What Are Prunes?
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 6 months. When stored in the fridge in a sealed container, they remain edible for up to a year.
The many plum varieties come 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 settlers brought them to North America, they used both types to cultivate the popular varieties we enjoy today. Research now supports the varied health benefits of eating these dried plums.
If your child has constipation, 100% prune juice could help ease their symptoms. Babies 4 to 8 months old should drink up to 3 ounces of juice per day, while kids 8 to 12 months old can have up to 6 ounces. They should only drink prune juice daily for a week or two since too much of it can be unhealthy.
Prune vs. date
While prunes are dried plums, dates are the fruit of date palm trees, which you can eat fresh or dried.
A serving of five prunes contains:
- Calories: 104
- Protein: 1 gram
- Fat: 0 grams
- Carbohydrates: 28 grams
- Fiber: 3 grams
- Sugar: 17 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 milligrams of potassium, or around 12% of your daily recommended intake.
Prune Health Benefits
Prunes and plums generally offer the same vitamins and minerals. But 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:
Digestive health improvement
Prunes are a good source of both insoluble and soluble fiber. Insoluble fiber helps to ease constipation and 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 digestive health by promoting regular bowel movements.
Bone health support
The antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties of prunes may help prevent bone loss and help keep 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.
Overactive bladder support
Studies show a link between constipation and overactive bladder. A buildup of stool in your colon can put pressure on your bladder. Or, if you have OAB and hold in your pee, this can disrupt the anal sphincter, which controls the release of stool. With OAB, you might also put off going to the bathroom and hold in your bowel movements. At the same time, a common side effect of medication for overactive bladder is constipation. Eating prunes can help ease constipation linked to overactive bladder.
May help lower blood pressure
One study, which looked at prunes' effect on blood pressure, found that eating the fruit daily could significantly lower your blood pressure.
Supports a healthy gut microbiome
A study of postmenopausal women suggests that eating prunes every day improves gut fecal microbiome. At the same time, a separate review shows fiber and other compounds in prunes may alter the gut microbiome in support of bone health.
Prune Side Effects
While the potential health benefits of eating prunes are encouraging, there are also risks. Consult your doctor 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 an 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.
Eating prunes could cause itching, burning, tingling, and sometimes swelling of your mouth, tongue, and throat. This happens when your immune system reacts to certain proteins in the fruit, especially if you're allergic to birch pollen.
How To Prepare Prunes
There are different ways to prepare prunes:
- Stewed. You can boil prunes in water, along with other ingredients like lemon and maple syrup, until they've softened and expanded. Cool, and then store them in the fridge.
- Prune juice. To make your own prune juice, combine 300 grams of prunes and 2 liters of water in a pot on the stove on medium or high heat. Once it starts boiling, turn the heat down to low, cover the pot with a lid, and simmer for a couple of minutes. Mix the prunes and water in a blender until smooth, then sieve larger pieces of prune. Store in the fridge.
Prunes, or dried plums, are known for their chewy texture and sweet-savory taste. They can last up to 6 months in the pantry and up to a year in the fridge. Rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber, prunes may support GI and bone health and offer antioxidant protection. But eating too many can lead to diarrhea and GI issues.