Triglycerides are a type of fat found in your blood.
After you eat, your body converts the calories that you don’t need into triglycerides and stores them in your fat cells to be used for energy later.
While triglycerides are an important energy supply for your body, having too many triglycerides in your blood can increase your risk for heart disease.
About 25% of adults in the United States have elevated blood triglycerides, which is classified as having triglyceride levels over 150 mg/dL. Having obesity, unmanaged diabetes, regular alcohol use, and a high-calorie diet can all contribute to high blood triglyceride levels.
This article explores 13 ways to naturally reduce your blood triglycerides.
1. Aim for a healthy weight
Whenever you eat more calories than your body needs, your body turns those calories into triglycerides and stores them in fat cells.
Working toward a moderate body weight by consuming fewer excess calories can be an effective way to lower your blood triglyceride levels.
Research has shown that losing even a modest 5-10% of your body weight can significantly reduce triglyceride levels.
While the goal is to sustain weight loss long term, some studies have found that weight loss can have a lasting effect on blood triglyceride levels, even if you regain some of the weight.
One older study focused on participants who had dropped out of a weight management program. Even though they had regained the weight they had lost 9 months before, their blood triglyceride levels remained 24-26% lower.
Summary: Losing at least 5% of your body weight has been shown to have a lasting effect on reducing blood triglyceride levels.
2. Limit your sugar intake
Added sugar is a big part of many people’s diets.
While the American Heart Association recommends consuming no more than 10% of your daily calories in added sugar per day, one study found that the average American eats about 14-17% daily.
Added sugar is commonly found in sweets, soft drinks, and fruit juice.
Extra sugar in your diet may be turned into triglycerides, which can lead to an increase in blood triglyceride levels, along with other heart disease risk factors.
One 15-year study showed that those who consumed at least 25% of calories from sugar were twice as likely to die from heart disease as those who consumed less than 10% of calories from sugar.
Another study found that consuming high amounts of added sugar is also associated with higher blood triglyceride levels in children.
Luckily, several studies have shown that diets low in carbs can lead to a decrease in blood triglyceride levels.
Even a simple change such as replacing sugar-sweetened beverages with water could decrease triglycerides in some people.
Summary: Minimizing added sugar in your diet from soda, juice, and sweets can reduce blood triglyceride levels.
3. Follow a lower-carb diet
Much like added sugar, extra calories from carbs in your diet are converted into triglycerides and stored in fat cells.
Not surprisingly, low-carb diets have been linked to lower blood triglyceride levels.
One 2006 study looked at how various carb intakes affected triglycerides. Those who were given a low carb diet providing about 26% of calories from carbs had greater reductions in triglyceride levels than those given higher carb diets providing up to 54% of calories from carbs.
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Another review reported that low-carb diets were more effective at decreasing triglyceride levels than low-fat diets with the same amount of calories.
Finally, a 2003 study compared low fat and low carb diets. After 6 months, researchers found that those on the low carb diet had greater decreases in triglyceride levels than those on a low-fat diet.
Summary: Following a low-carb diet can lead to a significant reduction in blood triglyceride levels, at least short-term when compared to a low-fat diet.
4. Eat more fiber
Dietary fiber is found naturally in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. It’s also found in many other plant sources, including nuts, seeds, cereals, and legumes.
Including more fiber in your diet can slow down the absorption of fat and sugar in your small intestine, helping to decrease the number of triglycerides in your blood.
According to one study in 117 adults with overweight or obesity, eating more dietary fiber was linked to lower triglyceride levels.
Another small study in adolescents found that consuming a high fiber cereal alongside a breakfast high in fat reduced increases in triglyceride levels after eating by 50%.
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Summary: Adding fiber to your diet from fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can reduce blood triglycerides.
5. Exercise regularly
Aerobic exercise can increase the amount of HDL (good) cholesterol in your blood, which can then lower triglyceride levels.
When paired with weight loss, studies show that aerobic exercise is especially effective at decreasing triglycerides.
The American Heart Association recommends getting at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise 5 days per week, which can include activities like walking, jogging, bicycling, and swimming.
