Guidelines for Lowering Triglycerides and Raising HDL Cholesterol

Having high HDL (good) cholesterol and low triglyceride levels can reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke.

The following steps can be taken to reduce triglyceride levels and increase HDL (good) cholesterol levels:

  • Avoid or limit alcohol: Alcohol significantly raises triglyceride levels. If your triglycerides are higher than 150, avoid or limit alcohol
  • Limit fruit juice and dried fruits: Even fresh fruit juice contains a large amount of fructose sugar and can increase triglyceride and blood sugar levels. Fruit juice and dried fruit are also high in calories and can add unwanted pounds. Replace fruit juice and dried fruits with fresh fruit that has more fiber and fewer calories
  • Limit non-diet soft drinks and sports drinks: Non-diet soft drinks and sport drinks contain as many as 12 teaspoons of sugar per serving. This sugar can increase triglyceride and blood sugar levels. Non-diet soft drinks and sport drinks also contain calories that can add unwanted pounds. Replace non-diet soft drinks and sport drinks with water, unsweetened tea, diet colas, or beverages sweetened with NutraSweet.
  • Limit concentrated sweets: Even fat free or low fat sweets can raise your triglyceride and/or blood sugar levels. Concentrated sweets include sugar, honey, jelly, candy, cookies, cakes, pies, pastries, frozen desserts, puddings, and sugar sweetened cereals. Replace concentrated sweets with high fiber foods such as fruit, low fat yogurt, sugar free gelatin and low fat puddings
  • Limit refined carbohydrates: Refined carbohydrates include white flour, white bread, white rice, and some pasta. Limit portion sizes of these foods or replace them with whole wheat bread, lentils, whole grains, brown rice, and spinach or wholewheat pastas
  • Reduce your weight, if needed: Even a 5-10 pound weight loss can cause your triglyceride level to decrease significantly. You can lose 1-2 pounds per week by limiting your portion sizes and exercising 5-6 times per week. Include monounsaturated fats in your diet
  • Include Monounsaturated fats in your diet: Moderate amounts of monounsaturated fat can raise your HDL (good) cholesterol. Sources of monounsaturated fat include olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil, peanuts, peanut butter, cashews, olives, and avocados. Choose peanut butter that does not have sugar in the ingredient list. Since these foods are high in calories, serving sizes should be moderate.
  • Include fish in your diet: Fish is low in saturated fat and rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Good choices include mackerel, salmon, herring, bluefish, lake trout, tuna, and sardines canned in oil. If you smoke, quit
  • If you smoke, quit: Smoking lowers HDL (good) cholesterol and raises triglycerides. When you quit smoking your HDL (good) cholesterol increases and triglycerides decrease.
  • Stay active: Exercise raises your HDL (good) cholesterol. Walk, ride a bike, or swim for at least 20 minutes, 3-5 times per week. Ideally, you should try to exercise for 30-60 minutes most days of the week. Check with your physician before beginning an exercise program.
  • If you have diabetes, control it: Diabetes Self-Management Education can provide information to better control your diabetes. The LifeHelp Nutrition and Diabetes Education Program offers individual and group education as well as cooking classes and grocery store tours. They can be contacted at 820-7910.
  • Consider fish oil supplements (omega 3 fatty acids)
  • Medications - Ask your doctor or nurse about medications available to help manage your cholesterol

Sample Menu


1 slice of whole grain toast

1 teaspoon natural peanut butter

1⁄2 grapefruit

1⁄2 egg substitute scrambled with green peppers and onions


Tuna Sandwich

2 ounces tuna canned in water

1 boiled egg white

1 Tablespoon celery or chopped apple 1-3 teaspoons fat free mayonnaise lettuce tomato

2 slices whole grain bread


Cereal Snack Mix

1 cup Chex cereal

1 Tablespoon unsalted peanuts or cashews


4 ounces baked or broiled salmon 1⁄2 cup brown rice with almonds

1⁄2 cup cooked squash

Green salad

1 Tablespoon olive oil and vinegar


1 cup artificially sweetened fat free yogurt

Daily total: 1507 calories, 200 gms carbohydrate, 39 gms of total fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 15 gms of monounsaturated fat, 86 mgs cholesterol, 1702 mg sodium

Optional table caption.
When you Consume... Choose Limit
Beverages Water, Diet sodas, Unsweetened tea, Crystal Light Fruit juices, Regular sodas, Sweet tea, Lemonade or fruit punch, Alcoholic beverages
Meat, poultry, fish Salmon, Tuna, Mackerel, Herring, Bluefish, Sardines Liver, Bacon, Sausage, Goose, Duck, Fatty cuts of meat
Oils Canola oil, Olive oil, Peanut oil Palm oil, Coconut oil
Snacks Peanuts, Cashews, Almonds, Natural peanut butter, Vegetables, Fresh fruit, Olives Cookies (regular or low fat), Pies, Cakes (regular or low fat), Candy, Ice cream, yogurt, Dried fruit (raisins, prunes), Potato chips
Breads and starches Brown rice, Whole grain bread White rice, White bread
Fruits Fresh fruit Dried fruits, Fruit juices