Those following a low-carb, high-fat diet will likely include animal proteins and fat sources like grass-fed beef and butter in their meal plan. Yet, eating a well-rounded, plant-centered, Mediterranean-leaning keto diet to maintain healthy triglyceride levels is wise, especially for those seeking to lower cholesterol and improve heart health.
Adopting a ketogenic diet requires considering your health goals and individual needs through a customized lens.
The ketogenic diet is likely to be safe for you if your cholesterol levels are normal. People with normal or perfect triglyceride levels are unlikely to notice any effects of keto. Plus, eating a diet rich in marine-derived omega-3 fatty acids from fish canned in satiating monounsaturated fatty olive oil is a terrific way to promote heart health, one bite at a time.
People should avoid high-glycemic carbs, such as grain-based baked goods, and opt for a diet rich in slow-digesting fiber, unrefined carbs, such as vegetables and low-glycemic fruits, and premium fats to reduce triglycerides. You should also replace high-sugar produce with fruits like antioxidant-rich berries, to help reduce sugar cravings.
Triglycerides may increase during a ketogenic diet, but this is extremely rare. And those cases may occur due to eating carbohydrates above one's tolerance or consuming alcohol on the day before the test, while eating significantly higher levels of fat in your diet.
When managing triglyceride levels, it is important to limit saturated fat foods; however, eggs in moderation may be acceptable. USDA data indicates that an egg has 1.6 grams of saturated fat. However, according to some data, eggs do not increase triglyceride levels––which is fantastic as eggs are essentially a protein-packed macronutrient powerhouse.
What Causes High Triglycerides?
Certain medical conditions, lifestyle habits, and some medicines can cause high triglycerides, such as:
- Poorly controlled diabetes
- Underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism)
- Kidney disease
- Liver disease
- Eating foods that are high in refined fats and sugars regularly
- Consistently consuming more calories than you burn
- Excessive alcohol intake
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Certain medications
- Birth control pills
Besides, high triglycerides can also run in families, making it especially important to monitor saturated fat intake and various familial and lifestyle factors to maintain heart health.
Knowing which healthy fats to enjoy and which to limit can go a long way as you work to achieve ketosis while curbing cholesterol. Here are some heart-healthy foods to add to your keto pantry to support metabolic ketosis and optimal heart health:
- Studies suggest that apple cider vinegar can lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels and other heart disease risk factors.
- Sipping on a cup of antioxidant-dense green tea is a great way to lower cholesterol. It contains catechins and other free-radical inhibitors that help decrease “bad” LDL and total cholesterol levels.
- Tomato juice: Adding lycopene-rich tomato juice to your keto plan can add a boost of nutrients beneficial to healthy triglycerides.
- Fiber-filled berry smoothies are the perfect way to begin your day supercharged and ready for action.
- Consume drinks containing sterols and stanols like unsweetened non-dairy milks (e.g., almond, hemp, cashew, etc.).
- Cocoa drinks: Indulge in a rich and delicious keto hot chocolate for a significant serving of heart-healthy fats that are as valuable to well-being as they are tasty.
- Plant-based milk smoothies: Choosing to incorporate more plant-based foods into your keto meal plan does wonders for maintaining healthy cholesterol levels.
- Recent research suggests lemon juice can lower cholesterol levels and improve cardiovascular health. Flavonoids and vitamin C found in the juice are primarily responsible for these benefits.
- Researchers have found that turmeric, or its active component curcumin, can lower total cholesterol, triglycerides, and LDL cholesterol.
- USDA researchers report that blueberries are rich in compounds that fight cholesterol and fat. Of course, everyone knows that blueberries are good for you. They're known to be antioxidant-rich fruits that fight aging, heart disease, and several cancers.
- Several studies suggest that black tea may lower cholesterol levels.
- The study of people following a Mediterranean diet combined with established studies regarding the benefits of metabolic ketosis suggests that these two work well together to improve health, lower cholesterol, and lower triglycerides.
- Consuming monounsaturated fats, such as extra virgin olive oil, helps lower your "bad" LDL cholesterol, thanks to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
- An intelligent way to improve cholesterol levels is to replace meats high in saturated fat with healthier options, like fish. Additionally, some fish types provide heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Salmon, albacore tuna (fresh and canned), sardines, lake trout, and mackerel are excellent choices.
- There are plant sterols and pectin in cucumbers. There is evidence that these substances may help lower blood cholesterol levels. In addition, in animal and test-tube studies, researchers found that cucumbers may help lower blood sugar levels and prevent complications associated with diabetes.
- Avocado oil is heart-healthy because it contains oleic acid, an unsaturated fat. In addition, it has vitamin E and helps the body absorb fat-soluble vitamins. Moreover, avocado oil is a good source of monounsaturated fats, reducing LDL cholesterol and raising HDL triglycerides.
- Celery is a vegetable with many health benefits. The fiber and nutrients help lower cholesterol, treat constipation, reduce stress hormone levels, fight inflammation and provide many other benefits.
- Turkey bacon is becoming increasingly popular as an alternative to regular bacon as turkey contains less cholesterol, probably about 20% less than regular pork bacon.
- Rather than white, refined bread and some whole grains, nutrition experts touting the virtues of the keto diet recommend baking goods with almond, coconut, or lupin flour.
