Prunes: Not only a well-known snack but also an unpleasant or disagreeable person. What did this innocent little fruit do to deserve this bad reputation?
In case you didn’t know, a prune is simply a dried plum. A plum, in turn, is small, round, and ripens to a dark, rich purple skin tone. The pulp is orangey with a central seed (stone). Any dried plum is a prune but the kind found in most grocery stores is the European plum Prunus domestica. Other varieties include Prunus salicina and Prunus americana. All of these plums are freestone cultivars, so called because the pit is easy to remove.
Would it surprise you to know that there are over 1,000 varieties of plums grown for drying to make prunes?
Plums, prunes, and prune juice are all loaded with life-giving nutrients. Prune juice is used as a home remedy to treat constipation due to its laxative (muscle relaxing) effect and high fiber content, promoting elimination of body wastes. Fiber also helps lower cholesterol and the risk of heart disease.
Because Americans identify prunes with “keeping regular” and related joking, in 2001, the U.S. government allowed plum growers to market their product as “dried plums.” The California Prune Board changed its name to the California Dried Plums Board.
Nutritionally, both prunes and prune juice are high not only in dietary fibers but also carbohydrates and minerals. They pack a powerful punch, delivering to the body essential amino acids, vitamins A, B-complex, and K, calcium, magnesium, zinc, iron, copper, manganese, selenium, boron, and potassium.
The vitamin A from prunes helps protect your vision. A single prune provides 3 percent of your recommended daily dose of vitamin A, which, according to the American Optometric Association, reduces the long-term risks of developing macular degeneration and cataracts.
Potassium from a medium-sized plum (113 mg) lowers high blood pressure and lessens the risk of stroke. This important mineral also tunes the nerves and muscles, ensuring they work properly.
The iron content in prunes fights anemia by building healthy red blood cells, protects cells in your immune system, and combats fatigue. Manganese protects cells from damage caused by free radicals.
Prunes are also rich in antioxidants which can protect you from illness during cold season. Antioxidants can slow and even prevent more serious conditions, including coronary heart disease. Historically, prunes have also been used to treat high blood pressure, jaundice, fever, diabetes, and digestive maladies.
Recent research indicated that eating five or six prunes a day can reduce bone loss and the risk of osteoporosis. Bahram Arjmandi, a researcher at Florida State University who participated in a study on how fruits reduce inflammation and might be used to treat arthritis, said:
“Over my career, I have tested numerous fruits, including figs, dates, strawberries and raisins, and none of them come anywhere close to having the effect on bone density that dried plums, or prunes, have. All fruits and vegetables have a positive effect on nutrition, but in terms of bone health, this particular food is exceptional.”
Even though plums and prunes are high in calories, eating them as part of a weight-loss diet can be effective because they make the person eating them feel full.
But don’t overdo it. Because of their hallmark laxative property, be moderate in your prune consumption if you don’t suffer from constipation. Healthline gives these serving guidelines to prevent consuming too much of a good thing:
“A serving size of six prunes has 4 grams of dietary fiber, and 1/2 cup contains 6.2 grams. It is recommended that women under 50 get 25 grams of fiber each day, and men under 50 get 38 grams. The recommended fiber intake for men and women over 50 is less, at 30 g and 21 g respectively.”
Drinking prune juice is a great way to stay hydrated and nourished at the same time. Try quaffing one-half to one full cup of prune juice after waking up to stimulate digestion. If you want a second serving, eat a heavy meal first.
Although recommended for babies, prune juice is such a potent drink that parents are cautioned to give their children a very small amount, and only to ease constipation. Stop giving it to your infant if diarrhea occurs. You can visit Momtastic for great detailed guidance about prune juice and babies.
Dried plum recipes abound online. Enjoy good health as you discover the joys of cooking with the humble, yet mighty, prune.