Top 10 health benefits of prunes and prune juice
It's no secret that prunes are a source of goodness. We explain why prunes are so good for you and how they may ease digestive problems
What are prunes?
Prunes are dried plums. After harvesting, plums are dehydrated and then packaged semi-dried, tinned in juice or syrup or they are processed to juice.
Health benefits of prunes include:
- Rich in protective compounds
- May support bone health
- May promote a healthy heart
- May reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes
- May slow the aging process
- Supports digestive transit
- May support gut health
- May support cognitive health
- May help alleviate iron-deficiency anaemia
- May provide a steady source of energy
Nutritional profile of prunes
A 30g serving of prunes provides:
- 42 kcal/180KJ
- 0.8g protein
- 0.1g fat
- 10.2g carbohydrate
- 2.3g fibre
- 228mg potassium
- 0.78mg iron
A 30g portion, which is about two prunes, counts as one of your five-a-day. Be aware that prunes packaged in juice or syrup may be higher in added ‘'free sugars', the type we are advised to cut back on.
Does prune juice have the same health benefits?
While prune juice doesn’t contain the same amount of beneficial fibre as the whole fruit, it still retains some of the vitamins and minerals. However, be aware that when we crush fruit in to juice, we expose some of the vitamins to air, which may lead to a loss of vitamin content.
That said, prune juice is equally as effective for alleviating constipation, thanks to its high sugar content in the form of sorbitol. Choose 100 per cent unsweetened prune juice and in accordance with UK dietary guidelines, limit your intake to one (150ml) glass per day.
Are prunes good for you?
1. Rich in protective plant compounds
2. May support bone health
Including prunes in your diet may be beneficial for maintaining healthy, strong bones. Animal studies suggest prunes are effective at not only preventing bone loss but helping to reverse it, too. Prunes are a good source of bone-building nutrients including boron and vitamin K and make a useful dietary inclusion for mid-life adults who may be at risk of osteoporosis.
3. May promote a healthy heart
A plentiful source of fibre, prunes are especially rich in a soluble type 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 help lower blood pressure as does the vitamin and mineral contribution, particularly the high levels of potassium.
4. 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 that we experience after eating other sweet-tasting foods.
5. May slow the ageing process
Prunes may help slow the ageing process, they do this thanks to their exceptionally high polyphenol levels; these plant compounds are thought to be at levels twice that of other fruit and vegetables.
6. Supports digestive transit
As well as being rich in fibre, prunes also supply a type of sugar called sorbitol, this increases the amount of fluid your gut absorbs which helps soften stools making them easier to pass. This means eating prunes can increase stool volume and frequency making them a natural laxative. This was supported by a study using 80g of prunes with 300ml of water a day for four weeks. However, it’s worth remembering we are all different and prunes may not work for everyone.
If you are experiencing constipation, it’s worth visiting your GP to ensure that there are no other underlying reasons.
7. May support gut health
Prunes are rich in fibre which has prebiotic properties, this means including prunes may provide a fuel source to support the growth of beneficial bacteria that reside in our gut.
8. May support cognitive health
Both human and animal studies appear to suggest diets rich in protective compounds, including polyphenols, may have a beneficial effect on alleviating levels of anxiety which in turn may support cognitive function.
9. May help alleviate anaemia
Both prunes and their juice are a source of iron and, therefore, may make a useful contribution to the diets of those with iron deficiency anaemia.
10. May provide a steady supply of energy
Prunes are a good source of energy however, they don’t trigger a rapid rise in blood sugar levels, thanks to their high fibre content and low glycaemic sugars which are in the form of fructose and sorbitol.
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.
Read more about allergies on the NHS website.
Although prunes and other dried fruits may contain the carcinogen acrylamide (a compound formed when certain sugars and an amino acid called asparagine are heated) the amounts are small in comparison to grilled and fried foods.
Overall, are prunes good for you?
Prunes are a nutritious fruit with beneficial properties that may help reduce the risk of a number of chronic health conditions including osteoporosis, heart disease and diabetes.
If you are not used to high levels of fibre in your diet but you wish to try prunes, it would be advisable to start with 1-2 prunes each day, along with adequate amounts of water, and build up slowly to find your tolerance.
Want more like this? Now try...
This article was reviewed on 30 October 2023 by Kerry Torrens, Registered Nutritionist
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.
All health content on bbcgoodfood.com is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other healthcare professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact your local healthcare provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.