Lipids, or fats, come in all shapes and sizes, including triglycerides and cholesterol. A key difference exists: cholesterol comes from animal-based sources and triglycerides do not. High triglyceride levels are associated with adverse side effects such as increased risk for heart disease. When you keep triglyceride intake to a minimum, you can boost your heart health and reduce your stroke risk.
When you eat simple sugars, your body converts what it can’t use into triglycerides. Examples of simple sugars include refined carbohydrates and alcohol. If you read a food label, a few simple sugars you may spot on the ingredients list include sucrose, glucose, fructose, corn syrup, maltose, honey, molasses and high-fructose corn syrup, according to The Cleveland Clinic. While foods such as fruits and milk contain simple sugars, these sugars are naturally occurring, and also contain vitamins and minerals. Simple sugar-containing foods such as cookies, cakes and pies do not have as significant a nutritional value and are higher in calories than fruits and low-fat dairy products.
Cookies, pies, cakes, granola bars, chocolate and hard candies are all obvious sources of sugary foods that can be converted into triglycerides. But some triglyceride sources aren’t as obvious. Cereals can be high in sugar -- avoid the kinds that have more than 8 grams per serving, recommends The Cleveland Clinic. Refined grains such as white breads and crackers also can contribute to triglyceride formation. Starchy vegetables such as potatoes, yams, beans, corn and peas also can be converted into triglycerides. That doesn’t mean you have to avoid them entirely -- instead, limit your intake to about 3 ounces per serving.
Triglyceride fats can come from a number of sources -- most of which you use to satisfy your sweet tooth. To lower the chance your body will convert food into triglycerides, replace simple sugars with whole-grain and low-sugar options. For example, you can swap white pasta and bread for whole-grain versions and high-sugar sodas, fruit drinks and lemonade for sugar-free or diet beverages. The same goes for choosing sugar-free gums, candies, syrups, puddings and gelatins.
Measuring Your Levels
If you are concerned about your triglyceride levels, your physician can perform a blood test known as a lipid profile. The test can tell you what your triglyceride, total cholesterol, high-density cholesterol and low-density cholesterol levels are. You’ll need to fast for at least 12 hours before the test because your triglyceride levels can go up immediately after a meal. Normal triglyceride levels are 150 mg/dL or lower, according to The Cleveland Clinic. Results of 151 to 200 mg/dL are considered borderline high, while levels of 201 to 499 mg/dL are considered high. If you have results higher than 500 mg/dL, you may need to take medications to reduce your levels.
Rachel Nall began writing in 2003. She is a former managing editor for custom health publications, including physician journals. She has written for The Associated Press and "Jezebel," "Charleston," "Chatter" and "Reach" magazines. Nall is currently pursuing her Bachelor of Science in Nursing at the University of Tennessee.