The benefits of exercise on triglycerides are most apparent in long-term exercise regimens. One study in people with heart disease showed that exercising for 45 minutes 5 times per week led to a significant decline in blood triglycerides.
Other research has found that exercising at a higher intensity for a shorter amount of time is more effective than exercising at a moderate intensity for longer periods.
Summary: A regular workout regimen that includes high-intensity aerobic exercise may increase levels of HDL (good) cholesterol and decrease blood triglycerides.
6. Avoid trans fats
Artificial trans fats are a type of fat added to processed foods to increase their shelf-life.
Trans fats are commonly found in commercially fried foods and baked goods made with partially hydrogenated oils. They can also be naturally found in small amounts in some animal products. In recent years, the addition of trans fats to food has been banned in the U.S.
Due to their inflammatory properties, trans fats have been attributed to many health problems, including increased LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and heart disease.
One review of 16 studies reported that replacing trans fats with polyunsaturated fats in the diet could be effective for reducing triglyceride levels.
Summary: A diet high in trans fats can increase both blood triglycerides and the risk of heart disease. Limiting your consumption of heavily processed and fried foods can help decrease your intake of trans fats.
7. Eat fatty fish twice weekly
Fatty fish is well known for its benefits on heart health and ability to lower blood triglycerides.
This is mostly due to its content of omega-3 fatty acids, a type of polyunsaturated fatty acid that is considered essential, meaning you need to get it through your diet.
Both the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and American Heart Association recommend eating two servings of fatty fish per week to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.
What’s more, one study showed that eating salmon twice a week significantly decreased blood triglyceride concentration.
Salmon, herring, sardines, tuna, and mackerel are a few types of fish that are especially high in omega-3 fatty acids.
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Summary: Fatty fish is high in omega-3 fatty acids. Eating two servings per week may lower triglyceride levels and decrease the risk of heart disease.
8. Increase your intake of unsaturated fats
Studies show that monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats can reduce blood triglyceride levels, especially when they are replacing carbohydrates in your diet.
Monounsaturated fats are found in foods like olive oil, nuts, and avocados. Polyunsaturated fats are present in vegetable oils and fatty fish, as well as nuts and seeds such as walnuts, flaxseeds, and chia.
One older study analyzed what 452 adults in a specific population of indigenous people in Alaska had eaten over the past 24 hours, focusing on several types of saturated and polyunsaturated fats.
Researchers found that saturated fat intake was associated with increased blood triglycerides, while the polyunsaturated fat intake was associated with lower triglyceride levels.
Another review of 27 studies reported that olive oil could significantly decrease levels of triglycerides, total cholesterol, and LDL (bad) cholesterol compared with other types of plant oil.
To maximize the triglyceride-lowering benefits of unsaturated fats, pick a heart-healthy fat like olive oil and use it to replace other types of fat in your diet, such as trans fats or highly processed vegetable oils.
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Summary: Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats can decrease blood triglyceride levels, especially when they are consumed in place of other fats.
9. Establish a regular meal pattern
Insulin resistance is another factor that can contribute to high blood triglycerides.
After you eat a meal, the cells in your pancreas send a signal to release insulin into the bloodstream. Insulin is then responsible for transporting sugar to your cells to be used for energy.
If you have too much insulin in your blood, your body can become resistant to it, making it difficult for insulin to be used effectively. This can lead to a buildup of both sugar and triglycerides in the blood.
Fortunately, setting a regular eating pattern can help prevent insulin resistance and high triglycerides. For instance, a growing body of research shows that not eating breakfast can lead to decreased insulin sensitivity.
An American Heart Association statement suggested that irregular eating patterns seemed less likely to achieve healthy cardiometabolic levels. They recommended intentional eating at regular times.
However, the evidence is mixed when it comes to meal frequency.
A 2013 study demonstrated that eating three meals per day significantly decreased triglycerides compared with eating six meals per day.
On the other hand, another study showed that eating six meals per day led to a greater increase in insulin sensitivity than eating just three meals per day.
