Brie, a soft, creamy French cheese made of raw cow’s milk, is covered with a white surface consisting of Penicillium candidum mold. Often served baked with crackers, it makes an elegant, flavorful appetizer at gatherings or before dinner. It has 15 grams of protein per 1-ounce serving and contains a surprisingly high concentration of vitamins and minerals, but its high fat and cholesterol content make it less than heart-healthy.
Brie is a rich source of B-complex vitamins, which help your body turn food into energy and produce red blood cells that benefit your circulation. An ounce of brie provides half of the vitamin B-12 you need daily, as well as one-third of your recommended daily intake for riboflavin. It also gives you more than one-tenth of your daily requirement for folate and vitamin B-6. A serving of brie has nearly one-fifth of the vitamin A you should get daily, supplementing your diet with this antioxidant nutrient that helps you see in dim light.
Brie contains minerals that help keep your bones and teeth strong and prevent osteoporosis as you age. A 1-ounce serving of brie has 52 milligrams of calcium and 53 milligrams of phosphorus, giving you a little less than 10 percent of the calcium and phosphorus you should get daily. Additionally, an ounce of brie has nearly a milligram of zinc, about one-tenth of your recommended daily intake for this mineral that may benefit your immune system.
Highly-ripened cheeses, including brie, contain bioactive compounds that may help prevent leukemia cells from spreading, according to researchers who published a study in the “Journal of Dairy Science” in 2010. The researchers tested the effects of brie extracts on human leukemia cells and found that it showed strong chemopreventive activity. Changes in the nitrogen content of aged cheese, they concluded, may make it more powerful against cancer cells, so brie may play a role in the prevention of leukemic cell proliferation.
Although brie provides nutrients, eating it regularly can be harmful to your heart and cause weight gain. Each ounce of brie has 240 calories and 20 grams of fat — mostly saturated fat. It also has 72 milligrams of cholesterol. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute advises that saturated fat should constitute no more than 7 percent of your total caloric intake. It also recommends limiting your cholesterol intake to 200 milligrams a day. A high intake of saturated fat and cholesterol can cause plaque to develop in your arteries, increasing your risk of heart attack or stroke. Additionally, an ounce of brie has 453 milligrams of sodium, about one-fifth of the sodium you should have all day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Closely related to plums and peaches, the apricot is a small stone fruit rich in antioxidants and fiber. With its low calorie content and sweet flavor, it is a beneficial snack for anyone trying to lose weight and stay healthy. The apricot contains phytonutrients that provide additional health benefits.
A cup of sliced raw apricots provides about 10 percent of your recommended daily intake for potassium, a mineral that helps to regulate nerve function and the balance of water in your body. It can serve as a sweet treat without causing weight gain, further benefiting your heart. It provides more than 2 grams of protein and 3 grams of dietary fiber, which can lower your cholesterol and help you stay satisfied between meals, but it only has 79 calories.
Apricots contain plant pigments called flavonoids, which act as antioxidants in your body. Each 100-gram serving of apricots provides 5 milligrams of epicatechin and 4 milligrams of catechin, flavonoids that may help lower your cholesterol, improve your circulation and enhance you body’s ability oxidize fat, according to the University of California at Davis. Red wine is often praised for its content of these flavonoids, but apricots actually have more epicatechin than red wine, and they have more than half red wine’s catechin content.
To help you ward off illness and protect you from premature aging, a cup of raw apricots gives you a rich dose of antioxidant vitamins. It provides more than one-fifth of your recommended daily intake for vitamins C and A, and one-tenth of the vitamin E you need daily. If you have an iron source, such as meat, fish, poultry, eggs or a leafy green vegetable, with your sliced apricot, the apricot’s vitamin C content can help your body absorb the iron.
When apricots are dehydrated, the removal of water causes many of their nutrients to become concentrated. A 1/2-cup serving of dried apricots has 1,101 milligrams of potassium, more than twice as much as in a cup of raw apricot slices. It also provides more than twice as much vitamin A, with 377 milligrams. However, the heat used in the dehydration process depletes the apricots of vitamin C, a water-soluble nutrient. A 1/2-cup of dried apricots has only 5 milligrams of vitamin C, less than a third of the amount in a cup of fresh apricots.
The Institute of Medicine recommends that women get 90 micrograms of vitamin K per day, while men should get 120 daily micrograms. Vitamin K takes its name from the German word “koagulation” for a good reason — its most important function in your body is to assist clotting factors that prevent excessive bleeding when you are injured. Vitamin K also helps your body build new bone material, possibly protecting against osteoporosis as you age.
Plants get their green pigment from chlorophyll, a molecule that also contains vitamin K. Therefore, leafy green vegetables, which contain large concentrations of chlorophyll, are rich in this vitamin. A 2-cup serving of spinach gives you 290 micrograms of vitamin K, more than 100 percent of your recommended daily intake. Cooking doesn’t deplete food of this nutrient. A cup of cooked spinach provides 888 micrograms of vitamin K. Beef liver, broccoli, green tea, kale, asparagus and cabbage are also sources of vitamin K.
When you are wounded, the proteins in your blood need an adequate amount of vitamin K to help activate seven clotting factors that bind calcium ions in your blood, coagulating it and making the bleeding stop. If you bruise easily or frequently experience nosebleeds, bleeding gums or a heavy menstrual flow, you may have thin blood, putting you at risk for excessive bleeding in the case of an injury. Adding vitamin K to your diet may help you control these conditions.
