April 2014

Menopause Makeover

Turning 50, 60, 70, or more is not what it used to be. Women in their second 50 years are taking up mountain climbing, biking across the country, returning to college to finish a degree, traveling the world, starting their own business, and much more. (For inspiration, read the book, What Makes Olga Run.) We’ve come a long way from the days when women didn’t outlive their ovaries, let alone consider living as many years after, as they had lived before, menopause. But, that doesn’t mean we get off Scott-free.

Most menopausal symptoms can be traced to the ebb and flow of hormones, which resemble Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride during peri-menopause. Your ovaries are the manufacturing hub for the female hormone estrogen. As the ovaries shut down, estrogen levels surge, fluctuate, and eventually decline. Here is where diet can help. Anything that levels the surges in estrogen curbs the symptoms of the menopause.

Estrogen-like compounds, called phytoestrogens (meaning plant estrogens), found in soybeans can help offset the drop in estrogen that accompanies menopause. While not exactly like estrogen, phytoestrogens act much like the female hormone, binding to the body’s estrogen receptors and supplementing the effects of estrogen when levels are low. How much soy do you need ? No one is sure, but preliminary evidence suggests that as little as two glasses of soymilk or two to four ounces of tofu daily might be all you need. Don’t take concentrated pills or powders; stick to real soy foods, since excessive intake (more than 50mg of phytoestrogens) might increase, rather than decrease cancer risk, at least in people with a family history..

A woman also might notice a change in mood as she approaches menopause. As estrogen fluctuates, so does brain chemistry, including a nerve chemical called serotonin. When serotonin levels are low, a woman is more likely to crave sweets and feel grumpy, while a rise in serotonin curbs the cravings and restores a more agreeable mood. If serotonin is at the root of the mood swings, then including a carbohydrate-rich snack, such as a toasted English muffin with honey or a small bowl of peach sorbet with a vanilla wafer, could be all it takes to boost serotonin levels and mood. Also, load the plate with antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables to stem the memory loss that sometimes accompanies menopause. Then supplement, including a moderate-dose multi vitamin and mineral, extra vitamin D, at least 220 milligrams of the omega-3 DHA, a calcium-magnesium, and a supplement that contains the eye-protecting compounds, lutein and zeaxanthin

To further tame the menopausal hot flash:

  • Avoid coffee, chocolate, alcohol and spicy foods, all of which alter blood flow and can increase the symptoms of hot flashes.
  • Eat small meals and snacks regularly throughout the day. Large meals increase body temperature and might aggravate a hot flash.
  • Place a glass of ice water by the bed at night to drink at the first sign of an approaching night sweat. Also try opening the bedroom window to keep the cool air flowing, use 100 percent cotton sheets, and try using a small fan by the bed.
  • Be careful of what herb teas you drink. Some herbs, such as black cohosh or dong quai, cause blood vessel dilation and could aggravate a hot flash.
  • Try vitamins E and C. Some women report these vitamins helped improve symptoms of hot flashes; however, this evidence is sketchy at best.
  • Dress in layers, so you can add or subtract clothes as your body’s temperature fluctuates.
  • Exercise! Every day and as vigorously as possible. Women who exercise in their second 50 years not only slow the aging process, they even reverse it.

My Speaking and Media Schedule

I may be doing an appearance or event in your area. Check it out:

1. Speaking at the Food for Thought event at the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health on April 3rd

2. Speaking at the Shopping for Health event at the Francis Marion Hotel in Charleston, South Carolina on April 7th

3. Speaking on The New American Diet at the Carmichael Lynch Spong agency in Minneapolis on April 16th

4. Part of the Break Free From Your Depression Telesummit on April 10th

5. Appearing on AMNorthWest, KATU in Portland, Oregon on April 24th.

Just Do This Today – Boost Your Mood

An all-carb snack can raise levels of the feel-good chemical, serotonin. To prevent blood sugar swells caused by sugar, you need a quality, whole grain carbohydrate that supplies a steady, slow release of sugar into the bloodstream, such as:

  • A bowl of air-popped popcorn
  • Half a whole wheat cinnamon bagel topped with all-fruit jam and/or fat-free cream cheese
  • Fat-free, whole wheat crackers and fruit
  • A small bowl of oatmeal topped with brown sugar
  • Pretzels and orange juice
  • Fresh fruit salad topped with candied ginger and served with a slice of cinnamon toast
  • A low-fat, carrot muffin topped with apple butter
  • A whole wheat toaster waffle topped with apricot syrup

