Elaine Magee MPH, RD book author and national columnist.

Q:    Tell me about the benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids and where I can
find them?

A: Omega-3 fatty acids help wage war against both heart disease and cancer.  Omega-3s have been linked to lowering both blood pressure and serum triglyceride levels (high serum triglycerides have recently been found to be an independent risk factor for heart disease), preventing blood clots (decreasing the chance of stroke), and preventing the closing of blood vessels following vascular surgery. Omega-3s may even help increase levels of HDL (good) cholesterol. In one study eating fish two times a month decreased risk of cardiac arrest by 30 percent (compared to those who ate no fish), while eating fish even more often--once a week--decreased the risk of cardiac arrest by 50 percent.

Omega-3s have also been shown to slow or prevent cancerous tumor growth (it looks most helpful for colon and breast cancer) and reduce symptoms of inflammatory disease, as is the case with rheumatoid arthritis.

Best Food sources: higher fat fishes (sardines, salmon, mackerel, anchovies, herring) along with other seafood sources (striped bass, bluefish, shark, tuna and canned tuna, rainbow trout, and pacific oysters), and some plant foods (the body converts some of the alpha-linolenic acid to one of the omega-3 fatty acids) such as flaxseed, walnuts, rapeseed (used to make canola oil), soybeans,
spinach, and mustard greens.

Q: My friends spend hundreds of dollars on all sorts of special
vitamins and supplements. Which ones should I consider?

A: Food is still the best way to get nutrients. Nature made it complete and balanced. Rarely can you take in too much of a vitamin, mineral, or phytochemical by eating whole foods. But in this busy day and age, many of us don't quite meet the recommendations for certain vitamins and minerals. Menopause is certainly no exception.

You can cover a lot of nutritional ground just by taking a really good multivitamin with minerals. It doesn't sound as glamorous as the other stuff your friends are buying, but it isn't as expensive either. Nearly half of the women in America take some type of vitamin-mineral supplement. A complete supplement should contain all of the B vitamins plus folic acid, for example, and all the essential vitamins and minerals. And even though we don't yet have a daily recommended amount for the mineral chromium, it is important that your supplement have at least the minimum suggested by the RDA committee--50 micrograms--because it is one of the minerals we seem to need more of as we age. It is involved in carbohydrate and fat metabolism and helps maintain blood sugar levels and possibly participates in insulin's action in the body.

The multivitamin needs not only to have the right substances, but the right amounts. You want your multivitamin with minerals to contain 100% of the Daily Value for most of t he vitamins and minerals. You will find a few exceptions. Biotin will only be at 10% DV because it is very expensive. Calcium or Magnesium won't generally be found in amounts greater than 25% DV. Because they add so much bulk, our vitamins would start to resemble horse pills at the 100-percent level.

Elaine Magee MPH, RD-
"The Recipe Doctor" - book author and national columnist.