My husband and I take medications to help rid us of extra fluid. However, I really dislike the idea of being on drugs. Can you tell me if there are certain foods I could eat to accomplish the same thing?ANSWER - We can understand how you might think that some foods could act as natural diuretics. That claim has been floating around for some time. Unfortunately, it's simply not true. We do have a couple of suggestions for you, though. Our hunch is that the reason you and your husband are taking diuretics is that your blood pressures are elevated. If so, chances are that the doctor has indicated two measures that can enhance the effectiveness of the drug: weight reduction and limiting salt. Losing weight, if you need to, can help lower blood pressure, and cutting back on salt may make it possible to use less medication.

Consuming vast quantities of celery, asparagus, watermelon or parsley - all foods that found their way into popular press as "natural" alternatives to medication - just won't work.

QUESTION - Is it true that the way dry cereals are processed interferes with the protein they contain, making it less useful to the body?

ANSWER - Steps in the processing of grain may decrease the digestibility of the protein in cereals to some extent, but it's nothing to worry about. In this country, we tend to get generous amounts of protein anyway. And there's no question that cereals, particularly those made from whole or lightly processed grains and served with skim or low-fat milk, are a dependably excellent and relatively inexpensive choice for breakfast.

The phenomenon to which you refer is called "denaturation," which, simply explained, is a change in the structure of the protein molecules. These molecules are made up of strings of amino acids attached to each other by "peptide bonds." The strings, referred to as polypeptide chains, are then linked to each other in a variety of ways. Denaturation is the term that describes a change in either the spatial arrangement or in the shape of the chains, without breaking the bonds.

Many things can cause this rearrangement of protein molecules, including acid, salt and heat. For example, the change you observe in the white part of a sunny-side-up egg is a result of denaturation. And in the case of dry cereals, the dry heat used to toast or puff the grains leads to the formation of extra links between the amino acids in adjacent chains. That change makes them more resistant to digestion.

The chemistry lesson aside, you can continue eating your morning cereal with pleasure and confidence.

QUESTION - Recently my daughter brought a friend home from college. The young woman comes from an island in the Caribbean and she prepared some wonderful food for us. One dish we loved was plantains, fried and refried. I'd like to make them again, but I want to avoid frying. Is there any other good way to cook plantain?

ANSWER - Yes. While frying is most commonly used, there are other methods. Plantains can be diced and added at the last minute to soups, stews or omelets. They can also be diced, boiled until just tender, and seasoned with lemon juice, pepper, a dash of salt and a bit of margarine.

Plantains are slightly higher in calories than bananas, which they resemble. Three-and-a-half ounces, about half a cup of the diced fruit, contains 120 calories, as opposed to 90 for the same amount of banana. But, as you have observed, it is the absorbed oil, at 125 calories per tablespoon, used for frying that quickly runs up the caloric tally.

In addition to the calories they provide, which come mainly from carbohydrate, plantains are an outstanding source of potassium. Other than that, they contribute only minor amounts of various vitamins and minerals.

QUESTION - Is roast goose high in saturated fat?

ANSWER - We often get a goose question at the holiday season! The answer to yours is yes. Three-and-a-half ounces of goose meat has close to 13 grams - nearly a tablespoon - of fat. Of that, practically 5 grams, or 38 percent, is saturated fat. For comparison, the same amount of dark-meat roaster chicken provides about 9 grams of fat, approximately one third of it saturated, and dark-meat turkey 7 grams of fat, of which 2 grams (28 percent) is saturated.

This serving of roasted goose would have 240 calories, compared to about 180 in the same amount of chicken or turkey. Clearly, if you're concerned about controlling your intake of saturated fat and calories, turkey and chicken are the finer fowl. However, if you only indulge in goose once a year, you may decide it's worth the dietary trade-off.

1990, Washington Post Writers Group