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Top 5 Health Benefits of Plums and Prunes

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by Shari

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Everything You Wanted to Know About (mostly) Prunes and (a little about) Plums for Optimal Health

#1 Prunes for Constipation Relief

Plums and prunes are well-known natural remedies for constipation due to their high fiber content and natural laxative properties.

Here’s how they help with constipation:

  1. High fiber content: Plums and prunes are rich in dietary fiber, particularly soluble and insoluble fiber. Fiber adds bulk to the stool and helps it move through the digestive tract more easily. This can aid in regular bowel movements, preventing or alleviating constipation.
  2. Sorbitol: Prunes, in particular, contain a natural sugar alcohol called sorbitol. Sorbitol has a laxative effect as it draws water into the intestines, softening the stool and promoting bowel movements.
  3. Natural laxative effect: Plums and prunes contain compounds like diphenyl isatin and phenolic compounds that act as natural laxatives, stimulating the muscles in the intestines and promoting bowel contractions, known as peristalsis. This encourages the movement of stool through the colon and helps relieve constipation.
  4. Hydration: Both plums and prunes are high in water content, which is essential for maintaining proper hydration in the digestive system. Staying hydrated ensures that the stool remains soft and easy to pass. Obviously, plums picked fresh off the tree are the most hydrating. Prunes – not so much.

To utilize plums or prunes for constipation relief, you can try the following methods:

  1. Eating fresh plums or prunes: Consume 2-3 plums or prunes daily as a snack or part of your regular diet.
  2. Drinking plum or prune juice: Drink a glass of plum or prune juice in the morning or before bedtime to aid bowel movements. More on prune juice below.
  3. Prune puree: Soak dried prunes in water overnight and blend them into a puree. Consume this puree in the morning to help stimulate bowel movements.
  4. Prune-based recipes: Incorporate prunes into your meals, such as adding them to oatmeal, yogurt, salads, or baked goods.

It’s important to note that while plums and prunes can be effective for most people in relieving mild constipation, if you have chronic or severe constipation or if you are on any medications, it’s best to consult your healthcare provider for appropriate advice and to rule out any underlying medical conditions.

Additionally, remember to increase your water intake when increasing your fiber consumption to ensure proper hydration.

Why are prunes better than plums for constipation?

Prunes are usually recommended for constipation (over fresh plums) due to their higher fiber content and other related compounds.

  1. High Fiber Content: Prunes are dried plums, and the drying process concentrates their fiber content. Fiber adds bulk to stool and helps move it through the digestive system. Prunes are rich in both soluble and insoluble fiber, which aids in bowel regularity.
  2. Sorbitol: Prunes contain a natural sugar alcohol called sorbitol, which has a mild laxative effect. Sorbitol helps draw water into the colon, softening the stool and promoting bowel movements.
  3. Natural laxatives: Prunes contain natural compounds that act as mild laxatives (such as dihydroxyphenyl isatin and phenolic compounds), which help alleviate constipation.
  4. Nutrients: Prunes are a good source of potassium, vitamin K, and antioxidants. These nutrients support overall digestive health.

So, generally speaking, prunes have a higher concentration of fiber per bite (as compared to plums). That’s the short answer. As always, focus on staying hydrated. Drink lots of water, especially as you increase the amount of fiber in your diet.

And important to note – if your constipation lasts more than a few days, consider talking to your doctor – and adding fiber to your diet.

(Skim to the end if you want to read about all types of plums you can enjoy!)

#2 Prunes and Osteoporosis

When old bone tissue is broken down faster than new bone is formed, this leads to reduced bone density, weakened bones, and an increased risk of fractures.

This imbalance in the natural bone remodeling process contributes to the structural deterioration of bones, making them more susceptible to damage and compromising overall skeletal health.

Emerging evidence supports the consumption of prunes for their high concentrations of micronutrients, promoting bone health.

Research suggests just 50 grams of prunes (about 5-6 prunes) per day for six months reduced bone resorption (osteoporosis) in at-risk postmenopausal women (Higgs, Derbyshire, and Styles 2017).

#3 Prunes Can Improve Heart Health

Prunes are rich in antioxidants, which can improve heart health by reducing oxidative stress and inflammation.

Prunes contribute to heart health through their antioxidant content, particularly polyphenols and phenolic acids.

These compounds help combat oxidative stress and inflammation, which are linked to cardiovascular diseases.

By neutralizing free radicals and reducing inflammation, prunes support overall heart health.

Additionally, prunes contain potassium, a mineral essential for maintaining blood pressure within a healthy range.

