Prunes are often the butt of jokes, thanks to their legendary ability to keep people “regular” with their bowel movements. These dried plums deserve a little more love, though. Available in a juice and with or without seeds, prunes might be just what your body needs. Here’s the breakdown on why this fruit deserves a place in a healthy lifestyle.
1. Cures Constipation
When it comes to the health benefits of prunes, no list would be complete without acknowledging their ability to fight constipation. A 100 gm portion has about 6.1 gm of dietary fiber, helping bulk up waste and keep those bowel movements regular.
And it doesn’t stop there. Besides the fiber’s ability to keep you “regular,” the juice of prunes is an effective laxative. This might be due to its high levels of sorbitol, a sugar alcohol that is slowly digested, producing a laxative effect. The juice contains 6.1 gm of sorbitol per 100 gm and the prune contains 14.7 gm in a similar 100 gm portion.
Combined with its nutrient content, these abilities have made prunes a popular natural laxative of choice, especially among the elderly.1 So, if you’ve been having digestive problems, try sipping on a glass of tasty prune juice.
2. Prevents Hemorrhoids
Chronic constipation or straining during bowel movements can cause hemorrhoids. A diet low in fiber is another cause for swollen inflamed veins in the lower rectal area and anus.2 It can be pretty painful. But since prunes are rich in fiber and can remedy constipation, they may help those prone to hemorrhoids. Regular intake might even help the stressful problem from cropping up again.
3. Provides Energy Without Spiking Blood Sugar
The simple sugars in prunes make them an awesome choice for a quick dose of energy. They are also a low-glycemic-index food, with an index of 29 on 100 (against 48 of bananas and 59 of black grapes).3 Compared to most carbs, the sorbitol in prunes causes a lower degree of blood glucose increase. The high levels of sorbitol and fiber mean that your sugar levels won’t suddenly spike. This is precisely what diabetics try to avoid on the daily. Therefore, prunes are a wonderful and sweet energy source – even for diabetics. To top it off, you can tap into the benefits of the phenolic compounds along with the advantage of delayed glucose absorption.4
4. Promotes Weight Loss
Prunes double as a stellar weight-loss aid. Their high fiber content is a dieter’s best friend. And thanks to their relatively low glycemic index, they are a great source of energy. A study by the University of Liverpool found that overweight and obese test subjects who had prunes for 12 weeks, along with a healthy weight-loss diet, lost about 2 kg on an average. They also managed to knock 2.5 cm off their waistlines. By comparison, those who were given healthy snack options and did not consume prunes managed to lose only 1.5 kg and 1.7 cm.5 If you’re on a weight-loss program, consider turning to prunes for a healthy snack option. Try adding them to oatmeal, smoothies, and yogurt for a sweet treat.
5. Lowers Blood Pressure
You can also manage hypertension (high blood pressure) by eating prunes. In one study, pre-hypertensive individuals were given prunes. They saw a major reduction in blood pressure levels over the 8-week study period. Compared to the control group, their LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and serum cholesterol levels also dropped.6 Take a tip from the study by eating three dried prunes soaked overnight each day.
6. Fights Osteoporosis
Prunes are also rich in potassium, with 1058 mg of the micronutrient in every 100 gm.7 Potassium happens to be closely associated with bone health. According to researchers, you might be able to lower your risk of osteoporosis if you eat enough potassium. This can be especially helpful if you have a family history of the condition. The recommended levels are 4700 mg per day for adults, 400 mg a day for an infant, and 3000 to 4500 mg of potassium a day for children depending on age.8
Prunes Are For All Ages
Generally, prunes are famous for their ability to help the elderly fight constipation. But they can also be great for young children and anyone trying to stay healthy. People of all ages can benefit from the antioxidant power and fiber of these scrumptious dried plums.
Experts suggest including prunes in those two daily servings of fruits you give your children. Of course, mix things up by making sure they get a variety of fruits. Don’t just stick to prunes. Have a picky eater? Try serving prune juice. Its sweet flavor appeals to most kids, making it more acceptable. You can even combine it with other fruit juices like cranberry or apple to make it go down even easier. Alternatively, as the Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne, suggests, you can freeze prune juice into popsicle treats for the kids. They’ll love it!9 Don’t forget to sneak one for yourself, too.
A Word Of Caution
Prunes are great for you but don’t go overboard. Otherwise, the undigested sugars and complex carbs in prunes and prune juice can cause diarrhea and excessive gas. Make it a point to monitor intake and limit consumption. While most constipation remedies call for a daily intake of at least 6 to 12 prunes, remember that you are also consuming a lot of calories (339 kcal in a 100 gm serving of about 10 prunes) and carbs.10 If a smaller quantity does the trick, cut it down. The same goes for prune juice, which has 16.45 gm of sugar in a 100 gm serving and about 71 kcal.11 So, whether you’re consuming prunes or juice for nutrition, general health, or constipation, be wary of how much you’re consuming. In moderation, prunes can help your body be the best it can be.
|↑1, ↑4||Stacewicz-Sapuntzakis, Maria, Phyllis E. Bowen, Erum A. Hussain, Bernadette I. Damayanti-Wood, and Norman R. Farnsworth. “Chemical composition and potential health effects of prunes: a functional food?.” Critical reviews in food science and nutrition 41, no. 4 (2001): 251-286.|
|↑2||Hemorrhoids, The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.|
|↑3||Glycemic index and glycemic load for 100+ foods, Harvard Health Publications.|
|↑5||Eating prunes can help weight loss, University of Liverpool.|
|↑6||Ahmed, Talat, Halima Sadia, Sadia Batool, Ayesha Janjua, and Faiza Shuja. “Use of prunes as a control of hypertension.” J Ayub Med Coll Abbottabad 22, no. 1 (2010): 28-31.|
|↑7, ↑10||Prunes, dehydrated,uncooked,National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28, USDA.|
|↑8||Potassium, University of Maryland Medical Center.|
|↑9||Constipation, The Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne.|
|↑11||Prune juice, canned,National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28, USDA.|