What are prunes?
Prunes are dried plums. You can find them semi-dried in packets or tinned in juice or syrup.
A 30g serving of prunes provides:
42 Kcal / 180KJ
A 30g portion, which is about two prunes, counts as one of your 5 a day. Check out our printable infographic to find out what else counts towards your 5-a-day.
Be aware that prunes packaged in juice or syrup may be higher in added sugar.
Top 5 health benefits
1. May support bone health
Including prunes in your diet may be beneficial for maintaining healthy, strong bones. In fact, animal studies suggest prunes are effective at not only preventing bone loss but helping to reverse it too. This makes them especially relevant for mid-life adults who may be at risk of osteoporosis.
2. May promote a healthy heart
A plentiful source of fibre, prunes are especially rich in a soluble fibre called pectin, which may help balance cholesterol levels. However, it’s not just the fibre which is beneficial the protective antioxidant properties of prunes appears to also help lower blood pressure as does the vitamin and mineral contribution, particularly the high levels of potassium.
3. May reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes
Eating fruit in its whole form, such as prunes, is associated with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes. There are a number of explanations for this including their high fibre content, their rich phytochemical levels and micronutrient contribution. Furthermore, despite their sweet taste prunes don’t actually cause the typical rise in blood sugar and insulin seen after eating sweet foods.
4. May slow the ageing process
Prunes may help slow the ageing process, they do this thanks to their exceptionally high antioxidant levels, which is thought to be as much as twice that of other fruit and vegetables.
Animal studies have shown that feeding diets rich in these antioxidants appears to have a beneficial effect on alleviating levels of anxiety which in turn may reduce oxidative stress in the brain and delay its adverse effects on cognitive function.
5. Supports digestive health
As well as being rich in fibre prunes also supply sorbitol and phytonutrients which all work to support bowel function. This means eating prunes can increase stool volume and frequency making them a natural laxative which helps to promote healthy bowel movements. They also have prebiotic properties which means they supply the fuel to support the beneficial bacteria which reside in our intestines.
If you are experiencing constipation it’s worth visiting your GP to ensure that there are no underlying reasons. However, there is some evidence that prunes may help relieve constipation, and may in fact be better than other natural foods such as psyllium husks.
A recent study using 80g of prunes with 300ml of water a day for four weeks saw improvements in bowel function. However, it’s worth remembering we are all different and prunes may not work for everyone.
Are prunes safe for everyone?
Some people are allergic to prunes. They fall into the ‘birch pollen’ category of allergens, along with apples and plums, and they may cause itching and swelling of the mouth or throat in those affected.
Allergy symptoms normally develop within minutes, and you should see your GP if you experience an adverse reaction. However, if this develops into a severe reaction, known as anaphylaxis, it is a medical emergency and you should call for an ambulance immediately.
If you are not used to high levels of fibre in your diet but you wish to try prunes to ease constipation, it would be advisable to start with 1-2 prunes each day, with adequate amounts of water, and build up slowly to find your tolerance. Prune juice is unlikely to produce the same effect as the fibre is removed during the juicing process.
Healthy prune recipes
This article was reviewed on 29th July 2021 by Kerry Torrens.
Kerry Torrens BSc. (Hons) PgCert MBANT is a registered nutritionist with a post graduate diploma in personalised nutrition & nutritional therapy. She is a member of the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and a member of the Guild of Food Writers. Over the last 15 years she has been a contributing author to a number of nutritional and cookery publications including BBC Good Food
Nicola Shubrook is a nutritional therapist and works with both private clients and the corporate sector. She is an accredited member of the British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy (BANT) and the Complementary & Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC). Find out more at urbanwellness.co.uk.
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