One of the most overlooked yet critical components of heart health is triglycerides. These fatty molecules that circulate in your bloodstream are essential for energy storage, but when their levels soar to excessive heights, they can become a major health concern. High triglycerides can clog your arteries and increase your risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. It’s also a major risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes, and very high levels can cause pancreatitis. In the U.S., high triglyceride levels are alarmingly prevalent, with more than 12 million adults having triglyceride levels above the recommended 150 mg/dL.
Fortunately, the following 10 evidence-based, natural strategies can help you bring your triglycerides back into a healthy balance.
1. Get Your Omega-3s
Omega-3 fatty acids, found in foods such as salmon, sardines, and flaxseeds, are great for triglyceride management. According to a 2021 study, omega-3 fatty acids help lower triglyceride levels by increasing fatty acid oxidation (breaking down fats for energy) and suppressing LDL (“bad”) cholesterol production. Additionally, omega-3s tell your liver to make fewer fats like triglycerides and use up some of the fats it already has access to, lowering the amount of triglycerides in your blood. These heart-healthy fats offer additional benefits, too, such as reducing inflammation and supporting brain health.
2. Eat More Fiber…
There are two types of dietary fiber: insoluble and soluble, depending on how they interact with water. Incorporating soluble fiber into your diet, often found in whole grains, legumes, and certain fruits and vegetables, can help lower triglyceride levels. A 2017 meta-analysis, for example, found that soluble fiber helps slow the body’s absorption of sugars and fats. Additionally, soluble fiber can improve digestive health and help regulate blood sugar levels.
3. …And Less Refined Sugar
Reducing your refined sugar and simple carbohydrate intake is crucial for lowering triglycerides. Research shows that these foods can spike blood sugar levels, prompting the liver to produce more triglycerides. Plus, cutting down on sugary drinks, sweets, and processed foods causes your body to produce fewer triglycerides. This also aids in healthy weight management.
4. Choose Healthy Fats
Bye bye, butter. Opt for healthier fats such as monounsaturated fats instead, found in foods like olive oil, avocados, and nuts. A study published in the Journal of Missouri State Medicine in 2022 found that healthy monounsaturated fats help lower triglycerides and reduce inflammation, supporting overall heart health.
5. Exercise Regularly
Regular physical activity can significantly lower triglycerides by increasing the breakdown and use of these fats for energy. According to a 2019 study published in the journal Clinical Cardiology, aerobic exercise in particular (e.g., walking, running, cycling, swimming) can reduce triglyceride levels. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise weekly, meaning that you’re pushing yourself but can still hold a conversation while doing cardio. Exercise also helps manage your weight, reduce inflammation, and improve overall heart health.
6. Drink Less Alcohol
Although some studies suggest that drinking moderate amounts of alcohol, particularly red wine, may have cardiovascular benefits like reducing inflammation and controlling blood sugar, drinking too much can elevate triglyceride levels. One study of 1,519 participants found that binge drinking (four or more drinks for women and five or more for men per day) — which is becoming increasingly common for adults aged 35 to 50, raised triglycerides, cholesterol, and liver function enzyme levels, indicting damage to the liver. For men, moderation typically means up to two drinks per day.
7. Maintain a Healthy Weight
Losing excess weight can dramatically lower triglycerides. Weight loss reduces the amount of fat stored in the body, leading to decreased triglyceride production. It also enhances insulin sensitivity to help your body process sugar more efficiently and lower your diabetes risk.
8. Control Portion Sizes
Controlling your portion sizes is essential for maintaining healthy triglyceride levels. According to the National Institutes of Health, consuming more calories than your body needs can lead to excess triglyceride production, and excess calories get stored as triglycerides in your fat cells. Your body releases triglycerides when it needs energy, elevating your triglyceride levels and potentially raising your risk of heart disease and stroke. Additionally, practicing portion control helps support healthy weight management, further keeping your triglyceride levels in check.
9. Manage Stress
Several studies have shown that chronic stress can contribute to high triglyceride levels. When you’re stressed, your body releases stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones can lead your liver to produce more triglycerides as your body prepares for a “fight or flight” response, which includes providing extra energy in the form of fats. Engaging in stress-reduction techniques such as meditation, yoga, or music therapy can help lower triglycerides and promote mental well-being.
10. Stay Hydrated
According to a 2021 study published in the Journal of Nutrition, not staying hydrated and habitually not drinking enough water can elevate several cardiometabolic risk factors, including high triglyceride levels, fasting blood glucose, cholesterol, and blood pressure. That’s because water aids in the breakdown and removal of triglycerides from the bloodstream. In addition, proper hydration supports various bodily functions, such as temperature control, digestion, and energy levels.