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Topic summary contributed by volunteer(s): Miranda

Triglycerides are a type of fat found in the blood, created by the body after eating to store calories it does not need to use right away. Elevated levels of triglycerides are a risk factor for developing metabolic syndrome and heart disease, the leading cause of death in the industrialized world.

Causes of Elevated Triglycerides

Ingestion of food rich in fat, particularly saturated fat, leads to a spike in triglycerides. This effect may be exacerbated by simultaneous consumption of foods high in cholesterol, such as eggs or dairy.

Consuming processed sugars, especially in liquid form (soda or juice), may also cause a spike in triglyceride levels. This effect is not seen following the consumption whole fruits, regardless of their sugar content.

Stress may also lead to elevated triglycerides. This is believed to be mediated by an increase in the hormone cortisol during stress, which acts upon the liver to increase the production of triglycerides. Consumption of animal products may also elevate cortisol levels after eating.

Lowering Triglyceride Levels

Regular consumption of fiber may help lower triglycerides. All whole plant foods contain fiber, but flax seeds, leafy greens, beans and whole grains are particularly rich sources. Beans and other legumes appear to be particularly effective at lowering triglyceride levels, though whether this is due to their fiber content or to specific phytonutrients has not yet been determined.

Decreasing stress through regular exercise and meditation and decreasing the intake of saturated fat, cholesterol, and processed sugars are lifestyle interventions that may help lower triglyceride levels.

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