By Rachael Link
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 you do need triglycerides to supply your body with energy, having too many triglycerides in your blood can increase your risk of heart disease (1).
About 25 percent of adults in the U.S. have elevated blood triglycerides, which is classified as having levels over 200 mg/dL (2.26 mmol/L). Obesity, uncontrolled 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. Lose Some Weight
Whenever you eat more calories than you need, your body turns those calories into triglycerides and stores them in fat cells.
That's why losing weight is an effective way to lower your blood triglyceride levels.
In fact, research has shown that losing even a modest 5–10 percent of your body weight can decrease blood triglycerides by 40 mg/dL (0.45 mmol/L) (2).
While the goal is to sustain weight loss in the long term, studies have found that weight loss can have a lasting effect on blood triglyceride levels, even if you regain some of the weight.
One study focused on participants who had dropped out of a weight management program. Even though they had regained the weight they had lost nine months before, their blood triglyceride levels remained 24–26 percent lower (3).
Summary: Losing at least 5 percent 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 6–9 teaspoons of added sugar per day, in 2008 the average American was eating about 19 teaspoons daily (4).
Hidden sugar commonly lurks in sweets, soft drinks and fruit juice.
Extra sugar in your diet is 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 percent of calories from sugar were twice as likely to die from heart disease as those who consumed less than 10 percent of calories from sugar (5).
Another study found that consuming added sugar is associated with higher blood triglyceride levels in children (6).
Even replacing sugar-sweetened beverages with water could decrease triglycerides by almost 29 mg/dL (0.33 mmol/L) (10).
Summary: Minimizing added sugar in your diet from soda, juice and sweets can reduce blood triglyceride levels.
3. Follow a Low-Carb Diet
Much like added sugar, extra 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 percent of calories from carbs had greater drops in blood triglyceride levels than those given higher-carb diets providing up to 54 percent of calories from carbs (8).
Another study looked at the effects of low and high-carb diets over a one-year period. Not only did the low-carb group lose more weight, but they also had greater reductions in blood triglycerides (7).
Finally, a 2003 study compared low-fat and low-carb diets. After six months, researchers found that blood triglycerides had dropped 38 mg/dL (0.43 mmol/L) in the low-carb group and only 7 mg/dL (0.08 mmol/L) in the low-fat group (9).
Summary: Following a low-carb diet can lead to a significant reduction in blood triglyceride levels, especially when compared to a low-fat diet.
4. Eat More Fiber
Fiber is found in fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
Other good sources of fiber include nuts, cereals and legumes.
In one study, researchers showed that supplementing with rice bran fiber decreased blood triglycerides by 7–8 percent among people with diabetes (12).
Another study looked at how high and low-fiber diets affected blood triglyceride levels. The low-fiber diet caused triglycerides to jump 45 percent in just six days, but during the high-fiber phase, triglycerides dipped back below baseline levels (13).
Summary: Adding fiber to your diet from fruits, vegetables and whole grains can reduce blood triglycerides.
5. Exercise Regularly
"Good" HDL cholesterol has an inverse relationship with blood triglycerides, meaning that high levels of HDL cholesterol can help lower triglycerides.
Aerobic exercise can increase levels of HDL cholesterol in your blood, which can then lower blood triglycerides.
When paired with weight loss, studies show that aerobic exercise is especially effective at decreasing triglycerides (14).
Examples of aerobic exercise include walking, jogging, bicycling and swimming.
Regarding amount, the American Heart Association recommends getting at least 30 minutes of exercise five days per week.
The benefits of exercise on triglycerides are most apparent in long-term exercise regimens. One study showed that jogging for two hours per week over four months led to a significant decline in blood triglycerides (15).
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 (16).
Summary: A regular workout regimen with high-intensity aerobic exercise can increase "good" HDL cholesterol and decrease blood triglycerides.
6. Avoid Trans Fats
Artificial trans fats are a type of fat added to processed foods to increase the shelf life.
Trans fats are commonly found in commercially fried foods and baked goods made with partially hydrogenated oils.
Eating trans fats can also increase your blood triglyceride levels.
One study showed that triglyceride levels were significantly higher when participants followed a diet with high or moderate amounts of trans fats, compared to a diet high in unsaturated oleic acid (20).
Another study found similar results. Following a three-week diet high in trans fats resulted in higher triglyceride levels than a diet high in unsaturated fat (21).
Summary: A diet high in trans fats can increase both blood triglycerides and the risk of heart disease. Limit your consumption of processed, baked and fried foods to minimize your trans fat intake.