They might not win any beauty contests, but prunes' rich nutrient content makes them a welcome addition to any health-conscious diet. Guidelines released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture count a half-cup of dried prunes as equivalent to 1 cup of fruit -- two-thirds of the daily fruit intake for women and one-half for men. Prunes increase your intake of several essential nutrients and offer a lot of nutritional value thanks to their fiber, vitamin and mineral content.
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The Basics: Calories and Macronutrients
Prunes are relatively high in calories -- each half-cup serving contains 209 calories. Most of prunes' calories come from carbohydrates, including 33 grams of natural sugars that serve as a source of energy. Prunes also contain a specialized type of carbohydrate, called dietary fiber. You need several grams of fiber daily -- 38 for men and 25 for women -- to enjoy its health benefits, which include a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and improved digestive health. A half-cup serving of prunes contributes 6 grams toward this goal. A serving of prunes also provides a small amount of protein, approximately 2 grams, and less than half a gram of fat.
Prunes serve as excellent sources of vitamin K and also provide you with niacin, also called vitamin B-3. Each half-cup serving contains 52 micrograms of vitamin K and 1.6 milligrams of niacin. This makes up 10 percent of the recommended daily niacin intake and 42 percent of the recommended daily vitamin K intake for men, as well as 11 percent and 58 percent of the recommended daily niacin and vitamin K intakes for women, respectively. Getting enough niacin in your diet helps your body deal with physiological stress and promotes healthy blood circulation, while vitamin K facilitates blood clot formation and nourishes your bones.
Adding prunes to your diet means you'll also consume more minerals, especially magnesium and potassium. Magnesium contributes to healthy cell membranes and supports new cell growth by promoting DNA synthesis, while potassium facilitates nerve and muscle function and helps maintain your body's fluid balance. Each half-cup serving of prunes contains 36 milligrams of magnesium and 637 milligrams of potassium. This makes up 14 percent of your daily recommended potassium intake, as well as 11 percent and 9 percent of the daily recommended magnesium intakes for women and men.
Consuming More Prunes
Prunes don't require refrigeration, and they travel well, so they make healthful snacks that can be consumed on the go. You can also use prunes to add natural sweetness to salads -- try a mixture of peppery arugula, fresh sliced figs, toasted chopped pecans and chopped prunes for a light but flavorful lunch. Alternatively, add a few prunes to your morning cereal, bake them into whole-grain muffins or blend them into your smoothies.