Menopause: Managing Symptoms through Diet (cont.)

Sprinkle beans in your green salads and pasta salads. Add beans to soups, stews or chili that you make. Buy canned bean soups and vegetarian chili for a quick dish at home. Order bean soups or cassoulets in restaurants. Make a quick 3-bean salad by tossing a light dressing with three different types of canned beans. Make a delicious bean dip for parties. Next: The value of omega-3 fatty acids in relieving menopause symptoms.

Food Step 4: Eat More of the Right Fats

Yes, it is important to avoid eating a diet that is high in fat, especially saturated fat. High-fat foods are usually high in calories and low in nutrients, exactly the opposite of what a woman in or past menopause needs. But it's even more important to get the right fats in your diet -- fats that may protect against heart disease and cancer.

Research indicates the right fats are omega-3 fatty acids found in fish, olive oil and canola oil.

The wrong fats are saturated fats and trans fatty acids found in foods like packaged cookies, chips, and crackers.

Here are ways to build good fats into your meals, without sacrificing flavor:

Switch to olive oil and canola oil. Eat more fish. Eat less animal fat by choosing leaner meats and lower-fat dairy products. Limit foods that contain hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils. Buy packaged products less often because most still used hydrogenated omega-6 oils. Avoid stick margarine. Look for tub margarine that lists liquid canola oil or olive oil as the first ingredient.

Food Step 5: Choose Your Beverages Wisely

What you choose to quench your thirst can either rob your body of important nutrients or add them. Most people believe we should drink eight glasses of water a day, but few of us do. Water helps keeps our kidneys flushed.

On the other hand caffeine is a diuretic, which means it forces our kidneys to get rid of more water than they should. This can encourage dehydration. Caffeine, alcohol, and carbonated beverages such as soft drinks also don't do your bones any favors. Some lower the amount of calcium your body takes in from food, and others increase the amount of calcium your body loses through the kidneys.

Try drinking a glass of juice each day instead. Most citrus fruits, in general, contain more than a hundred phytochemicals. What happens to these when an orange or grapefruit is "juiced?" Many of them remain, especially if you buy juice with pulp.

Here are a few fun juices to stock in your fridge:

Orange juice. Calcium-fortified orange or orange-tangerine juice gives you a nice dose of calcium along with vitamin C and folic acid. Carrot juice. It takes getting used to, but carrot juice can be refreshing, not to mention very nutritious. Carrots give us at least three important phytochemicals: phenolic acids, terpenes and carotenoids (including beta carotene). Purple grape juice. There are some powerful antioxidants to be found in these purple gems. In fact, the same beneficial antioxidants that are in red wine are also found in nonalcoholic grape juice. Next: Calcium and small portions hit the mark with menopause symptoms.

Food Step 6: Be a Grazer Not a Gorger

Many women eat their largest meal of the day at the end of the day -- dinner. And many women eat light during the day when our body needs fuel the most -- breakfast and lunch. When you do this, your body is more likely to store much of those calories as body fat because your body is metabolizing all those dinner calories at a time you are burning the fewest calories - when you're asleep.

There are many reasons to become a grazer: Studies have shown that people who eat small, frequent meals throughout the day tend to consume fewer calories and fat grams at the end of the day. Here's another potential weight-loss payoff: You burn more calories metabolizing food when you spread it throughout the day. Grazing also prevents tiredness brought on by drops in blood glucose, and it's easier on your stomach.

Eating big dinners is a tough habit to break, especially if your family is accustomed to such meals. Here are some changes you can incorporate a little at a time. Soon you'll enjoy a light and comfortable dinner.

Serve lower fat dinners and desserts as often as possible. Serve small or moderate portions at dinner and dessert. Select meals that lend themselves to lightness, such as all-in-one dishes, hearty soups, and dinner salads. Discourage late-night snacking and big desserts. Many people eat at night because they're bored. Instead of eating, take a relaxing bath, read a good book, listen to music, or catch up with friends on the phone.

Food Step 7: Eat Calcium-Rich Food Every Day

Calcium is essential to a woman's health as she ages. Most women should get at least 1,000 to 1,500 mg of calcium from food. But what if you don't like milk? Here are some alternative suggestions that may appeal to you:

Make your oatmeal or hot cereal with water instead of milk. Order a decaf latte with low-fat or non-fat milk. Drink a cup of chocolate soy milk each day. Take a vitamin mineral supplement that contains 100% of the daily value for vitamin D and 25% of the daily value for calcium. Eat broccoli, a leafy green vegetable, or beans. Try some great-tasting low-fat yogurt, cottage cheese, or cheese. Just one cup of yogurt would add 345 mgs of calcium to your daily total. Enjoy creamed soups using low-fat milk instead of cream. Buy orange juice fortified with calcium. Next: The benefits of flaxseed and a low-sugar diet in easing menopause symptoms.

Food Step 8: Avoid High-Fat, High-Sugar Foods

At this time in your life, preventing weight gain is important. Now, more than ever, women need to minimize extra calories, especially from high-fat, high-sugar foods that don't offer a bounty of nutrients. We addressed fats in Food Step 4. There are equally valuable reasons to know your sugar.

Too much sugar in your diet can cause your blood sugar to spike, which stimulates the pancreas to release more of the hormone insulin. Excess insulin accelerates the conversion of calories into fats in the blood. And it stimulates the enzyme that increases the uptake of fat from the bloodstream into fat in the body's cells.

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