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Having high triglyceride levels can increase your risk of heart disease. Limiting the amount of sugar, carbs, and trans fats you eat, along with regular exercise and other dietary changes, may help lower your levels.
Triglycerides are a type of fat found in your blood.
After you eat, your body converts the calories that you don’t need into triglycerides and stores them in your fat cells to be used for energy later.
While triglycerides are an important energy supply for your body, having too many triglycerides in your blood can increase your risk of heart disease. Below are guideline triglyceride levels for adults in milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) (1).
|Category||Triglyceride level (mg/dL)|
|Normal||Less than 150|
|Very high||500 and above|
Having obesity or unmanaged diabetes, regularly drinking alcohol, and following a high calorie diet can all contribute to high blood triglyceride levels.
You can lower your triglyceride levels through a variety of dietary and lifestyle changes.
Aim for a healthy-for-you weight
Whenever you eat more calories than your body needs, your body turns those calories into triglycerides and stores them in fat cells.
Working toward a moderate body weight by consuming fewer excess calories can be an effective way to lower your blood triglyceride levels.
In fact, research has shown that losing even 5–10% of your body weight can significantly reduce your triglyceride levels (
Losing at least 5% of your body weight has been shown to have a lasting effect on reducing your blood triglyceride levels.
Limit your sugar intake
Added sugar is a big part of many people’s diets.
While the American Heart Association recommends consuming no more than 100–150 calories of added sugar per day, one study found that the average American eats about 308 calories of added sugar daily (
Added sugar is commonly found in sweets, soft drinks, and fruit juice.
Extra sugar in your diet may be turned into triglycerides, which can lead to an increase in blood triglyceride levels, along with other heart disease risk factors.
A 2020 review that included data on 6,730 people found that those who consumed sugar-sweetened beverages regularly were over 50% more likely to have high triglycerides, compared with those who did not drink them regularly (
Another study found that consuming high amounts of added sugar is also associated with higher blood triglyceride levels in children (
Even a simple change such as replacing sugar-sweetened beverages with water could decrease triglycerides in some people (
Minimizing added sugar in your diet from sugary beverages and sweets can reduce your blood triglyceride levels.
Follow a lower carb diet
Much like added sugar, extra calories from carbs in your diet are converted into triglycerides and stored in fat cells.
A review of 12 randomized controlled trials found that people following reduced carb diets typically saw a reduction in triglyceride levels at 6, 12, and 24 months. Across these studies, triglyceride levels decreased the most 6 months after starting a reduced calorie diet (
A 2020 review compared low fat and low carb diets. Researchers found that 6–12 months after starting their relative diets, those on the low carb diet had greater decreases in triglyceride levels than those on a low fat diet (
Following a low carb diet can lead to a significant reduction in blood triglyceride levels, at least in the short term, when compared with a low fat diet.
Eat more fiber
Dietary fiber is found naturally in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. It’s also found in many other plant sources, including nuts, seeds, cereals, and legumes.
Including more fiber in your diet can slow the absorption of fat and sugar in your small intestine, helping decrease your triglyceride levels (14).
According to one study including 117 adults with overweight or obesity, eating more dietary fiber was linked to lower triglyceride levels (
Another small study in adolescents found that consuming a high fiber cereal alongside a breakfast high in fat reduced post-meal triglyceride increases by 50% (
Adding fiber to your diet from fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can reduce blood triglyceride levels.
When paired with weight loss, studies show that aerobic exercise is especially effective at decreasing triglycerides (
The benefits of exercise on triglycerides are most apparent in long-term exercise regimens. One study in people with heart disease showed that exercising for 45 minutes 5 times per week led to a significant decline in blood triglycerides (
All exercise helps reduce triglyceride levels. However, some research has found that exercising at a higher intensity for a shorter amount of time is more effective than exercising at a moderate intensity for longer periods (
A regular workout regimen that includes high intensity aerobic exercise may increase levels of HDL (good) cholesterol and decrease blood triglycerides.
Avoid trans fats
Artificial trans fats are a type of fat added to processed foods to increase their shelf life.
Trans fats are commonly found in commercially fried foods and baked goods made with partially hydrogenated oils. They can also be found in small amounts in some animal products. In recent years, the addition of trans fats to food has been banned in the United States (
A diet high in trans fats can increase both blood triglycerides and the risk of heart disease. Limiting your consumption of heavily processed and fried foods can help decrease your intake of trans fats.
Eat fatty fish twice weekly
Fatty fish is well known for its benefits on heart health and ability to lower blood triglycerides.
This is mostly due to its content of omega-3 fatty acids, a type of polyunsaturated fatty acid that is considered essential, meaning you need to get it through your diet.
Both the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and American Heart Association recommend eating two servings of fatty fish per week to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke (
What’s more, one study showed that eating salmon twice a week significantly decreased blood triglyceride concentration (
Salmon, herring, sardines, tuna, and mackerel are a few types of fish that are especially high in omega-3 fatty acids.
Fatty fish is high in omega-3 fatty acids. Eating two servings per week may lower triglyceride levels and decrease the risk of heart disease.
