Let’s take a peek at prunes and all they have to offer. I’ll show you why they should be resurrected from your grandma’s cookbook and revamped as a healthy addition to your dried fruit stash.
What Are Prunes?
Prunes are dried plums from the Prunus domestica L. species of European or Japanese plums. European plums are typically small and dark blue or purple in colour. Whereas Japanese plums are bigger and pale yellow or red. Importantly, not all plum species can be made into prunes. There’s over 1000 plum cultivars that are grown for drying. The prunus domestica variety does not ferment during the drying process, making them the perfect plum for prune-making.
In 2001, U.S. plum farmers were granted permission to call prunes ‘dried plums’ to help shift the branding associated with prunes and bowel health. From a marketing perspective, the term ‘dried plums’ was deemed more palatable to the broader consumer.
Now you know - prune or dried plum? Same, same.
Prunes: Nutrient Content
- 31% water
- 64% carbohydrates
- 2% protein
- 7% dietary fibre
- High in antioxidants
- High in boron
- High in potassium
- High in B vitamins - B2, B6
- Beta-carotene, magnesium, phosphorus
- Polyphenols - chlorogenic acids
- Naturally occurring sorbitol
Health Benefits of Prunes
- Maintains bone health
- Protects against LDL cholesterol
- Reduces inflammation
- Regulates bowel function
Prunes Relieve Constipation
The dietary fibre and natural sorbitol content of prunes are the likely agents that cause a laxative effect. Sorbitol is a type of sugar-alcohol and is also found in commercial foods and confectionery. It acts as a laxative because it draws water from the bowels to help stool formation and promote bowel movements. A finding published in the Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics journal revealed that prunes have been found to be more effective at relieving constipation compared to psyllium husk.
The European Food Safety Authority conducted a review in 2012 on the proposed health claims of prunes. Here, they determined that prunes or dried plum consumption and normal bowel function was established as a direct ‘cause and effect’. Further to this, the researchers noted that about 100g of prunes should be consumed daily to achieve this therapeutic outcome.
Prunes Maintain Bone Health
Interestingly, prunes also possess bone-protective qualities which seem to have prolonged effects on bone health well after their consumption has ended. Prunes are naturally high in the mineral boron, which is essential for bone maintenance. One serve (100g or a handful of prunes) meets the daily nutritional requirement for boron.
Boron helps with bone growth and regeneration. It also facilitates magnesium absorption, reduces calcium loss and is a cofactor nutrient for vitamin D synthesis. All of these factors are important for bone maintenance, particularly in the hip and spine. These regions of the skeletal system are prone to osteoporotic fractures. Therefore consumption of prunes could be beneficial in reducing the risk of osteoporosis and its associated health complications.
Prunes are High in Antioxidants
Prunes are high in plant polyphenols, which have various benefits for many health conditions. The two main polyphenols abundant in prunes are caffeoylquinic acids (neochlorogenic acid and chlorogenic acid). These polyphenols help protect cells against damage, lower blood sugar levels and protect LDL cholesterol oxidation. The combination of these metabolic activities make prunes a cardioprotective and anti-inflammatory fruit. Prunes can help protect against heart disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome and ageing.
Prunes - A Naturally Healthy Dried Fruit
Prunes like all dried fruit have a heap of broad health benefits, such as:
- They’re low-GI
- Great as a prebiotic food for digestive bacteria
- Helps with satiety
- Balances blood sugar
- Helps with weight management
Like sultanas, Turkish apricots and all dried fruit, prunes can be enjoyed year-round and can last in the pantry for months. In Australia, we usually enjoy plums in the summertime and sometimes, if I’m honest, it can be difficult to find a plum that’s sweet, ripe and hits the spot.
Here’s where prunes save the day.
Not only can you enjoy the health benefits of plums, when enjoyed dried, they retain all their sweetness and deliciousness, whenever you want one!
How are Prunes Made?
Prunes start life out as plums. They’re picked when ripe and are usually hot-air dried then gently steamed to soften during the drying process. This helps maintain a juicy and tender texture in the resulting fruit. Prunes are wonderfully sweet as a stand-alone snack and are bought as pitted or unpitted.
When thinking of a recipe that involves prunes, I knew my great-grandmother’s recipe book was not to be overlooked. All hand-written, celebrating food in its simplicity. In this book, I discovered her natural laxative recipe, using prunes and other dried fruits.
If you’ve always wanted to have a laxative recipe up your sleeve, you’re in luck, I’ve got it for you here.
Here’s her delicious prune meringue pudding - something more suited to entertaining at a dinner party.
Prune Meringue Pudding
- ½ lb stoned prunes
- 2 eggs
- ¼ lb castor sugar
- 1 lemon
- 1 oz. butter
- 1 tablespoon cornflour
- Mash the fruit to a pulp, mix in sugar and then cornflour and lemon juice
- Separate egg whites from yolks. Beat yolks into mixture
- Mix thoroughly and pour into a greased pie dish
- Bake for 20 minutes in a moderate oven. Remove from oven once baked
- Whisk whites to stiff froth and pile on top of pudding, dust with castor sugar and return to the oven to brown.
- Serve hot
Attaluri, A., Donahoe, R., Valestin, J., Brown, K., & Rao, S. S. (2011). Randomised clinical trial: dried plums (prunes) vs. psyllium for constipation. Alimentary pharmacology & therapeutics, 33(7), 822–828.https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2036.2011.04594.x
Arjmandi, B. H., Johnson, S. A., Pourafshar, S., Navaei, N., George, K. S., Hooshmand, S., Chai, S. C., & Akhavan, N. S. (2017). Bone-Protective Effects of Dried Plum in Postmenopausal Women: Efficacy and Possible Mechanisms. Nutrients, 9(5), 496. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu9050496
FSA Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (NDA) (2012). "Scientific Opinion on the substantiation of health claims related to dried plums of 'prune' cultivars (Prunus domestica L.) and maintenance of normal bowel function (ID 1164, further assessment) pursuant to Article 13(1) of Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006". EFSA Journal., https://efsa.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.2903/j.efsa.2012.2712
Rendina, E., Hembree, K. D., Davis, M. R., Marlow, D., Clarke, S. L., Halloran, B. P., Lucas, E. A., & Smith, B. J. (2013). Dried plum's unique capacity to reverse bone loss and alter bone metabolism in postmenopausal osteoporosis model. PloS one, 8(3), e60569. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0060569
Wikipedia Contributors. (2022, February 3). Prune. Retrieved from Wikipedia website: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prune, viewed February 3 2022
Yurt, B., & Celik, I. (2011). Hepatoprotective effect and antioxidant role of sun, sulphited-dried apricot (Prunus armeniaca L.) and its kernel against ethanol-induced oxidative stress in rats. Food and chemical toxicology: an international journal published for the British Industrial Biological Research Association, 49(2), 508–513. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fct.2010.11.035