To understand what foods to avoid for high triglycerides, first it is important to understand what triglycerides are and why high triglycerides levels are dangerous to your health.
Facts About High Triglycerides
Triglycerides are a form of fat found in the body, blood and in food. Our bodies use them for energy, so they are necessary for good health, but when triglycerides are high it increases the risk of heart disease and may indicate that you suffer from metabolic syndrome which raises the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
When the calories we eat are not used, the body converts them to triglycerides and stores them in fat cells where hormones regulate and release them. This supplies energy needed between meals. When we eat more calories than we need regularly this can lead to elevated triglycerides.
The National Cholesterol Education Program has set guidelines for triglyceride levels. These levels are based on fasting plasma triglyceride levels:
- Normal: Less than 150 mg/dL
- Borderline high: 150 to 199 mg/dL
- High: 200 to 499 mg/dL
- Very high: 500 mg/dL or higher
Foods to Avoid for High Triglycerides
Since triglycerides are found in the body, blood and in foods, for people diagnosed with high triglycerides foods that contain triglycerides or are converted to triglycerides easily should be avoided. This includes foods that contain saturated fat and trans fat. It's easy to see why these foods would be a problem, but there's more to it. Sugar and grains can also raise triglycerides. The Cleveland Clinic suggests daily sugar intake be limited to eight percent or less of total daily calories for people with elevated triglyceride levels.
This includes most sweets including everything from cookies, to ice cream, to pastries. Simple sugars can be found on ingredient labels under names such as:
- Corn syrup
- High fructose corn syrup
Refined grain products:
When refined grain products made with shortening and sugar are eaten they quickly metabolized to simple sugars and may increase triglyceride levels and lower good cholesterol in some people. Refined grain products include things made with white flour and processed cereals. When high-sugar cereals are eaten they convert almost immediately to triglycerides.
Alcohol is a source of empty calories. The body most often converts the resulting glucose to triglycerides. Just one drink can drastically raise triglyceride levels.
Animal products high in saturated fats:
The list of products high in saturated fats is vast. This cross-section of foods provides a foundation of what foods to avoid:
- Marbled cuts of beef (and hamburgers)
- Pork including bacon, sausage and ribs
- Fried chicken
- Fowl higher in fat like duck or goose
- Skin of the turkey
- High fat dairy products including some cheeses
- Luncheon meats
- Organ meat
- Meats or fish canned in oil
High fat dairy products:
- Whole milk
- Ice Cream
- Non-dairy cream substitutes
- High fat yogurt
- Puddings made with whole milk
Fats and oils high in saturated fats:
- Bacon drippings
- Cream sauces
- Palm oil
- Coconut oil
Avoid all trans fats. Look for the words hydrogenated or shortening as these are other names on the ingredients list that represent trans fats.
When starchy vegetables are consumed, they quickly turn to simple sugar.
- Beans: Especially commercial baked beans with added sugar and pork.
- Dried peas
- Lima beans
Avoid all beverages high in sugar. This includes:
- Fruit juices with added sugar
- Sweet tea
- Cocoa made from whole milk with sugar
This list gives you an idea of things to avoid. If it is full of sugar and fat or converts to sugar and fat, you don't want to eat it.
Lifestyle changes are needed to lower triglyceride levels. For people who are overweight, the first change should be to lose weight by cutting back on how many calories you eat. Along with changing your diet and losing weight, it is important to add physical activity to your life at least five days each week.
Talk with your doctor about how much you should weigh and the correct amount of calories for your age, height, and gender. If you aren't sure about dietary changes ask for a list of foods to avoid for high triglycerides. Your doctor will be happy to offer the help you need.