Triglycerides are fatty substances in your blood similar to cholesterol that, in high levels, can put you at greater risk for high blood pressure, stroke and heart disease. Luckily, your diet can help: Creating a meal plan to lower your numbers can support overall health and prevent disease.
Triglycerides are the most common type of fat in your body and come from fatty foods like butter and oils, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM). Eating too many calories or too much sugar, smoking, drinking and certain conditions like thyroid disease can all elevate your levels.
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The best way to balance your triglycerides is by limiting processed foods, saturated fats and alcohol, per the NLM. Regular exercise and quitting smoking can also help.
Here's a meal plan to help you lower your triglycerides.
What's a High Triglyceride Level?
According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute:
- Healthy triglycerides: Less than 150 mg/dL
- High triglycerides: 200 mg/dL and above
Eating meals full of high-fiber foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans can help you manage triglycerides, according to the Cleveland Clinic. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends adults eat 14 grams of fiber per 1,000 calories, which typically amounts to about 22 to 42 grams of fiber per day.
Kicking off your morning with a fiber-rich breakfast can also keep you fuller throughout the day, which may support healthy triglyceride levels by helping you eat fewer calories overall, per the Mayo Clinic. Fibrous breakfast foods can also help lower high cholesterol, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Try one of these triglyceride-friendly breakfast recipes, which may also help lower your cholesterol:
- Muesli Breakfast Bowl (248 calories)
- Quinoa and Amaranth Breakfast Bowl (123 calories)
- Berry Sesame Toast (201 calories)
- BLT Avocado Toast on Cauliflower Bread (256 calories)
As you're crafting breakfast ideas to lower triglycerides, some foods to skip first thing in the morning (and the rest of the day, for that matter) include:
- Refined grains like white bread and white rice
- Starchy carbohydrates like potatoes or corn
- Sugary cereals
- Sugary drinks like processed fruit punches and sweetened tea
- Processed meats like sausage
Estimate your daily calorie needs with the help of this Dietary Guidelines for Americans chart, which breaks down how many calories you should eat per day based on your age, sex and activity level. You can then use that number to determine how many grams of fiber you should eat.
Come lunchtime, make sure to include healthy fats in your meal plan for high triglycerides, per the Cleveland Clinic. Fat, along with protein, provides your body with lasting fuel so you feel satiated and don't overeat, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Many fat- and protein-rich foods also contain niacin, or vitamin B3, which helps reduce triglycerides and cholesterol, according to the Cleveland Clinic. They're also good sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which may likewise help lower your numbers, per the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Some examples include:
- Meats like chicken and turkey
- Fish like tuna, halibut and salmon
- Nuts and seeds
- Legumes like beans, lentils and peas
Here are lunch recipes to lower triglycerides that incorporate those and other healthy ingredients:
- Arugula Salad With Salmon and Avocado (304 calories)
- Beans and Greens Tacos (467 calories)
- Turkey Protein Scramble (341 calories)
However, limit or avoid the following foods high in trans and saturated fats, which can contribute to high triglycerides, per the Cleveland Clinic.
- Red meat
- Whole milk
- Fast food or fried food
- Packaged baked goods like cookies and cakes
How Much Fat and Protein Should You Eat?
- Fat should make up 20 to 35 percent of your daily calorie intake, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
- Eat 5 to 7 ounce equivalents of protein per day, per the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Ounce equivalents refer to what "counts" as an ounce in the protein group, per the USDA. Examples include an ounce of meat, poultry or fish; one egg; a tablespoon of peanut butter; a quarter cup of cooked beans and a half ounce of nuts or seeds.
Much like breakfast and lunch, eat plenty of fiber, fat and protein at dinner. Consider adding meals like these into your diet plan to lower triglycerides:
- Chicken, Cashew and Vegetable Stir Fry (451 calories)
- Tuna and White Bean Salad (284 calories)
- Beet and Carrot Buddha Bowl With Savory Dressing (609 calories)
Your snack foods can also help lower triglycerides: Eating a variety of plant-based options that include fiber, healthy fats, protein, vitamins and omega-3s can help you get all the nutrients you need to lower your numbers and support overall health, per the Cleveland Clinic.
Simple snack options include:
- Almond Yogurt (269 calories)
- Whole Food Granola Bars (234 calories)
- Tuna Cucumber Boats (139 calories)
Steer clear of processed snacks like chips and cookies, which often contain trans and saturated fats that can drive up your numbers, per the Cleveland Clinic. These products also typically have added sugar, which has no nutritional value and may contribute to excess calorie consumption, according to the American Heart Association (AHA).
Work with your doctor or a dietitian to create a personalized diet menu to lower high triglycerides.
You don't have to go without dessert. Just remember to limit or avoid processed, high-sugar treats like ice cream, candy and baked goods, per the AHA.
Instead, try some healthier dessert recipes to lower triglycerides, such as:
- Chocolate Dessert Hummus (100 calories)
- Dark Chocolate Raspberry Mousse (127 calories)
- Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Dessert Hummus Balls (237 calories)
It's best to quench your thirst with water or other nutritious, hydrating beverages like tea. Limit or avoid alcohol and soda, which both contain simple sugars that can contribute to high triglyceride levels, per the AHA.
If you're watching your numbers but still want to sip on something flavorful, try one of these recipes:
- Berry Lover's Pulse Smoothie (126 calories)
- Sparkling Cucumber Refresher (14 calories)
- Sweet Green Juice (133 calories)
Remember: Lowering high triglycerides can take months or longer. Committing to healthy habits — like eating nutritious foods and exercising — can help you achieve and maintain healthy triglyceride levels in the long term.
- Cleveland Clinic: "Triglycerides & Heart Health: Diet"
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: "Triglycerides"
- Cleveland Clinic: "How to Lower Your Triglycerides Naturally"
- Mayo Clinic: "Weight loss: Feel full on fewer calories"
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: "How much (dietary) fiber should I eat?"
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: "Appendix 2. Estimated Calorie Needs per Day, by Age, Sex, and Physical Activity Level"
- Mayo Clinic: "Cholesterol: Top foods to improve your numbers"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Triglycerides"
- Mayo Clinic: "Mayo Clinic Minute: Foods to help you feel full"
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: "What counts as an ounce in the Protein Foods Group?"
- U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: "2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans"
- University of Massachusetts Medical School: "Lowering Your Triglycerides"
- American Heart Association: "Triglycerides: Frequently Asked Questions"
- National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute: "High Blood Cholesterol: What you need to know"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Fat: What You Need to Know"
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.