The dangers of high cholesterol are widely known and much-publicized. But there’s a related health barometer that is even more vital – and few people monitor it closely.
Triglycerides are a blood fat which doctors have dubbed “ugly cholesterol.” New research shows that high readings are even more dangerous than elevated levels of total cholesterol.
Cholesterol is made up of several components:
- LDL cholesterol, the so-called “bad” cholesterol.
- HDL cholesterol or “good” cholesterol
A certain amount of triglycerides are needed for your body to function, but excess is stored as fat.
Triglycerides have always been known to raise heart disease risk, but now they are getting new attention from scientists looking for ways to prevent heart attacks.
People with high triglycerides were found to have triple the risk of heart disease of those with high LDL (bad) cholesterol, according to a new study by the University of Denmark.
Other research in the journal Stroke found that women with high triglycerides were more likely to a have a stroke than those with high LDL levels.
“We’ve always believed that total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels were the most important biomarkers for identifying stroke risk, but this study gives us strong evidence to question that approach,” said Jeffrey Berger, M.D., who authored the study.
Triglycerides are measured when you have a standard lipid blood test. Following a meal, blood triglyceride levels are generally high, so the test should be taken after fasting for 12 hours. A normal triglyceride level is 150 mg/dl and under.
Here’s a list of five foods that lower triglycerides:
1. Salmon. Cold water fish such as salmon, tuna, and cod, have omega-3 fatty acids that help lower triglycerides. Among these, salmon is credited with the most triglyceride-lowering power. If you don’t care for fish, fish oil supplements also lower triglycerides.
2. Olive oil. Butter and margarine are simply triglycerides in a stick or tub form. Palm, coconut oil, and rendered fats such as lard are also fats that will raise triglyceride levels. However, substituting monounsaturated fats like olive oil and walnut oil can lower them.
3. Grapes. Eating candy and other sugary foods fuel triglyceride levels, but eating naturally sweet grapes can lower them. Grapes contain pterostilbene, a compound that acts similarly to ciprofibrate, a commercial product that lowers triglycerides, according to the USDA. It is also similar to resveratrol, the antioxidant that is believed to give red wine its health benefits. Blueberries contain high concentrations of this triglyceride-lowering compound as well.
4. Beans. High-fiber foods such as beans and legumes lower triglycerides by slowing digestion, enabling the body to absorb more of the food’s nutrients. High-fiber foods are also useful in replacing the high-fat and sugary foods that fuel triglycerides. They make you feel full longer, helping you avoid unhealthy snacking. Other high-fiber legumes, such as peas and lentils are also good, but beans rank among the best choices for fiber and protein.
5. Spinach. Spinach is high in alpha-lipoic acid, which in one animal study lowered triglycerides up to 60 percent. Other alpha-lipoic-rich vegetables include broccoli, peas, and Brussels sprouts. Some fruits are high in alpha-lipoic acid as well, including tomatoes, oranges, grapefruit, lemons, and limes.
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