Increase your intake of unsaturated fats
Studies show that monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats can reduce blood triglyceride levels, especially when they’re replacing carbs in your diet (
Monounsaturated fats are found in foods like olive oil, nuts, and avocados. Polyunsaturated fats are present in vegetable oils and fatty fish, as well as nuts and seeds such as walnuts, flaxseeds, and chia seeds.
A 2019 review of 27 studies reported that while olive oil consumption does decrease triglycerides levels, it does so significantly less than other types of plant oil (
One older study analyzed the diets of 452 adults in a specific population of Indigenous people in Alaska over the previous 24 hours.
It found that saturated fat intake was associated with increased blood triglycerides, while polyunsaturated fat intake was associated with lower triglyceride levels (
To maximize the triglyceride-lowering benefits of unsaturated fats, pick a heart-healthy fat like olive oil and use it to replace other types of fat in your diet, such as trans fats or highly processed vegetable oils (
Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats can decrease blood triglyceride levels, especially when they’re consumed in place of other fats.
Establish a regular meal pattern
Insulin resistance is another factor that can contribute to high blood triglycerides.
After you eat a meal, the cells in your pancreas send a signal to release insulin into the bloodstream. Insulin is then responsible for transporting sugar to your cells to be used for energy.
If you have too much insulin in your blood, your body can become resistant to it, making it difficult for your body to use insulin effectively. This can lead to a buildup of both sugar and triglycerides in the blood.
Fortunately, setting a regular eating pattern can help prevent insulin resistance and high triglycerides. For instance, research shows that not eating breakfast can lead to decreased insulin sensitivity (
An American Heart Association statement suggested that irregular eating patterns seemed less likely to achieve healthy cardiometabolic levels. They recommended intentional eating at regular times (
However, the evidence is mixed when it comes to meal frequency.
A 2013 study demonstrated that eating three meals per day significantly decreased triglycerides compared with eating six meals per day (
However, multiple other studies suggest that changes in meal frequency don’t significantly affect triglyceride concentration (
Regardless of how many meals you’re eating daily, eating regular meals can improve insulin sensitivity and lower blood triglyceride levels.
While studies are mixed on how meal frequency affects blood triglyceride levels, research suggests that sticking to a regular meal pattern can decrease many heart disease risk factors and prevent insulin resistance.
Limit alcohol intake
Alcoholic beverages are often high in sugar, carbs, and calories. If these calories remain unused, they can be converted into triglycerides and stored in fat cells.
Although a variety of factors come into play, some studies show that moderate alcohol consumption can increase blood triglycerides by up to 53%, even if your triglyceride levels are normal to begin with (
Some studies suggest that limiting your alcohol intake can help lower blood triglyceride levels.
Add soy protein to your diet
Soy is rich in isoflavones, which are a type of plant compound with numerous health benefits. While widely known for its role in lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol, soy protein has been shown to reduce blood triglyceride levels (
One review of 46 studies found that regular consumption of soy protein was linked to significantly lower triglyceride levels in postmenopausal women (
Soy protein can be found in foods like soybeans (edamame), tofu, tempeh, and soy milk.
Soy contains compounds associated with several health benefits. Eating soy protein in place of animal protein may help reduce blood triglycerides.
Eat more tree nuts
Tree nuts provide a concentrated dose of fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, and unsaturated fats, all of which work together to lower blood triglycerides.
One analysis of 61 studies showed that each daily serving of tree nuts decreased triglycerides by an average of 2.2 mg/dL (0.02 mmol/L) (
Another review of 49 studies had similar findings, showing that eating tree nuts is associated with a modest decrease in blood triglycerides (
Tree nuts include:
- Brazil nuts
- macadamia nuts
However, keep in mind that nuts are high in calories. A single serving of almonds, or about 23 almonds, contains 164 calories, so moderation is key (
Nuts contain many heart-healthy nutrients, including fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, and unsaturated fats. Studies suggest that eating 3–7 servings of tree nuts per week may help decrease blood triglycerides.
Ask your doctor about natural supplements
Several natural supplements could have the potential to lower blood triglycerides. Always speak with your doctor before starting any supplements, as they can interact with other medications.
Note especially that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate supplements in the same way as it regulates pharmaceuticals, and supplement quality can vary widely.
Below are a few of the main supplements that have been studied:
- Fish oil. Well known for its potent effects on heart health, fish oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to decrease triglycerides and several other risk factors for heart disease (
- Fenugreek. Though traditionally used to stimulate milk production, fenugreek seeds have also been shown to be effective at reducing blood triglycerides (
- Vitamin D. Research has shown that vitamin D supplementation can also help reduce overall triglyceride levels (
- Curcumin. One review of seven studies found that supplementing with curcumin could cause a significant drop in triglyceride and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels (
Several supplements have been studied for their ability to lower triglyceride levels, including fish oil, fenugreek, garlic extract, guggul, and curcumin.
Dietary and lifestyle factors can have a major influence on your triglyceride levels.
Choosing healthy, unsaturated fats in place of trans fats, decreasing your intake of carbs and added sugars, and exercising regularly are a few strategies that can help lower your blood triglycerides.
With a few simple lifestyle modifications, you can decrease your triglycerides and improve your overall health at the same time.
There’s no need to completely change your diet and lifestyle overnight. Try experimenting with a few of the tips listed above and gradually incorporating other strategies into your routine to make more long-lasting, sustainable changes that are easier to stick to.