Not a fan of prunes? You’re not alone. In fact, women ages 25 to 54 react so negatively to the idea of prunes that the California Prune Board pressured the Food and Drug Administration to change their name to the more appealing ‘dried plums’ (which they technically are), and it worked! Sales of this super-healthy purple fruit have hit new heights.
It’s not surprising that prunes fell out of favour considering their close association with relieving constipation. Though they’re not the sexiest of fruits, there’s no denying their effectiveness for that particular health benefit. Prunes (or shall we call them dried plums?) have been sold as a popular digestive remedy for decades and work as a laxative in three ways. Prunes contain fibre, a type of alcohol sugar called sorbitol that can loosen the stool and a natural laxative compound called diphenyl isatin.
Beyond the benefits to your digestive tract, and the fact that they offer a sweet hit for only 30 calories, plums and prunes have many other wonderful health properties. Here are just a few:
1. They protect against diseases like cancer
Plums and prunes not only protect the brain from free radical damage but can also help to prevent chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease and cancer. Prunes and plums contain high levels of phytonutrients called phenols. They’re particularly high in two unique phytonutrients called neochlorogenic and chlorogenic acid. Numerous studies show that these phytonutrients help to prevent damage to cells particularly when it comes to the oxidation of fat molecules in the body. Since all of our cell membranes, as well as our brain cells, are largely made up of fat, these are important phytonutrients to have in the diet. These compounds have also been found to inhibit the oxidation of LDL cholesterol in the body making them an important factor in the prevention of chronic diseases.
2. They help prevent type 2 diabetes and obesity
Prunes and plums are high in soluble fibre that helps to keep blood sugar levels stable. Soluble fibre slows the rate that food leaves the stomach and, as a result, delays the absorption of sugar into the blood stream. Soluble fibre also increases the body’s sensitivity to insulin.
The soluble fibre in prunes helps you feel satisfied after a meal, which can prevent overeating and subsequent weight gain.
3. Prunes and plums help to lower cholesterol
The soluble fibre we just spoke of also helps to lower cholesterol by soaking up excess bile in the intestine and then excreting it. Bile is made from cholesterol in the liver in order to digest fat. When the body excretes bile along with the fibre from prunes and plums, the liver must use cholesterol in the body to make more bile thereby lowering the amount in circulation in the body. Soluble fibre may also inhibit the amount of cholesterol manufactured by the liver in the first place. A 2011 study found that prunes are more effective than psyllium fibre at relieving constipation.
4. Get improved bone health and reduce the risk of osteoporosis
Recent studies show that prunes and plums are the most effective fruit in preventing and reversing bone loss due to rich sources of phenoic and flavonoid compounds.
5. They’re a good source of vitamin K and beta carotene
A 2013 study showed that an increased intake in beta carotene can actually make people happier. Beta-carotene also protects and fixes the damage of free radicals on our cells meaning it can help reverse the signs of aging. Vitamin K works in conjunction with beta carotene to fight the signs of aging by helping reduce bone loss and improving circulation.
Try my savoury plum-quinoa salad recipe to reap these health benefits and more:
The combination of the quinoa and the plums make this recipe very high in fibre and helpful in balancing your blood sugar. The walnuts and cinnamon will appeal to the whole family, while the sweet and sour tastes make it great for a side salad at a summer picnic.
250 ml (1 cup) uncooked quinoa
375 ml (1.5 cups) water
2.5 ml (1/2 tsp) sea salt
1,000 ml (4 cups) firm red plum, chopped
250 ml (1 cup) red onion, finely chopped
250 ml (1 cup) walnuts
125 ml (1/2 cup) red wine vinegar
125 ml (1/2 cup) extra virgin olive oil
2 large cloves of garlic, crushed
5 ml (1 tsp) sea salt
10 ml (2 tsp) cinnamon
1. Place water, quinoa and salt into a medium pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 12-15 minutes.
2. While quinoa is cooking, mix all other ingredients into a large bowl.
3. Mix all of the cooked quinoa into the rest of the ingredients while it is still hot.
4. Chill salad in refrigerator for one hour to allow flavours to mix together.
Makes 9 servings
Julie Daniluk hosts Healthy Gourmet, a reality cooking show that highlights the ongoing battle between taste and nutrition. Her book, Meals That Heal Inflammation helps people enjoy allergy-free foods that taste great and assist the body in the healing process.
-Article originally published June 2012.