Including prunes in your diet may thus offer a tasty and heart-friendly way to enhance your cardiovascular well-being.

#4 Prunes Can Help You Lose Weight

Prunes can be beneficial for weight loss due to several reasons.

First, they are a good source of dietary fiber, which promotes a feeling of fullness and helps control appetite.

The fiber content also regulates blood sugar levels, preventing energy crashes that may lead to overeating.

Additionally, prunes have a relatively low energy density, meaning they provide fewer calories for a larger volume of food, making them a satisfying and nutritious snack option.

The natural sugars in prunes are accompanied by fiber, slowing down the absorption of sugar and providing a steady release of energy, which can contribute to better weight management.

However, moderation is key, as prunes are calorie-dense, and excessive consumption may offset their weight-loss benefits.

#5 Prunes Help Digestion

Another notable benefit of eating prunes is their potential to support digestive health beyond their well-known laxative effects.

Prunes contain soluble and insoluble fiber, which aids in maintaining a healthy digestive system.

The fiber adds bulk to stool, promoting regular bowel movements and preventing constipation.

Additionally, the soluble fiber in prunes acts as a prebiotic, nourishing the beneficial bacteria in the gut, which contributes to overall digestive well-being.

Including prunes in your diet can help support a balanced and efficient digestive system!

Everything Else You Need to Know About Prunes and Plums!

Is Store-Bought Prune Juice Healthy?

Both store-bought prune juice and homemade prune juice have their pros and cons, and the choice depends on your preferences, convenience, and dietary considerations.

Store-Bought Prune Juice:

  • Convenience: Store-bought prune juice is convenient and readily available, saving you time and effort.
  • Consistency: The taste and consistency are standardized, ensuring a reliable product every time.
  • Added Ingredients: Some commercially available prune juices may contain added sugars or preservatives. Bleh! Checking the ingredient list is advisable if you’re watching your sugar intake.

Homemade Prune Juice:

  • Control Over Ingredients: Making your own prune juice gives you control over the ingredients, allowing you to skip added sugars or preservatives.
  • Freshness: Homemade juice can be fresher, and you can adjust the sweetness and flavor to suit your taste.
  • Nutrient Retention: Processing and pasteurization in store-bought juices may lead to a slight loss of nutrients compared to freshly made juice.

Ultimately, choosing store-bought and homemade prune juice depends on your priorities. If convenience is crucial, store-bought options might be more suitable.

If you prefer controlling the ingredients and enjoying a fresher taste, making your own prune juice can be a rewarding option.

Again, remember that prune juice is a concentrated form of fruit sugar, so you only need a small amount (unless you are a marathon runner, but ahem, make sure you run right by a bathroom!).

Can Dogs and Cats Eat Plums?

While plums themselves are not toxic to dogs and cats, it’s important to exercise caution when considering giving them to your pets.

The flesh of the plum is generally safe, but the pit (or stone) can pose a choking hazard and, in some cases, may cause digestive blockages.

Moreover, plum pits contain cyanide, which harms dogs and cats!

The cyanide is more concentrated in the pit, and if a pet chews or swallows it, it could lead to cyanide poisoning.

If you want to share a small amount of plum with your pet, make sure to remove the pit and cut the plum into small, manageable pieces to reduce the risk of choking.

Always monitor your pet for any signs of discomfort or adverse reactions after introducing a new food.

It’s advisable to consult with your veterinarian before including plums or any other unfamiliar food in your pet’s diet to ensure their safety and well-being.

If you’re unsure, it’s better to be on the safe side.

You can also contact Julz, a holistic pet healer we interviewed recently!

How to Dry Plums

Drying prunes at home is a simple and rewarding process intensifying their natural sweetness while preserving their nutritional value.

  • Start by selecting ripe plums, preferably of the European variety*, as they are ideal for making prunes.
  • Wash and pit the plums, then cut them in half to expose the flesh.
  • Arrange the halves on a baking sheet, ensuring they are not touching each other.
  • Place the sheet in direct sunlight or use a food dehydrator set to a low temperature.
  • Regularly turn the prunes to ensure even drying.
  • Depending on the method and conditions, the drying process may take several hours or days.
  • Once the prunes are shriveled and have a leathery texture, they are ready to be stored in airtight containers.

These homemade prunes make for a delicious and healthy snack, perfect for adding a burst of natural sweetness to your meals or enjoying yourself.

*NOTE: When referring to the “European variety” in the context of prunes, it generally means plums that belong to European plum species (Prunus domestic).

European plums are different from Japanese plums, which are a common variety.

