Triglycerides on the Menu

Which of the typical serving sizes of the pictured foods is most likely to raise the triglycerides level in your bloodstream?
  1. Red wine 
  2. Asparagus 
  3. Mayonnaise 
  4. Dinner rolls 
  5. Butter 
  6. Steak

Correct answer:

c. Dinner rolls

What you should know: 

A triglyceride is simply a molecule of fat. That being the case, you might think that fatty foods like butter, mayonnaise, and steak are most likely to raise your triglycerides level.

But there’s a joker in the deck: your liver. It’s designed to convert all excess calories into triglycerides—whether those calories start out as carbohydrates, fat, or protein. 

One dinner roll contains twice as many calories as the pat of butter you put on it, about the same number of calories as a tablespoon of mayonnaise, and about half the calories of a three-ounce steak. A dinner roll is not nearly as filling as those other foods and, once eaten, it’s easy enough to grab a second, if nothing else than to push those other foods onto your fork. 

Additionally, that dinner roll has a head start in getting turned into triglycerides: Because the roll is mostly carbohydrate, it is easily digested into its component parts–lots and lots of glucose molecules! These simple glucose molecules arrive to your liver much faster than the fats or protein in your meal.

Speaking of glucose, as far as your body is concerned, a little of it goes a long way. At normal blood sugar levels, your entire bloodstream carries only about a teaspoon of glucose. Not only does your body not need more, but high glucose levels are actually quite dangerous. So when the liver sees the surge of glucose generated by the rapid digestion of that dinner roll, it’s going to take fast action to change it to a different form—which is to say, triglycerides*.

*The first form of storage for excess glucose is a substance called glycogen, but your liver can only store about 400 calories worth of that. Depending on how long it’s been since your last meal and your activity level since then, there may not be much room for more when you sit down to dinner. 

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