Prunes are plums that have been dehydrated for preservation purposes. Sometimes called dried plums, prunes are deep red-brown with a chewy texture and a savory-sweet flavor.
Unlike fresh plums, prunes can last in your pantry for about six months. When stored in the fridge in a sealed container, they remain edible for up to a year.
The many plum varieties originate from two main types: the Japanese plum and the European plum. Fresh Japanese plums are larger and juicier, ranging from yellow to medium red. Fresh European plums are smaller and denser with dark blue or purple-red colorations.
When brought to North America by settlers, both types of plums were used to cultivate the popular varieties we enjoy today. Research now supports the varied health benefits of eating these dried plums.
A serving of five prunes contains:
- Calories: 114
- Protein: 1 gram
- Fat: 0 grams
- Carbohydrates: 30 grams
- Fiber: 3 grams
- Sugar: 18 grams
Prunes are a good source of:
Prunes are also rich in potassium, a mineral that helps your muscles, nerves, and heart function properly. Eating four to five prunes gives you about 280 mg of potassium or around 12% of your daily recommended intake.
Potential Health Benefits of Prunes
Prunes and plums generally offer the same vitamins and minerals. However, many studies focus on dried plums when seeking to validate the positive effects of ingesting the fruit.
Here are some research-backed potential health benefits of eating prunes:
Gastrointestinal Health Improvement
Prunes are a good source of both insoluble and soluble fiber. Insoluble fiber helps keep your bowel movements regular, while soluble fiber helps to moderate digestion and absorb nutrients from your food. Dried plums also contain sorbitol and chlorogenic acid, which can increase stool frequency.
Eating a serving or two of prunes can help you maintain gastrointestinal health through promoting regular bowel movements.
Bone Health Support
The antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties of prunes may help prevent bone loss and aid in maintaining healthy bone density and formation, according to clinical studies. The higher amounts of vitamin K in prunes also help to improve bone health.
Prunes are rich in antioxidants, especially two caffeoylquinic acids — neochlorogenic acid (3-caffeoylquinic acid) and chlorogenic acid (5-caffeoylquinic acid). These may help to lower your blood glucose and LDL cholesterol levels (“bad cholesterol”), while protecting your cells from the damage that can lead to diseases.
Potential Risks of Prunes
While the potential health benefits of eating prunes are encouraging, there are also risks. Consult your physician and consider the following before making dried plums a regular part of your diet:
Increased Risk of Diarrhea
Eating too many prunes and other dried fruits, like raisins and figs, can lead to or worsen diarrhea due to their high fiber and sorbitol content. Both can have a laxative effect on the body.
Increased Risk of Gastrointestinal Distress
In some people, ingesting polyalcohol sugars such as sorbitol can also lead to intestinal bloating, gas, mild nausea, moderate to severe stomach cramps, or vomiting. Prunes have 14.7 grams of sorbitol per 100 grams, with as little as 5 grams of sorbitol potentially causing bloating. Consuming 20 grams or more of sorbitol could result in severe cramping.
Increased Exposure to Acrylamide
Acrylamide is a chemical that can develop naturally in foods when they’re heated at a high temperature. It forms from the interaction of sugars and a certain amino acid called asparagine. The chemical acrylamide, when ingested, can increase cancer risk. You can reduce exposure to acrylamide by reading labels carefully or choosing prunes dried at lower temperatures.