Q&A: Why Are My Triglycerides High?

I follow a very low fat diet, but my doctor just told me that my blood triglycerides were high anyway.  How could this possibly be?


Good Question. Triglycerides are the most common form of dietary fat, and they’re the form in which most of your body fat is stored.  But interestingly, it’s not the fat in your diet that’s most likely to raise your blood triglyceride levels: it’s the sugar and the alcohol. Low fat foods are often high in sugar or other carbohydrates, meaning that very low fat diets can also be very high sugar diets.


There are lots of things you can do to lower your triglycerides, and one big reason to do them: high triglycerides are an independent risk factor for heart disease.


First, if you drink alcohol, cut back on it–or eliminate it altogether.


Second, look for the sources of sugar and refined carbohydrates (cookies, cakes, ice cream, sweetened yogurts or desserts, pretzels, bagels, white pasta, white rice, French fries) in your diet.  Then, swap them out for foods that contain more fiber and healthy fats: like whole wheat toast with peanut butter, baked sweet potato with a dab of (trans-fat free) margarine, low fat popcorn, plain low fat yogurt sprinkled with roasted nuts or whole grain cereal,  black bean soup topped with guacamole, whole grain crackers with tuna salad.


If you have diabetes, its especially important to get your blood sugars under control, as uncontrolled blood sugars also contribute to high triglycerides. A qualified nutrition professional can help.


Regular exercise also helps lower triglycerides, as should a daily fish oil supplement that contains 2 grams (2,000mg) of EPA and DHA combined.  If you take any other medications or herbs, however, be sure to ask your doctor if it is safe for you to take fish oil at this dose.  Lastly, if you carry excess weight in your midsection, losing a few inches on your waistline should help lower your triglycerides, too.




1 Comment

  • Thanks for writing this article Tamara! This is a great question because most people think the cause of high tryglycerides is fat. The American diet is way too high in refined carbohydrates. The amount of soda that the average American consumes each year is insane. People need to start worrying about their nutrition a little more than which medications they are taking, that is the solution. I wrote an article on my health blog that gives some other tips that people can use for reducing trygliceride levels, check it out!

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