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 grown.
It’s not surprising that prunes fell out of favour considering their close association with relieving constipation. Prunes (or shall we call them dried plums?) have been sold as a popular digestive remedy for decades mainly because of these three components: fibre, sorbitol (a sugar alcohol 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:
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They protect against cardiovascular diseases and other chronic illnesses
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 lipid molecules in the body. Since all of our cell membranes, as well as our brain cells, are largely made up of lipids which contain 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.
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.
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 at relieving constipation.
They help improve bone health and reduce the risk of osteoporosis
A study from 2011 showed that prunes and plums are the most effective fruit in preventing and reversing bone loss due to rich sources of phenolic and flavonoid compounds.
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.
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Article originally published June 2012; Updated September 2018.
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