Diagnosed with High Triglycerides? Why Fish and Supplements Need to Be Part of Your Diet

If at your most recent physical exam,  your doctor told you your triglycerides were too high, consider eating more fish or taking a fish oil supplement. Why? Consuming the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA — a group of fatty acids that human bodies don't produce on their own — has been shown to lower triglycerides … not to mention promote heart health, reduce mental decline with aging and reduce overall mortality.

But before we move on, let's take a step back to really understand what "high triglycerides" means. Tweet this Triglycerides are a type of fat found in blood. When we eat, our bodies convert unused calories into excess triglycerides, which are stored in our fat cells. Later, hormones release triglycerides for energy between meals. When more calories are eaten than burned — particularly carbohydrates and fats — this can increase our triglycerides. So if you're not expending enough energy, your fat stores, essentially, build up.

High levels of triglycerides in the bloodstream have been linked to atherosclerosis (when plaque builds up inside arteries) and heart disease. The same habits that promote overall health — such as maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding solid fats and added sugars, limiting alcohol consumption and exercising — also work to keep triglycerides within a normal range.

Now back to the recommendations. Because our bodies don't naturally produce DHA and EPA, it's essential to make sure you're getting enough. You can get meet your recommended DHA and EPA intake from eating a variety of fish (salmon and tuna contain the highest amounts) at least two times a week; and from foods that contain the omega-3 fatty acid ALA, which can be converted into DHA and EPA by the body, such as walnuts, chia seeds and flax seeds. Or, consider taking a fish or algae oil supplement. They are reliable sources of DHA and EPA, especially if you're worried about getting enough from diet alone. However, before deciding on a supplement, consult with your doctor or registered dietitian nutritionist.

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Madeline Basler
Madeline Basler, MS, RDN, CDN, is a clinical registered dietitian nutritionist, writer and owner of Real You Nutrition, a nutrition counseling, recipe development and consulting practice, in Long Island, NY. Madeline has won awards for her writing, and a culinary scholarship. She is an avid cook, and fitness enthusiast, loves to travel and entertain. Read her blog and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.

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