride levels:

Remember, always speak to your doctor before taking any supplements, because they may interfere with your health condition or your treatment/medications!

Foods to Avoid with High Cholesterol and Triglycerides

8) Avoid Carbs

Low-fat, high-carbohydrate, sugar-rich diets increase the production of triglycerides [46, 47, 48].

Some high-carbohydrate foods you would be better off avoiding include [14, 49, 50, 51]:

  • Pastry, bread, white flour
  • White rice
  • Pasta
  • Sweets and any sweetened food items, such as sauces and dressings

9) Stay Away from Sugary Drinks

Reducing sugar-sweetened drinks can lower blood triglycerides. Substituting water for sugar-sweetened drinks reduced triglyceride levels in a study on 240 obese Mexican women [52].

Avoid carb-heavy meals and sugary drinks if you want to reduce your triglyceride levels.

Triglycerides Medication

If lifestyle and dietary changes don’t help, or if your triglyceride levels are very high, your doctor may prescribe medication to lower your levels, such as fibrates or cholesterol-lowering medication.

Learn More

Takeaway

First, work with your doctor to find out what’s causing elevated triglycerides and to treat any underlying health issues. The next step you can take is to switch carbs in your diet for healthy sources of fiber, protein, and fat. Increase your intake of olive oil and omega-3 fatty acids and avoid sugary drinks at all costs. Losing weight if you are overweight and exercising regularly will also help – even taking short walks can be beneficial. Some supplements may help lower triglycerides, but remember to get the green light by your doctor before taking them.

About the Author

Biljana Novkovic

Biljana Novkovic

PhD
Biljana received her PhD from Hokkaido University.
Before joining SelfHacked, she was a research scientist with extensive field and laboratory experience. She spent 4 years reviewing the scientific literature on supplements, lab tests and other areas of health sciences. She is passionate about releasing the most accurate science and health information available on topics, and she's meticulous when writing and reviewing articles to make sure the science is sound. She believes that SelfHacked has the best science that is also layperson-friendly on the web.

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