Prunes, the shrivelled, dry fruits that are often being touted as the new superfood are nothing but dried European plums. These plums that go with the botanical name Prunus domestica belong the flowering plant family Rosaceae. Contrary to the belief, not all types of plums can be ‘converted’ into prunes, and the same technique of ‘drying’ cannot be attributed to all fruits from the same species. Cultivated by the farmers with an intention to ‘dry’, a majority of these prunes are freestone cultivars, meaning which, the pit is easy to remove.
Prunes are a kind of staple, in the United States for many years. Surprising it may sound, but the farmers cultivating plums in the US, got authorisation by the Food and Drug Administration to relabel prunes as ‘dried plums’, as it is widely recommended for relieving constipation, which they felt was quite derogatory. Yes! That’s right. The mention of Prune juice for gut issues is quite common in the American TV shows like Two and Half Men, where an entire episode is dedicated for dealing with young Jake’s stomach problems.
Well, there is much more to prunes than just treating constipation. These prunus fruits that grown on large shrub or small tree, are oval measuring up to 8 cm. Tangy and little sweet to taste, prunes contain one large seed, that is discarded while eating. The flesh of this fruit is where all nutrients are imbibed into. With more than 64% carb content, along with 7% of dietary fiber, 2% protein, these fruits are choc-a-bloc with vitamin B, vitamin K, dietary minerals, besides a plethora of phytochemicals including phenolic compounds like neochlorogenic, chlorogenic acids and sorbitol.
Also Read: Best Berries: 5 Must-Have Tiny, Tangy Fruits For Enhanced Health - Infographic
What Is The Difference Between Prunes and Plums?
In India, imported prunes and prune juice are available but the Indian variety of plums are often referred as Aalu Bukhara, Arukum, Albokhala, Aluppukarappalam, Alpagodapandu, Aru bakhada, Arukam, Barkuk, Shaftalu et al.
Prunes In Ayurveda:
Though there is no mention of Prunes in ancient Ayurvedic texts, modern day practitioners of this ancient medicine attribute all the therapeutic properties of plums to this dried version. It is described as an appetizer that ignites ‘Pachak agni’, the digestive juices. Regular intake of prunes balance vata that can cause obesity, joint pains, inflammation etc.
Also Read: Vata Diet: All You Need To Know About This Dosha And A Regime To Pacify The Imbalance
How To Eat Prunes?
Ayurveda recommends consuming prunes that were soaked in water for at least 2 to 3 hours, for better absorption of the nutrients by the digestive tract.
Health Benefits of Prunes:
Improves Gut Health:
Prunes top the list of natural foods that can transform gut health to good, in a jiffy. Being a rich source of both soluble and insoluble fibre, these dried plums regulate bowel movements, trigger digestion, and ensure optimum absorption of nutrients into the system. The presence of sorbitol and chlorogenic acid in these fruits serve as laxative and a proven remedy for those suffering from constipation. Eat at least two prunes a day or gulp down half a glass of prune juice daily, for relief from constipation and also for enjoying great gut health.
Prevents Chronic Diseases:
Prunes, when dried get that deep purple colour from the presence of anthocyanins, a type of polyphenol also found in copious amounts in black rice and blueberries. According to various research, Anthocyanins decrease the risk of heart disease, cancer, prevent high blood pressure and regulate hormonal functioning, thus bringing down the risk of chronic diseases.
Consuming prunes reduces the risk of chronic bone disorders including osteoporosis, osteopenia and also delay the bone loss in the elderly. The presence of antioxidants plays a major role in reducing the inflammation and also triggering hormones that can strengthen the bones in women. Being a powerhouse of vitamin K, magnesium and phosphorous, regular consumption of dried plums, build stamina and strengthen bones from within.
Rich in Antioxidants:
Both fresh plums and dried versions are a powerhouse of antioxidants, which are crucial for protecting the body cells from the damage caused due to free radicals. Loaded with polyphenols, prunes bring down inflammation especially in those suffering from bone and lung related disorders.