Regardless of how many meals you’re eating daily, eating regular meals can improve insulin sensitivity and lower blood triglyceride levels.
Summary: While studies are mixed on how meal frequency affects blood triglyceride levels, research suggests that sticking to a regular meal pattern can decrease many heart disease risk factors and prevent insulin resistance.
10. Limit alcohol intake
Alcoholic beverages are often high in sugar, carbs, and calories. If these calories remain unused, they can be converted into triglycerides and stored in fat cells.
Additionally, alcohol can increase the synthesis of large very low-density lipoproteins in the liver, which carry triglycerides into your system.
Although a variety of factors come into play, some studies show that moderate alcohol consumption can increase blood triglycerides by up to 53%, even if your triglyceride levels are normal to begin with.
That said, other research has linked light to moderate alcohol consumption to a reduced risk of heart disease while linking binge drinking to an increased risk.
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Summary: Some studies suggest that limiting your alcohol intake can help lower blood triglyceride levels.
11. Add soy protein to your diet
Soy is rich in isoflavones, which are a type of plant compound with numerous health benefits. While widely known for its role in lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol, soy protein has been shown to reduce blood triglyceride levels.
One review of 46 studies found that regular consumption of soy protein was linked to significantly lower triglyceride levels in postmenopausal women.
Similarly, a 2005 analysis of 23 studies found that soy protein was associated with a 7.3% decline in triglycerides.
Soy protein can be found in foods like soybeans (edamame), tofu, tempeh, and soy milk.
Summary: Soy contains compounds associated with several health benefits. Eating soy protein in place of animal protein may help reduce blood triglycerides.
12. Eat more tree nuts
Tree nuts provide a concentrated dose of fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, and unsaturated fats, all of which work together to lower blood triglycerides.
One analysis of 61 studies showed that each daily serving of tree nuts decreased triglycerides by an average of 2.2 mg/dL (0.02 mmol/L).
Another review of 49 studies had similar findings, showing that eating tree nuts is associated with a modest decrease in blood triglycerides.
Tree nuts include:
- Brazil nuts
- macadamia nuts
However, keep in mind that nuts are high in calories. A single serving of almonds, or about 23 almonds, contains 164 calories, so moderation is key.
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Most studies have found the greatest health benefits in individuals who consumed between 3–7 servings of nuts per week.
Summary: Nuts contain many heart-healthy nutrients, including fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, and unsaturated fats. Studies suggest that eating between 3–7 servings of tree nuts per week may help decrease blood triglycerides.
13. Ask your doctor about natural supplements
Several natural supplements could have the potential to lower blood triglycerides. Always speak with your doctor before starting any supplements as they can interact with other medications.
Note especially that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate supplements, and supplement quality can vary widely.
Below are a few of the main supplements that have been studied:
- Fish oil. Well known for its potent effects on heart health, fish oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to decrease triglycerides and several other risk factors for heart disease.
- Fenugreek. Though traditionally used to stimulate milk production, fenugreek seeds have also been shown to be effective at reducing blood triglycerides.
- Garlic extract. Several animal studies have shown that garlic extract can reduce triglyceride levels, thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties.
- Guggul. According to one animal study, this herbal supplement was as effective as prescription medication at reducing triglyceride and cholesterol levels.
- Curcumin. One review of seven studies found that supplementing with curcumin could cause a significant drop in triglyceride and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels.
Summary: Several supplements have been studied for their ability to lower triglyceride levels, including fish oil, fenugreek, garlic extract, guggul, and curcumin.
Diet and lifestyle factors can have a major influence on your triglyceride levels.
Choosing healthy, unsaturated fats in place of trans fats, decreasing your intake of carbs and added sugars, and exercising regularly are a few strategies that can help lower your blood triglycerides.
With a few simple lifestyle modifications, you can decrease your triglycerides and improve your overall health at the same time.
There’s no need to completely change your diet and lifestyle overnight. Try experimenting with a few of the tips listed above and gradually incorporating other strategies into your routine over time to make more long-lasting, sustainable changes that are easier to stick to.