Prunes are all crinkled and wrinkly, certainly not the prettiest fruit to look at. Sadly, most people think they’re only good for relieving constipation. Not the kind of image most fruits wants for themselves.
On the other hand, prunes have much to be proud of from a nutritional standpoint. The unassuming little fruit with its wrinkly face is a healthy addition to any diet. Here are the ten powerful health benefits prunes offer.
1. An excellent source of vitamin K
Prunes are an excellent source of vitamin K. Each prune contains 5.7 micrograms of vitamin K, or 7 percent of the daily value of 80 micrograms for people who consume a 2,000-calorie diet. Vitamin K is an essential fat-soluble vitamin. It is necessary for blood clotting, helps keep your bones healthy, and regulates cell growth.
2. Good for the bones
Prunes ― good for your bones? Yes! Animal studies show that eating prunes reverses bone loss. Research is currently looking if prunes can do the same in postmenopausal women. In one study, one group of women ate 100 grams of prunes (about ten) daily, while the other group ate a similar quantity of dried apples. The prune group had higher bone density. According to researchers, prunes may help prevent bone breakdown.
3. An excellent source of copper
Prunes are also an excellent source of copper. Copper plays a part in many of your body’s organs and systems. Copper helps you make red blood cells; keeps nerve cells healthy; supports your immune system; forms collagen, a protein that helps make up your bones and tissues; protects cells from damage; absorbs iron into your body; and turns sugar into energy.
4. Eating prunes are heart-healthy
Prunes are high in pectin. Pectin consumption impacts blood cholesterol levels and helps regulate blood glucose levels. It also helps remove toxins such as lead and mercury from your body. Studies in mice show that eating prunes reduces the progression of atherosclerosis, a condition that increases the risk of a heart attack.
5. A good source of potassium
Prunes are also a good source of potassium. Potassium is an essential mineral needed by all tissues in the body; it is sometimes referred to as an electrolyte because it carries a small electrical charge that activates various cell and nerve functions.
Potassium’s main role in the body is to help maintain normal fluid levels inside our cells. Sodium — its counterpart — maintains normal fluid levels outside of cells. Potassium also helps muscles to contract and supports normal blood pressure.
6. Helps prevent a magnesium deficiency
Did you know? A whopping 90% of humans are estimated to be deficient in magnesium.
Magnesium is an important mineral, playing a role in over 300 enzyme reactions in the human body. Its many functions include helping muscle and nerve function, regulating blood pressure, and supporting the immune system.
A typical Western diet fails miserably when it comes to supplying magnesium, mainly because this vital mineral is lost during modern-day food processing and refining methods. Today’s intensive farming practices have led to declining levels of nutrients in crops too. A 2004 study, published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, compared modern-day nutrient content of vegetables with 1950’s levels and found declines to be as much as 40%.
Warning signs of low magnesium include loss of appetite; nausea; headache; muscle cramps and spasms; low energy and fatigue; weakness; blood sugar imbalance; sleep problems; PMS; irritability; inability to cope with stress; and constipation.
7. A good source of B1, B2, B3, B5, and B6
Prunes are also a good source of vitamins B1 (thiamin), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), and B6 (pyridoxine). All B vitamins — often referred to as B-complex vitamins — help the body metabolize fats and protein and convert carbohydrates into glucose, which is used to produce energy.
B6 is a vitamin that promotes healthy brain function and may relieve the symptoms of depression. Several studies have shown that depressive symptoms are associated with low blood levels and intakes of vitamin B6, especially in older adults at high risk for vitamin B deficiency.
8. Good for the eyes
More good news for the fruit with the funny, wrinkly face. Prunes are a good source of vitamin A, vital for healthy vision, and may reduce the risk of certain types of cancer. Conversely, people deficient in vitamin A are prone to night blindness and dry eyes.
Prunes really do deserve more respect!
9. Prunes provide antioxidant power
Blueberries may be high on the antioxidant scale, but prunes are even higher. This is because prunes are a surprisingly good source of cell-protective antioxidants. Antioxidants help offset the natural oxidative damage that cells undergo every day. These cell-protective compounds may impact brain aging since antioxidants help protect brain cells against damage. The compounds in prunes that give them their antioxidant activity are called phenolics.
10. Prunes alleviate constipation
Of course, prunes also help promote intestinal health by giving sluggish bowels a boost and reducing the risk of constipation. All it takes is a few prunes a day.
What to do with prunes
Enjoy the health benefits of prunes by chopping them into fine pieces and adding them to hot or cold cereal. Add prune bits to brownies, quick bread, and homemade trail mix. Add bits of prune to cookie dough and muffin batter in place of raisins. Use bits of prune as a pizza topping or in a chicken salad in place of raisins. Anywhere you would use raisins, plum bits are a tasty substitute. Did you know prunes have twice the antioxidant activity of raisins? That’s why they’re a great substitution!
The bottom line
Eating prunes has its benefits, but don’t overdo it. They’re high in natural sugar, so too many may not be for people watching their carbohydrate intake. Eat them in moderation and enjoy the benefits.
Speak to your doctor to see if it is acceptable for you to eat prunes if you are on blood-thinning medications, as vitamin K may interfere with the functioning of these medications.
The authors of an article in Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology & Nutrition recommend fruit juices, such as prune, apple, and pear juices, as a treatment for constipation in children. However, because the digestive system in younger children has not fully developed, their needs are different than those of adults. Therefore, caregivers should monitor the amount they give a child and be ready to scale it back if the child has any signs or symptoms of diarrhea.