Hot Off the Diet Press

Sweet Death: The added sugar in many Americans’ diets more than doubles their risk of death from heart disease, says researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. The study used data collected from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES 1988 through 2010) and included more than 42,000 people. Results showed that added sugar intake increased during that time period from 15.7% to 16.8%, then decreased to 14.9% by 2010. There was a dose-response reaction to sugar intake and heart disease risk. More than 70% of Americans consume more than 10% of calories from added sugar, which was associated with a 20% increased risk for heart-related death. The one in every ten Americans who consumes a quarter or more of their calorie intake as added sugar have a more than doubled risk for heart disease death. Approximately 37% of the added sugar in Americans’ diets comes from sugar-sweetened beverages, including soda, energy drinks, bottled teas, and fruit-like beverages.

Yang Q, Zhang Z, Greeg E, et al: Added sugar intake and cardiovascular diseases mortality among US adults. JAMA Internal Medicine 2014;February 3rd.

Photo credit:  chotda via Compfight

Mediterranean Diet Wins Again: Another study, this time from Harvard Medical School, concludes that eating like a Greek can save your life. Researchers asked 780 firefighters, ages 18-years-old and older how closely they followed the traditional Mediterranean diet rich in fish, nuts, vegetables, and fruit. They then gathered information on weight, cholesterol, blood pressures, and blood sugar levels during the subsequent five years. Results showed the more closely the men followed the Mediterranean diet, the lower their risk of developing key markers for heart disease, showing a 35% lower risk of being diagnosed with metabolic syndrome. They also had a 43% lower risk of weight gain compared to the men whose diets least resembled the Mediterranean diet.

Yang J, Farioli A, Korre M, et al: Modified Mediterranean diet score and cardiovascular risk in a north American working population. PloS One 2014;February 4th.


Fishing for Lower Blood Pressure: If you’re at risk for high blood pressure, then adding a few servings every week of fatty fish could help keep that risk at bay. Researchers at the Center for Epidemiology in Chicago conducted a comprehensive meta-analysis of 70 randomized, controlled trials on adults who consumed the omega-3 fats, EPA and DHA from seafood, fortified foods, or dietary supplements. The study included trials with people who had high blood pressure but were not taking medications and who had normal blood pressures. Results showed that systolic blood pressures were 4.51mmHg and diastolic pressures were 3.05mmHg in adults with existing high blood pressure who consumed these omega-3 fats. Blood pressures also dropped in people with normal blood pressures when omega-3 intake was increased. The researchers conclude that, “…provision of EPA and DHA reduces systolic blood pressure, while provision of [at least 2 grams or more] reduces diastolic blood pressure.”

Miller P, Van Elswyk M, Alexander D: Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid and blood pressure. American Journal of Hypertension 2014;March 6th.

Photo credit: Stéphanie Kilgast via Compfight

Food & Mood Tip – What is Behind Those Cravings?

It is difficult to imagine in this era of gluttony, that for 99.9% of the millions of years our ancestors walked this earth, finding food was a challenge. To survive, our Stone Age ancestor’s needed concentrated calories – the sweet and greasy foods that pack the greatest calorie punch per bite. These foods were rare and limited to fruit or honey in season, wild game, and a few nuts, seeds, and avocados. As a result, the human body evolved complex appetite-control systems to ensure we eat enough when these foods are around and to drive us to look for them when they’re not.

That elaborate crave control center includes a symphony of brain chemicals, such as neuropeptide Y (NPY) and serotonin, that increase our yearnings for carbohydrate-rich foods. Today, those chemical create a strong desire for any starch or sweet, from cereal, pasta, and rice to cakes, cookies, and pies. Other brain chemicals, such as galanin and the endorphins, drive our modern desires for fatty foods, such as pizza, hamburgers, chocolate, fries, ice cream, and chips. There appears to be no chemistry driving us to crave low-calorie, fiber-rich broccoli, chard, or lima beans, so we depend on our highly-evolved rational minds to make these food choices! Next time you are tempted by a brownie (doughnut, cheesecake, candy bar…), step back and ask yourself whether it is your animal or lower brain centers reacting to food or are you using your higher brain, your cortex, to make wise decisions.

