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Women and Nutrition: A Menu of Special Needs

by Dori Stehlin

More than anything else in the diet, saturated fat can raise your blood cholesterol level. Because of this risk, less than one- third of your daily fat intake (less than 10 percent of total calories) should come from saturated fats.

That's the bad news. The good news is polyunsaturated and mono-unsaturated may actually lower blood cholesterol levels. The diet and health report recommends that not more than 10 percent of total calories should be from polyunsaturated fat, and mono-unsaturated fat should make up the remaining 10 percent.

The foods with the highest amounts of saturated fat come from animals--meat, of course, and foods derived from animals, such as butter, cream, ice cream, and cheese. In addition to animal products, coconut and palm kernel oils are very high in saturated fat--over 90 percent.

The best sources for polyunsaturated fats are plant-based oils--sunflower, corn, soybean, cottonseed, and safflower. Mono-unsaturated fats are found in the largest amounts in olive, canola and peanut oils.

Fiber

An apple a day--that is, a whole apple with the skin--will give you approximately 3.6 grams of fiber. That's a good start, but you still need a lot more fruits vegetables, and whole grains to meet the daily level of 20 to 30 grams of fiber recommended by the National Cancer Institute.

Eating foods with plenty of complex carbohydrates and fiber (vegetables, fruits, and grain products) is part of a healthy diet for several reasons. A fiber-rich diet is helpful in the management of constipation and may be related to lower rates of colon cancer. These types of foods are generally low in fat and can be substitutes for fatty foods.

Fiber comes in two forms--insoluble and soluble. Insoluble fiber, mostly found in whole-grain products, vegetables and fruit, provides bulk for stool formation and helps move wastes more quickly through the colon. Another benefit is the full feeling fiber may create in the stomach, a possible deterrent to overeating.

Soluble fiber has been linked to lowering blood cholesterol levels, but that's still a research area according to the Surgeon General's Report on Nutrition and Health. there are many sources of soluble fiber, including peas and beans, many vegetables and fruits, and rice, corn and oat bran. There are even small amounts in pasta, crackers, and other bakery products.

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