You may take calcium and vitamin D to keep your bones strong, but vitamin K also plays a role in bone health. Two proteins, osteocalcin and matrix Gla protein, need the presence of vitamin K to generate new bone and cartilage material, according to authors of an article published in “Advances in Nutrition” in 2012. People with larger concentrations of vitamin K in their bodies tend to have greater bone density than those with low levels of vitamin K, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, and people with osteoporosis often show low levels of vitamin K.
Whether you choose to increase your intake of vitamin K-rich foods or add a vitamin K supplement to your current balanced diet, remember that it is fat-soluble, so your body stores any excess in your liver and organs. Although the IOM has not established a safe upper limit, mega-dosing of this nutrient could lead to a breakdown of red blood cells and liver damage, according to Colorado State University Extension. To stay safe, take only the recommended amount of vitamin K.
If you live in an area where dandelions are considered an invasive weed, take comfort in knowing that the leaves of that pesky plant, commonly called dandelion greens, offer a wide variety of health benefits. Adding dandelion greens to your salad, sandwich or smoothie can benefit your bones, vision and metabolism. Dandelion greens, which are low in calories and free of fat, are also a rich source of fiber and protein.
With only 25 calories per cup, dandelion greens are a healthy, versatile addition to any dieter’s menu. A cup of chopped raw dandelion greens has 2 grams of dietary fiber, which benefits your digestive system and keeps you feeling fuller and less tempted to snack between meals. It also gives you 1.5 grams of protein, further satisfying your appetite, and less than 1 gram of natural sugar.
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The average woman needs about 2,000 calories per day to stay at her current weight, according to the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion. Less active women need fewer calories, while very active women need more. For healthy weight control, you should follow a balanced diet, which means that you don’t take in too much fat. How much fat you need, however, depends on your lifestyle and the kind of fat you eat.
The Institute of Medicine recommends that 45 to 65 percent of your calories come from carbohydrates, 10 to 35 percent from protein and the remainder — about 20 to 35 percent — from fat, giving you leeway to adjust your diet to suit your needs and lifestyle. A gram of protein or carbohydrate has 4 calories, while a gram of fat has 9 calories, so if you take in 2,000 calories a day, 200 to 700 of those calories should be from fat. That equates to 22 to 78 grams of fat per day.
Cranberries are nutritious, high in fiber and rich in antioxidants, but when you juice them or dry them, their nutritional profile changes. Juicing removes some of their fiber content, and the heat used during the dehydration process depletes them of some of their water-soluble nutrients. Drying them condenses their vitamin and mineral content, however, making a handful of dried cranberries comparable, in some respects, to a glass of cranberry juice.
If you are trying to increase your intake of antioxidants, which help prevent premature aging and may protect you against illness and bacteria, cranberry juice is superior to dried cranberries. An 8-ounce glass of cranberry juice has 107 milligrams of vitamin C, surpassing your daily requirement of 75 milligrams. A 1/3-cup serving of dried cranberries has less than 1 milligram of vitamin C.
If you’re sick of eating spinach, other leafy greens are just as rich in vitamins and minerals. Kale and collard greens contain nutrients that benefit your immune system, muscles, bones, nerve function and overall well-being. Both are highly nutritious, but kale, which is grown in cooler climates, provides more vitamins and fewer calories than collard greens. Collards, grown primarily in the South, are higher in essential minerals.
If you are trying to lose weight or maintain your current weight, both of these vegetables are low in calories and virtually fat-free, but kale may be a little more beneficial than collard greens. A cup of cooked collard greens has 63 calories, 5 grams of protein and 7.5 grams of fiber. A cup of cooked kale has 36 calories, 2.5 grams of protein and 2.5 grams of fiber. Each has less than 2 grams of natural sugar.
Dry roasted soybeans are dense with vitamins, minerals, protein and healthy fats, and provide isoflavones that may protect you from cardiovascular disease over the long term. Their fiber content adds bulk and gives you a long-lasting feeling of fullness, and their carbohydrates and protein feed your brain and muscles, keeping you energized. Dry roasted soybeans are available in a variety of flavors at many grocery stores, but some are high in sodium, artificial colors, flavors and preservatives; read labels to ensure you get a nutritious product.
A cup of dry roasted soybeans has 68 grams of protein and 14 grams of fiber. This is more protein than a 1/2-pound steak and more fiber than 4 bowls of bran flakes. If you are too busy to eat a full meal, soybeans can give you quick energy and 776 nutrient-dense calories. A cup has no cholesterol and 37 grams of fat, but only 5 of its fat grams are saturated. Most of its fat content is from heart-healthy fatty acids, such as linoleic acid, which may help lower your triglycerides and keep your LDL cholesterol at a safe level.
“You don’t need a big brain to collect mussels and clams, but living on them gives you the excess energy and nutrients that can be directed toward brain growth,” says University of Toronto nutrition professor Stephen Cunnane. To this day, eating fish may help improve your brain function because of the amino acids and fatty acids it contains.
When you eat fat, your body takes omega-3 fatty acids out of it and uses them to build brain-cell membranes. One such compound is alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA, the omega-3 fatty acid found in salmon, sardines, mackerel and trout, according to the Franklin Institute. Because your body uses ALA to produce docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, a more complex fatty acid that builds up your brain-cell walls, eating these types of cold-water fish may be beneficial to your brain’s health. >> KEEP READING AT SFGATE.COM