Photo credit: Creative Commons License darwin Bell via Compfight,  Jessica Merz via Compfight

Mood-Boosting Recipe of the Month

Mixed Berry Trifle
From The Food & Mood Cookbook by Elizabeth Somer and Jeanette Williams

Make the pudding and cake ahead of time, assemble in the evening, and let this dessert blend its flavors overnight or through the day and you have a delicious dessert for company or family with no last-minute preparation. If you want to splurge, use real whipped cream instead of the dessert topping (this adds 24 more calories and two grams of saturated fat per serving). Bake the leftover cake mix and freeze to use for strawberry shortcake at a later date. An extra bonus, this desserts supplies a third of your day’s need for vitamin C and 25 percent of your daily requirement for calcium and vitamin B2.

cooking spray
1 box commercial white or yellow cake mix (French Vanilla works especially well)
1/4 cup canola oil
3/4 cup liquid egg substitute
2/3 cups water
1 (4.6-ounce) box vanilla pudding
2 cups fat-free evaporated milk
1 cup nonfat milk
2 (16-ounce) bags frozen mixed berries (strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, blueberries), thawed
1 (50-ml) bottle Grand Marnier
2 tablespoons sugar
1 ½ teaspoons lemon zest, finely grated
1 cup fat-free whipped topping
1 tablespoon sliced almonds

Spray a bread pan with cooking spray. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

1) Place cake mix, oil, egg substitute, and water in a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer for 2 minutes (or stir by hand for 3 minutes). Don’t over beat. Pour enough batter into bread pan that it fills pan half way up the sides. (You will have about 1/3 of batter left over, which you can bake in a separate pan for later use.) Bake for 35 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from pan and cool completely. Cut 7 slices of cake, each 2/3 inch thick (discard the remaining 1/4 of cake).

2) Make pudding according to directions on box, except use evaporated milk and nonfat milk. Pour into bowl, cover with plastic wrap so that top does not form a skin, and refrigerate until completely cool.

3) Place berries in a colander and drain some of the excess juice. Place berries in a large bowl and mix with Grand Marnier, sugar, and lemon juice. Set aside.

4) Assemble the trifle in a 2 ½ quart glass serving bowl. Arrange half the cake pieces snugly in the bottom of the bowl (break them into pieces if needed). Spoon half the berries with their juices over the cake slices. Spoon half the pudding over the berries and spread evenly to coat top. Repeat ending with pudding. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours and up to one day.

5) Just before serving, top trifle with dollops of dessert topping and sprinkle with almonds. Makes 12 servings.

Nutritional Analysis per serving: 330 Calories; 22 percent fat (8 grams); 1 gram saturated fat; 10 percent protein; 66 percent carbohydrate; 3.3 grams fiber.

Answers to “Do You Know?” From Last Issue:

Is palm oil a healthy alternative to trans fats.
No! Not only is this tropical oil highly saturated, thus increasing the risk for diseases like heart disease and colon cancer, but it is one of the largest causes of rainforest deforestation and destruction. Our consumption of palm oil has increased by 500% in the past decade and is now an ingredient in up to half of all packaged and processed foods. Huge areas of ancient rainforest in Indonesia and Malaysia have been bulldozed to plant these palms. According to one source, eight million acres have been cleared and burned already. Animals, such as the orangutan, are headed for extinction as a result. Avoid any product that contains this harmful oil!

2. Do carrots improve your eyesight?
Carrots are rich in the building block for vitamin A, beta carotene. Vitamin A is important in preventing blindness, especially night blindness where a car’s headlights can temporarily blind you. The beta carotene in carrots also independently helps protect eyes from glaucoma and macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness in seniors. However, don’t expect to toss your glasses by adding carrots to the diet, since you’ll only help protect against future vision loss if your diet is very low in beta carotene or vitamin A. Beta carotene doesn’t work alone. Other nutrients, such as vitamin C, zinc, the omega-3 fats DHA and EPA, lutein and zeaxanthin are important for protecting the eyes from damage associated with vision loss. Finally, wear sunglasses, since most of that damage is caused by UV rays that hit unprotected eyes throughout a lifetime.

Photo credit: Creative Commons License ccharmon via Compfight

Do You Know?

1. True or false. The omega-3s in flax, walnuts, and/or soy help lower the risk for dementia and depression.

2. True or false. All sugar is bad for you, both added and natural sugars.

Check the next issue for the answers….

Label Lingo – What Does “Organic” Mean on a Label for Raw Chicken?

Relax. This time there actually are standards for the term “organic” to be used on poultry. The USDA requires that these chickens be fed vegetarian diets with feed produced without genetically modified organisms or toxic synthetic pesticides. The chicks can be treated with antibiotics through the first day of their lives, but not after that. Access to the outdoors also is required, but no specific standards have been set for how large an area that has to be, the size of the door leading outside, or the amount of time the birds are allowed out in the open. Annual inspections also are required to keep farmers honest.

