Prunes — or dried plums — are considered one of the healthiest foods there is, but exactly why are prunes good for you? And why are prunes good for constipation? This article discusses the health benefits of eating prunes, including their ability to relieve constipation, provide antioxidant protection, prevent pre-mature aging, promote cardiovascular health, and reduce the risk of cancer and osteoporosis. Nutrition facts for prunes (GI rating, GL rating, nutrient content, etc) are provided at the end of the article.
Antioxidant superfood naturally rich in hydroxycinnamic acids and anthocyanins
A study conducted by researchers from Tufts University in Boston ranked prunes, or dried plums, as #1 food in terms of antioxidant capacity. Using a laboratory analysis called ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbency Capacity), the researchers found that prunes had more than twice the antioxidant capacity of other high ranking foods such as blueberries and raisins. With a score of 5770 ORAC units per 100 grams, the antioxidant power of prunes also topped that of fresh plums, which scored 949 on the ORAC scale.
Antioxidants are compounds that help protect cells from damage caused by free radicals, unstable molecules that result from normal cell metabolism, smoking, pollution and UV irradiation. Research suggests that excess free radicals may contribute to pre-mature aging, wrinkling of the skin, cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancer.
Much of the antioxidant power of prunes can be attributed to the high levels of hydroxycinnamic acids (types of phenolic compounds) they contain. The hydroxycinnamic acids present in prunes include neochlorogenic and chlorogenic acids, both of which appear to be highly effective at scavenging free radicals. In addition to hydroxycinnamic acids, prunes and plums are rich in anthocyanins, flavonoid pigments with strong antioxidant properties.
Time-honored constipation remedy packed with fiber and the natural laxative sorbitol
You probably already know that these humble fruits are good for the bowels, but exactly how do prunes relieve constipation? This is how: Prunes are a good source of dietary fiber, with 100 grams of prunes containing approximately 6.1 grams of fiber.
Dietary fiber is the part of plant foods that the enzymes in your body cannot digest and that is therefore not absorbed into the bloodstream. As a result, fiber remains in the colon where it absorbs water and softens the stool, thereby providing health benefits for those suffering from constipation.
In addition, prunes and prune juice contain sorbitol (14.7 and 6.1 grams per 100 grams, respectively). Sorbitol is a mild colonic stimulant that helps reduce the transit time of stool and consequently the risk of constipation, colorectal cancer and hemorrhoids. Also the neochlorogenic and chlorogenic acids present in prunes may improve their laxative action.
Protection against osteoporosis and osteopenia
A clinical study conducted at Florida State University (FSU) and published in Aging Research Review suggests that dried plums may be able to reverse osteoporosis in post-menopausal women. Those women that were asked to eat 100 grams of dried plums per day had improved bone formation markers after only three months, compared to a control group who were eating 75 grams of dried apples.
These health benefits of prunes may be linked to their high concentration of the trace element boron which is postulated to play a role in prevention of osteoporosis and osteopenia. A single serving of prunes (100 grams) fulfils the daily requirement for boron. Also the potassium found in prunes may help support bone health.
Prune Nutrition Facts
- Glycemic Index (GI) Rating: Although rich in simple sugars, prunes do not cause a rapid rise in blood sugar levels, possibly because of their high fiber, fructose, and sorbitol content. Therefore, prunes have a low GI rating of 29. The Glycemic Load (GL) of prunes is 9.57 (low).
- Calories: Prunes have about 240 calories per 100 grams (67 calories per 1 ounce).
- Macronutrients: Prunes are rich in carbohydrates. They are also an excellent source of dietary fiber (6.1 grams per 100 grams). Prunes contain very little protein and hardly any fat.
- Vitamins: Prunes are a good source of vitamin A and vitamin K.
- Minerals and Trace Elements: Prunes are a good source of potassium, copper, boron and magnesium.
- Phenolic Compounds: Prunes are rich in phenolic compounds (184 mg/100 g) such as neochlorogenic and chlorogenic acids.