Food is an excellent ally for those trying to reduce carbs and cholesterol levels while staying in ketosis. Consider breaking your daily overnight fast in the morning or mid-afternoon with some of these ideal options to regulate your triglycerides throughout the day:
- Studies have found that foods containing omega-3 fatty acids effectively lower triglycerides. Ensure that you eat fatty fish at least two or three times a week to increase your omega-3 intake. Salmon, mackerel, sardines, tuna, herring, and trout are ideal options.
Moreover, the following can also assist in lowering triglyceride levels quickly to preserve heart health:
Losing excess body fat if you are overweight.
Avoid foods and drinks filled with unwanted sugar and carbohydrates.
Reduce intake of red meat, fried foods, cheese, butter, oils, and nuts, especially if your triglyceride levels are already borderline or high.
You don't have to live with high cholesterol forever. By exercising, eliminating fast-acting sugars and carbs, and maintaining optimal sleep habits, you can regulate triglycerides and halt degenerative damage related to unhealthy lifestyle factors and heredity.
The Mediterranean Keto Lifestyle
The Mediterranean take on the centuries-old ketogenic diet is not a fad but rather a pairing of proven approaches to eating associated with optimal health and longevity.
The fundamental approach when cutting carbs and boosting heart health is focusing on a healthy, holistic approach that includes clean eating, physical activity, and sharing meals with family and friends.
The consumption of vegetables, select pulse vegetables like lupin beans, and olive oil; regular, moderate exercise; lower stress levels; close relationships with friends and family; interaction, and being an active part of a community, collectively contribute to our overall health and well-being.
Consider adopting these seven principles, to approach the keto diet from a Mediterranea perspective, to optimize triglycerides and promote heart health while adopting a low-carb, high-fat diet:
- Eat healthily: This tip seems obvious but its importance makes it worth reiterating. Keto-friendly convenience foods have their place in any low-carb, high-fat lifestyle, but sourcing clean whole food sources is crucial when also seeking to improve heart health––so beware.
- Seek the silver linings: Life can get heavy, and finding moments to laugh and do things that bring you joy are essential to well-being while journeying to cut the carbs.
- Carve out bright spots: Seek ways to reconnect with the importance of enjoying the simple things in life and focus on creating new and cherished memories with the important people in your life.
- Get moving regularly: There’s no one right way to get active. Find activities you enjoy and make you feel invigorated and incorporate more of those experiences into your weekly routine.
- Be intentional about spending quality time with loved ones. Meaningful, healthy social bonds are a vital component of comprehensive wellness.
- Be productive and stay engaged in interests, hobbies, and other activities that enrich your quality of life as an invaluable form of self-care.
Heart-Healthy Keto Foods and Beverages to Enjoy
By switching from running on glucose to an efficient fat-burning state and ketosis, we can then run effortlessly on fat and ketones for energy. Prepare your pantry, fridge, and freezer with the following foods to eliminate fast-acting carbs and sugars while consuming heart-healthy fats and proteins:
Poultry: Chicken or turkey breast, sans skin, or lean ground chicken or turkey, is an excellent heart-healthy meat option for your keto meal plan.
Lean meats: Enjoy cuts like pork shoulder, beef sirloin, or lean ground beef.
MCTs (medium-chain triglycerides) in coconut oil are high in saturated fats. Still, you should consume them wisely and carefully and choose heart-healthy fat sources, such as avocado and olive oil, as primary fat selections.
Increase your fiber intake: Fiber-rich foods are a crucial part of a ketogenic diet, as they help promote feelings of fullness and healthy digestion.
Seafood and Fish
Fruits and Vegetables
By sourcing from diverse foods, you'll get various nutrients from a bounty of low-glycemic vegetables and fruits—with a helpful assortment of selections that are fresh, frozen, canned, freeze-dried, or dehydrated.
- Fresh vegetables like tomatoes, cabbage, and asparagus
- Leafy greens for salads, like arugula, spinach, and kale
- Low-carb canned vegetables
- Broccoli, cauliflower, and other frozen cruciferous vegetables without sauces or butter––just a drizzling of cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil
- Fresh fruits like raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, or blackberries
- Lupin Beans
- Nuts and Nut Butters
Water is the ideal beverage to consume regularly when cutting carbs, as more body fluids are released when living in a ketotic state. But there are additional beverages to include in your daily diet to boost hydration, electrolytes, and other vital nutrients.
Consider adding the following heart-healthy beverages to your keto meal plan:
- Flavored seltzer water, unsweetened
- Coconut water (monitor portions and macros)
- Bone broth (rich in minerals and essential electrolytes)
- Probiotic-rich dairy or coconut-based yogurt kefir to boost gut health and promote a healthy microbiome (unsweetened)
- Turmeric tea is a potent and anti-inflammatory beverage perfect for soothing sore and achy joints.
- Green or oolong tea are fantastic and antioxidant beverage that boost metabolism and aid in optimal digestion.
Triglycerides are a concern for those with borderline levels who eat more fat, specifically certain saturated fats, as part of a low-carb, high-fat ketogenic diet. But crafting a conscious keto meal plan, and committing to other healthy lifestyle habits while following a keto diet can yield amazing results!
In addition to improving cardiovascular health, mental sharpness, and stamina and providing steady increases in energy, it is an ideal complement to moderate-intensity and impact activities that enhance physical fitness and agility.
Prepare a meal plan containing nutrient-dense whole foods. Focus on fish and lean meats, and opt for cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil as your preferred fat. Your heart health will improve as you reduce carbohydrates and lose weight effortlessly.
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