Triglycerides

When you get a cholesterol panel, one of the levels included is called triglycerides. Triglycerides are a circulating form of fats made out of three sugars (tri + glyceride).

High triglycerides can put you at risk for:

  • An acute illness called pancreatitis
  • An increased risk of heart disease and stroke

You want your triglycerides to be low – under 100 for kids, under 150 for adults.


What are triglycerides?

Consider eating a piece of chocolate cake (or drinking a soda or eating a big plate of pasta). Some of the sugar and carbohydrates from that are used as energy. Everything remaining needs to be stored. The body packages the extra sugar and carbohydrate as triglycerides. They move through the bloodstream and are then stored in the liver. When your body needs extra energy — like during a vigorous workout — triglycerides can be broken down into sugar. But if your body never needs these extra storage units, they eventually turn into fat cells (adipocytes). So if you are eating a diet high in sugar or simple carbohydrates, this might show up on your bloodwork as high triglycerides.

Another cause of high triglycerides is being overweight or obese. Extra fat cells, called adipocytes, actually make their own triglycerides and secrete them into the bloodstream. So eating too much sugars, having high triglycerides, gaining weight – this can make even more triglycerides. It’s a vicious cycle!


How can I lower my triglycerides?

The good news is that triglyceride levels can be really well controlled by eating the right foods and cutting back on extra sugars and carbohydrates. Exercising is also a powerful way to reduce triglycerides.

The first steps are:

  1. Drink only milk or water. Soda, sports drinks, fruit smoothies, mocha cappuccinos, even soy chai lattes – have an extraordinary amount of added sugar. Plain coffee and tea are fine  – and you can even add a bit of sugar if you need! Just keep it to a teaspoon or two. [link to sugar in beverages — or perhaps we can create a strong infographic]
  2. Watch your added sugar intake. You can get specifics from your doctor, your nutritionist or follow these general guidelines based on the AHA recommendations:
Grams of sugar:
Suggested limit
Teaspoons of sugar:
Suggested limit
Child 2–6 20 5
Child 7–10 24 6
Child/Teen 11–18 28 7
Adult female 30 7 1/2
Adult male 36 9

Infants do not need added sugars and they should be avoided. First foods should be breast milk, formula and pureed vegetables and fruits. Juice and sweet snacks should be avoided.

  1. Change to whole grains. This means whole wheat bread, brown rice instead of white rice and whole wheat bagels, English muffins, waffles and pancakes. When picking a grain product, make sure it has “whole” as the first ingredient.
  2. Make half your plate vegetables and/or fruits. This is such a powerful way to improve the quality of your diet, including breakfast and lunch, not just dinner!
  3. Cut down on sweets. Have dessert once or twice a week – not every day.
  4. Exercise: Aerobic exercise is best for lowering triglycerides. Great options are jogging, swimming, biking, or playing soccer or basketball.
  5. Weight loss can be a powerful way to reduce triglycerides. Even losing 5 percent of body weight can make a big difference.

 


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