Article

Facts on Triglycerides



Fat is an important part of a healthy diet and plays many essential roles in your body. At the same time, higher levels of some fats may lead to a greater risk of developing heart disease. Triglycerides are a type of fat that can increase this risk. Making healthy lifestyle choices is the best way to keep your heart healthy.





What are triglycerides?

Triglycerides are a type of fat found in your blood. Triglycerides are not a fat you eat. Instead, your body makes triglycerides from what we eat and drink. Measuring the amount of triglycerides in the blood is one way to monitor the risk for heart disease.


Why are high levels of triglycerides a problem?

Too many triglycerides in the blood can lead to hardening and narrowing of the arteries. This can increase your risk for developing heart disease. This is why it is important to keep triglyceride levels in your blood at a healthy level.


What are some causes of high triglycerides?

There are different reasons for high triglyceride levels, but these reasons are often related to one another.

  • Being overweight, especially if you have excess weight around your waist. 
  • Eating a high calorie diet that is rich in fat, sugar or sweet foods. 
  • Having high blood pressure or diabetes. Triglyceride levels are higher than normal for people with these conditions when they are not managed well..
  • Drinking too much alcohol. The extra calories alcohol provides can turn into fat which increases triglyceride levels.


What can I do to keep my triglyceride level in check?

You can lower your triglyceride levels by making changes to your lifestyle choices. Try the tips below:

Vegetables and Fruit

  • Increase your intake of vegetable and fruit. Try this Vegetable and Fruit Checklist.
  • Aim to choose at least one dark green leafy vegetable and one bright orange vegetable or fruit every day.

Grain Products

  • Eat less refined carbohydrates like white breads, rice and pasta. Choose whole grain options as much as possible.
  • Eat less refined sugars like sugary drinks, pop, cakes, cookies, pastries, donuts and candy bars. 

Milk and Milk Alternatives

  • Choose non fat and low fat dairy choices like 1% or skim milk and cheeses with 15 to 20% milk fat (M.F) or less.

Meat and Alternatives

  • Limit your intake of fatty meats like sausages, marbled cuts of meat and chicken with the skin on. Choose small portions of lean, well-trimmed cuts of meat about the size of a deck of cards.
  • Increase your intake of omega-3 fats by eating 2 servings of fatty fish per week like salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines and trout. If you are concerned about mercury levels, read what you need to know about fish intake and mercury.
  • Go meatless! Choose lentils, beans and tofu instead. Try this Veggie and Bean Pita or this Sweet Chilli Tofu Stir-Fry for tasty dinner ideas.

Fats

  • Choose foods that are lower in saturated and trans fats. Read the Nutrition Labels on all packaged products and compare amounts and types of fat between products. Aim to choose products with the lowest amount of saturated and trans fat.
  • Use unsaturated fats like canola or olive oils in cooking instead of saturated fats like butter or hydrogenated hard margarine and shortening.
  • Cook with less fat. Try dry heat and wet heat cooking methods as a great way to keep in flavour without a lot of fat.

Alcohol

  • Decrease your alcohol intake. If you drink, try to limit your intake to no more than 2 drinks per day and no more than 9 drinks for women and 14 drinks for men per week.

Be Active

  • Adding any amount of physical activity helps. Start now and slowly increase your activity levels at your own pace. For adults, aim to include at least 2 ½ hours of physical activity a week. Spread out activities into at least 10 minute sessions.
  • Face physical activity challenges with these helpful suggestions to get into the swing of being active. Be physically active at work.

Maintain a healthy weight

  • Aim for your ideal weight. Speak with your doctor to find out if you need to lose weight. Call an EatRight Ontario Registered Dietitian at 1-877-510-510-2 for healthy tips on how to achieve a healthy weight.
  • If you are thinking of joining a weight loss program, consider a checklist of questions.

 

Bottom line

Managing your blood triglycerides can help to lower your risk of heart disease. Make some healthy changes to your eating habits, get physically active and maintain a healthy weight. Choose whole grains, fruits and vegetables, lean meats and lower fat dairy products more often. Limit refined sugars and carbohydrates, fatty meats, higher fat dairy products and alcohol. By following these guidelines, you will be on your way to a healthier heart.

Last Update – October 9, 2016

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