Menopause: Managing Symptoms through Diet (cont.)

The easiest way to avoid high-sugar foods is to understand what they are:

Americans consume 21% of our refined sugar from soft drinks. 18% comes from sweets, including syrups, jellies, jam, ices, Popsicles and table sugar. 13% comes from bakery desserts, including cakes, cookies, pies, pastries, and sweet crackers. 10% comes from ice cream, puddings, yogurts and other milk products. 6% comes from breads and grains. 5% come from breakfast cereals.

Food Step 9: Add Flaxseed to Your Diet

Flaxseed is just now being studied in humans, mostly for its cholesterol-lowering benefits and tumor-reducing properties with some types of cancers. We'll know much more about its true health benefits in the coming years.

Yet flaxseed has actually been around and used as food and medicine for hundreds of years. We know that flaxseed is an extraordinary source of the phytoestrogen lignans, containing 75 to 800 times as much as other plant sources. Lignans are thought to lower cancer risk by blocking some effects of the estrogen your body naturally produces.

It's also packed with the plant form of omega-3 fatty acids, called alpha-linolenic acid. The omega-3s in flaxseed may help prevent blood clots that might lead to heart attacks, according to Stephen Cunnane, PhD, a University of Toronto nutrition researcher.

But some people are highly allergic to flaxseed, so follow these tips to add it gradually to your diet:

Start with 1/4 teaspoon of ground flaxseed a day, and increase the amount gradually if you don't have a reaction. Work up to 1 teaspoon a few times a week as a moderate approach. Women at high risk of breast cancer are taking up to 2 tablespoons a day in clinical trials, but you may want to wait until more is known about the optimum daily dose before consuming that amount. Remember, flaxseed oil won't work, because oil does not contain phytoestrogens, the plant form of estrogen. Also, you must grind the flaxseeds; if you don't, the whole seeds will just pass through your digestive system. Next: Manage your weight through exercise.

Food Step 10: Exercise, Exercise, Exercise

Exercise isn't a food, but it is tied into your diet. There are so many benefits of exercise during menopause that it deserves to be included in these 10 important steps.

Exercising during menopause will help decrease blood cholesterol levels, decrease bone loss, improve your ability to deal with stress, improve circulation, improve heart function and improve your body's ability to use oxygen and nutrients.

And, of course, exercise is an ideal way to manage weight. Many women gain considerable weight in their 40s. This could result from the age-related drop in our metabolic rate. Or it could be caused by a reduction in physical activity as we age. Either way, exercise is your best defense.

Make exercise a priority and a habit. Here are three regimens to follow, depending on your level of fitness and your doctor's advice.

To Start: Frequency: 2 to 3 times a week. Intensity: 40% maximum heart rate. Duration: 15 to 30 minutes.

To Become Physically Fit: Frequency: 4 times a week. Intensity: 70-90% maximum heart rate. Duration: 15 to 30 minutes.

To Lose Weight: Frequency: 5 times a week. Intensity: 45-60% maximum heart rate. Duration: 45 to 60 minutes.

Originally published Sept. 20, 2002.

Edited by Charlotte E. Grayson MD, September, 2002. Adapted, with permission of the publisher, from TELL ME WHAT TO EAT AS I APPROACH MENOPAUSE

© 2002 WebMD Inc. All rights reserved.

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