What are Triglycerides?
Triglycerides are a certain type of fat that are found in the cells and the blood. The more fatty foods you eat, the more your triglyceride levels go up. At the same time, triglycerides can also be increased through consumption of carbohydrates and when you eat carbs (sugars) the body can convert them into triglycerides in order to provide the body with an emergency energy supply when it is needed.
That is fundamentally what triglycerides are but their relationship with our health and the way we go about lowering them is considerably more complicated. Read on and we will learn a little more about what triglycerides really are, how they work and what you need to learn how to lower triglycerides.
Triglycerides and Your Health
The main concern regarding triglycerides is that they may cause heart problems. This is because triglycerides are linked to atherosclerosis which in turn is a disease that sees fatty materials deposited on the inner walls of the arteries. This in turn makes the arteries stiffer and more rigid and makes it harder for blood to pass through. The heart rate can become elevated and the likelihood of a stroke or heart attack increases as blockages become more likely.
Triglycerides are also associated with obesity and being overweight. However, it is important to make the distinction here that triglycerides do not cause obesity and do not cause individuals to become overweight. Rather, the two are simply linked.
This makes obvious sense seeing as eating more sugar than you burn contributes to higher triglycerides and seeing as eating more fat also means increasing triglycerides. Seeing as fat is high in calories (there are 9 calories for every gram of fat), it follows that eating a lot of fat would also increase your body weight.
Likewise, triglycerides are also linked with diabetes. This is because diabetes prevents the body from using sugar to fuel action by reducing the amount of insulin in the blood or the body’s ability to use that insulin. When you combine these factors, you are left with excess sugar in the blood which will be converted into triglycerides.
High triglycerides are also linked to liver problems. The liver is the second largest organ in the body (right behind your skin) and is used to store many important nutrients and fuels. Here you’ll find minerals, vitamins, iron, glucose and fat that comes from the diet. It’s also where proteins are made and where blood cells are rejuvenated. High levels of triglycerides though can eventually cause a build-up of fat in the liver which results in a condition called ‘fatty liver’.
The Good Side of Fat
But triglycerides are not inherently bad. Some forms of triglycerides are actually good for us such as medium chain triglycerides (MCTs). These have their carbon atoms arranged in a specific way that allow them to more rapidly enter the blood stream and stimulate the liver to produce ketones as an alternative form of energy.
It’s also important not to make the mistake of avoiding all fats in a bid to lower triglycerides.
Remember, the body can make its own triglycerides from carbohydrates in the diet and thus eating a low-fat, high-carb diet is actually one of the worst things you can do to try and manage these levels. Likewise, fats also serve a number of other important purposes in the body. Saturated fats help us to absorb important fat-soluble nutrients from our diet for instance, they provide us with the building blocks for creating sex hormones like testosterone and they also heighten levels of good cholesterol.
Studies show that cultures that consume lots of saturated fats (such as those along the Mediterranean) actually have better lifespans and better heart health.
How to Lower Triglycerides
With all that important information out of the way, what can you do to lower levels of triglycerides, improve your heart health, and lose weight fast in the process?
1. Avoid excess sugar
The first and best thing to do is to avoid excess sugar and particularly ‘simple’ sugars such as donuts, cakes, white bread and white pasta. These release a sudden spike of energy in the blood which your body won’t be able to use that quickly. As such, the sugars will be converted into triglycerides and stored in your fat cells.
2. Increase fiber
Fiber is any food that doesn’t get digested and it has many benefits. For starters, consuming fiber with your meal slows absorption and helps to make a simple carb act more like a complex carb. What’s more is that fiber can actually remove fatty deposits as it passes through your system and thereby prevent some of the conditions associated with high triglycerides.
3. Consume healthy fats
Consume fatty acids such as omega 3 and saturated fats is one of the best ways to combat the problems associated with high triglycerides. This is because they help to increase fat metabolism and help the body to become more effective at using fat in the diet. Surprisingly, increasing your intake of healthy fats actually lowers LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) and increases the desirable ‘HDL’ cholesterol.
4. Avoid trans fats
One type of fat that is definitely bad for you though is trans fat. Trans fats are processed fats that are made from hydrogenated oils. These fats are very unhealthy and are packed with triglycerides. In fact, avoiding processed foods in general is usually a good idea. Nine times out of ten, processed foods are simply empty calories that have many unwanted additives.
Exercise is very effective at reducing triglycerides because it incurs a calorie tax that the body has to pay. The more you exercise, the more energy you need and once your body has exhausted the supply available in the blood, muscles and liver, it will then move on to start burning fat stores and converting triglycerides.
You can improve this effect even more by using specific types of exercise that will challenge the body to use energy at a faster rate than it can keep up with. For example, HIIT and fasted cardio can be very effective at forcing the body to look to fat stores for fuel.
6. Intermittent fasting
Intermittent fasting means going short periods without eating or while only eating very low calories. This is a very effective way once again to force the body to plunder its fat stores for energy. This also helps to make the body generally more efficient at using the energy you have stored.
If you combine all of these strategies and generally try to avoid over-indulging, then you should find that it’s relatively simply to reduce your overall caloric intake and to teach your body how to lower triglycerides.
High Triglycerides and High Cholesterol – A Deadly Combo
High triglyceride levels combined with high cholesterol levels are even more unhealthy for your heart. Many of the things we mentioned that cause high triglycerides are similar to what causes high cholesterol. Cholesterol and alcohol links are increasing the more they are both studied. Too much alcohol acts like too much sugar in the body and can be damaging to your heart. Fortunately the things you do to lower triglycerides, in many cases are also effective at lowering cholesterol.
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