Food Finds/Food Fails:

Food Finds:
1. Silk Soymilk w/ DHA Omega 3: For those of you who are lactose intolerant or just prefer soymilk over regular milk, this soymilk is one of the best. It tastes great and contains at least a dash of the omega-3 DHA so important for physical and mental health. Since up to 75% of Americans get no DHA on any given day, what a tasty way to get some (32 milligrams per cup) of your quota while also protecting your bones with the calcium and vitamin D. It’s also cholesterol-free, contains 7 grams of heart-healthy soy protein, and contains no GMOs.

Eat Smart Sweet Kale/Chou Frise Doux: OK, the name is a bit much, but this salad blend from Costco is delicious! As the label touts, it contains 7 superfoods, including broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, and chicory. The dried cranberries and roasted pumpkin seeds add sweet and savory, while the sweet poppyseed dressing curbs any bitter from the veggies. My only warning is to go light on the dressing, since too much of a good thing can turn a healthy salad into a waist-expanding disaster.

Food Fails:
Tilapia: What looks like a fish and taste like a fish, but is closer to an aquatic chicken? That’s right…tilapia. Wild tilapia feeds on lake plants and algae, but most of the almost 500 million pounds of tilapia consumed by Americans last year was harvested from pens and cages in Latin America where it was fed pellets of corn and soy akin to cheap chicken feed. That might explain why its nutritional content is closer to beef than salmon. It supplies a meager 240 milligrams of omega-3s compared to 2,590 milligrams in an equal serving of salmon. Granted it’s lower in calories and slightly lower in cholesterol compared to extra-lean beef, but don’t be fooled into thinking you are getting a serving of omega-3-rich seafood. Batter and fry it and it’s no better than a quarter pounder.

Birds Eye Voila! Frozen Alfredo Chicken: This meal in a bag contains chicken, pasta, and vegetables. Not bad, right? Except take a closer look at the recommended portion, which is one cup…more like a tiny appetizer than a meal. At best, it’s more likely you will split the 21 ounce bag with a partner and that means 870 milligrams of sodium. Personally, I easily could have eaten the whole bag at one sitting for a total of 700 calories and 1,740 milligrams of sodium, which is a lot of calories and salt for something that implies it is rich in vegetables! If you choose this product, dilute the calories and sodium by adding a small bag of frozen plain vegetables to the dish.

The Daily Menu

Put know how into practice with this simple, nutritious meal plan. Eliminate the snacks if you want to cut additional calories. And, with all the menus in my newsletter, feel free to tweak to your food preferences and choices.

1 frozen whole wheat waffle, toasted and topped with 2 tablespoon fat-free sour cream and 2/3 cup fresh or thawed blueberries.
6 ounces 100% grapefruit or orange juice
Herb tea (optional)

Mid-Morning Snack:
1 mango, peeled and sliced and topped with 6 ounces nonfat lemon yogurt and chopped mint leaves

1 / 2 Turkey sandwich made from 1 slice whole wheat bread, 2 ounces turkey breast, and 1 tablespoon cranberry sauce
Spinach salad made with 2 cups fresh chopped spinach, sliced mushrooms, 2 tablespoon fresh red raspberries, and 2 tablespoon fat-free raspberry vinaigrette dressing
Water, tea, or coffee

Mid-Afternoon Snack:
1 Tangerine, peeled and sectioned
Sparkling water with lime

Pasta with Tomatoes and Clams:
1 cup cooked pasta topped with:
Sauce: 1 / 2 cup chopped onion, 8 ounces stewed tomatoes, 2 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley, 2 minced garlic cloves, 1 / 2 teaspoon marjoram, salt and pepper simmered in non-stick skillet until onion is tender. Add 1/4 pound fresh, shelled steamer clams and cook for 10 minutes over medium-high heat. Pour over pasta.
1 cup steamed broccoli

Tomatoes with Mozzarella & Basil: Cut a medium tomato into three slices and top each slice with a thin slice of fresh mozzarella cheese and a fresh basil leaf. Drizzle 2 teaspoon low-fat balsamic vinaigrette dressing over the slices.

1 serving Mixed Berry Trifle

Nutritional Information: 1,800 Calories, 17 % fat (11 g saturated), 21% protein, 62 % carbs, 32 g fiber; 1,117 mg calcium; 484 mcg folate; 1,643 mg sodium.