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The Dietary Guidelines for Americans published by the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and Agriculture (USDA) recommend eating a variety of nutrient-dense foods while staying within caloric needs. For most people, this means eating an assortment of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and beans, and low-fat or fat-free milk products while limiting added sugar, sodium, saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, and alcohol.1

While some fats, in the form of oils, are an important part of a healthy diet, the type of fat and the total amount consumed should be considered. High intake of saturated fats, trans fats, and cholesterol may increase the risk of coronary heart disease. Most Americans should consume fewer than 10 percent of calories from saturated fats, less than 300 mg/day of cholesterol, and keep trans fatty acid consumption to a minimum. In 1999-2002, 53 percent of women exceeded the recommended maximum daily intake of saturated fat. This was most common among non-Hispanic White women, followed by Hispanic women. Salt, or sodium chloride, also plays an important role in heart health, as high salt intake can contribute to high blood pressure. Overall, almost 62 percent of women exceed the recommended maximum of 2,300 mg of sodium (about 1 teaspoon of salt) per day.

A varied diet comprising recommended food groups can help to reduce saturated fat and sodium intake and to increase intake of important vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin B12 and iron. B12 helps maintain healthy cells, and is needed to help make DNA, while iron is crucial to oxygen transport and the regulation of cell growth. Overall, 41.3 percent of women did not meet the daily recommendation for B12 and nearly twice as many, 81.3 percent, did not meet the recommendation for intake of iron.

1 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; U.S. Department of Agriculture. Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, January 2005.

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Women's Health USA 2006 is not copyrighted. Readers are free to duplicate and use all or part of the information contained on this page. Suggested Citation: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, Women's Health USA 2006. Rockville, Maryland: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2006.