European plums are often firmer and have a higher sugar content, making them well-suited for drying into prunes.

These plums are preferred for their ability to retain flavor and sweetness during the drying process, resulting in the production of high-quality prunes. YUM.

What is the Difference Between Plums and Prunes?

Plums and prunes are related, but they differ primarily in how they are processed and consumed.

  1. Plums:
    • Fresh Fruit: Plums are fresh fruits that come in various varieties, such as European plums (Prunus domestica) and Japanese plums (Prunus salicina). They are typically enjoyed as a juicy, sweet snack.
    • Usage: Plums can be eaten fresh, used in cooking and baking, or turned into jams and preserves.
  2. Prunes:
    • Dried Plums: Prunes are essentially dried plums. They are usually made from specific varieties of plums, often European varieties, that have a higher sugar content and are well-suited for drying.
    • Processing: Plums are dried naturally in the sun or using artificial methods like dehydrators to make prunes.
    • Nutritional Benefits: Prunes are known for their concentrated sweetness and are often consumed for their potential health benefits, including aiding digestion due to their high fiber content.

It’s worth noting that the term “prune” is commonly associated with dried plums, but not all dried plums are labeled as prunes.

The distinction is more about marketing and consumer preference.

My long-term fruitarian friend, Sebastian, saw my prune photo and said, “Prunes are prunes, but plums are plums. those are dried plums, not prunes.” I often tease him and call him my Raw Vegan Police friend.

So, in his honor, I am adding the following distinction:

Most people believe that plums and prunes are the same thing; just one dry and one juicy.

Well, they are related but not how you think they are.

Not all plums are prunes…

As it turns out, prunes are just dried plums. However, not all plums are prunes.

The prune fruit comes from a different type of plant other than plums.

So yes, dried plums are called prunes; but not all plums are prunes….

Confused yet?

According to DifferenceBetween, prunes have pits that are easier to remove from the flesh unlike the other types of plums. 

Both plums and prunes come from the same plant genus called Prunus.

By being related to this genus, this makes prunes a type (or a variety) of plums.

This even means that plums and prunes are related to other genus fruits like cherries, almonds and peaches since they come from the same family.

Spoon University

When looking for prunes, you’re essentially seeking dried plums, and they can be a tasty and nutritious addition to your diet when consumed in moderation.

Plum Varieties, Plum Season, and Picking the Best Plums

Plums come in a LOT of varieties. Every type of plum has a unique flavor profile and texture.

Plum season can vary depending on the specific variety and the region.

Here’s a brief overview of plum varieties, their seasons, and tips for picking the best plums:

1. Plum Varieties:

  • European Plums (Prunus domestica):
    • Italian Plums: Known for their oblong shape and deep purple color, they are excellent for drying into prunes and are often used in baking.
    • Agen Plums: These small, dark purple plums are commonly used to make high-quality prunes.
  • Japanese Plums (Prunus salicina):
    • Santa Rosa: A popular variety with reddish-purple skin and sweet, juicy flesh.
    • Satsuma: Known for its red skin and sweet, tangy flavor.
  • Other Varieties:
    • Black Plum: Also known as black amber plums, these have dark skin and a sweet, rich flavor.
    • Red Plums: Varieties like Frontier and Laroda have red skin and a sweet taste.

2. Plum Season:

  • European Plums: Generally in season from late summer to early fall, usually from August to October.
  • Japanese Plums: Their season is typically earlier, from late spring to early summer, around June to August.

3. Picking the Best Plums and How to Know When a Plum is Ripe:

  • Color: Look for plums with vibrant colors. The exact shade depends on the variety but avoid dull or overly green plums.
  • Feel: Gently squeeze the plum; it should yield slightly to pressure but not be too soft. Overly soft or mushy fruits may be overripe.
  • Texture: A slight whitish “bloom” on the skin is normal and indicates freshness. Avoid plums with wrinkled or blemished skin.
  • Smell: A sweet, fruity aroma near the stem suggests ripeness.
Purple Plums

When picking plums, consider your intended use.

If you plan to eat them fresh, look for plums that are slightly soft and have a pleasing fragrance.

For baking or preserving, firmer plums may be preferable.

Enjoy the diverse flavors and textures that different plum varieties offer during their respective seasons.

We Love Prunes!

As you embark on this delightful journey of incorporating plums and prunes into your healthy plant-based lifestyle, savor the natural sweetness and wholesome goodness these fruits offer!

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About Shari

Shari Likes Fruit is all about making fruit and vegetables enjoyable, loving animals, and cherishing the joy within all of us.

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