Lowers Blood Sugar:
Contrary to the belief that fruits rich in carbs increase diabetes, prunes do not cause sudden spike in the levels of blood sugars. This is because the fruit soon after consumption increases the levels of hormone adiponectin, which plays a crucial role in regulating blood sugar. However, since prunes are high in calories, consume in moderate amounts.
Protects Cardiovascular System:
Heart is a primary organ in the human body and it takes all the brunt right from stress, emotions to physical health. High blood pressure and elevated levels of cholesterol trigger cardiovascular diseases and it is important to consume healthy diet, supported by active lifestyle for a better heart functioning. According to various studies consuming prune juice daily on an empty stomach significantly reduced the levels of LDL or bad cholesterol in the blood besides increasing good or HDL cholesterol. High on digestive fibre, potassium, manganese and a wide spectrum of antioxidants, make this super fruit an ideal choice for those suffering from heart ailments.
Also Read: Potassium: Functions, Food Sources, Deficiency And Toxicity
Benefits of Prune Juice:
In India, dried prunes may not be available at all places but don’t lose your heart yet. A bottle of prune juice offers all the nutrition similar to fistful of these dried fruits. Drinking a glass of prune juice aids in digestion, maintains electrolyte balance, reduces high blood pressure.
Prune juice, as a part of regular diet is strongly recommended for those suffering from anemia and other associated complications including difficulty breathing, severe fatigue and mood swings. The juice is rich in boron, which plays a pivotal role in building strong bones and improving muscle coordination. Drink prune juice for clearing clogged arteries and also for feel satiated for longer hours, to kill those boredom hunger pangs.
The antioxidant rich juice is the best bet for those suffering chronic lung related ailments including Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), lung cancer and emphysema, especially in smokers. The goodness of prune juice on gastrointestinal system is established and it helps in preventing colon cancer.
How To Add Prunes To Diet?
Be it in the form of ripe plums or dried prunes, these fruits are so easy to add to your regular diet. Add it to your salad, stir in for juice and just chew on it.
Here are two very easy to prepare prune recipes
Prune, Onion and Orange Salad:
100 grams dried, deseeded prunes
½ cup fresh orange juice
1 onion, sliced thin
1 tsp vinegar
1 tsp pepper powder
2 tsp honey
Fistful mix of baby spinach, mint and coriander
Fistful of nuts including almonds, walnuts, pista
Salt to taste
In a bowl, take orange juice, mix in prunes, onion slices and greens
In another bowl, stir in vinegar, pepper powder, honey for dressing
Pour the dressing and give it a stir. Add salt to taste
Sprinkle nuts over the top
Dried prunes or plums are a rich source of both soluble and insoluble fibre, potassium, magnesium, vitamin K, vitamin B, iron. Regular consumption of dried prunes helps in regulating bowel movement, treating constipation, besides preventing various chronic ailments. Adding orange to this salad, not only gives it tangy, aromatic flavour but boosts the iron content and brings in Vitamins A and C. The anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antibacterial properties of honey boost immunity, while greens accentuate this dish with a plethora of vitamins. Finally, topping it with nuts gives it all great crunchy flavour and also an amazing amount of protein, good fats and vitamin E.
Also Read: Vitamin E – Functions, Food Sources, Deficiencies and Toxicity
Oats and Prune Porridge:
5 dried prunes
1 cup rolled oats
Pinch of salt
Cook rolled oats as per instructions, until tender
Add in finely chopped prune pieces and let it cook on low flame completely
Check for taste. Some dried prunes may have some added sodium.
If it doesn’t taste salty, add some salt
If you are feeding babies eight months or older or elderly, with digestive issues puree it in mixer. However, do check with your doctor if prunes are permitted for your baby or the elderly and the recommended amount
Rolled oats are a rich source of dietary fibre and come with lower glycemic index, which keep heart healthy, boost immunity and help in digestion. Adding prunes to this porridge gives the goodness of fruits in the form of potassium, magnesium and a wide range of vitamins.
Also Read: Magnesium: Functions, Food Sources, Deficiency And Toxicity
Is It Okay To Eat Prunes Every Day?
Like any other food item, consuming prunes or prune juice in moderate amount is permissible. However, check for the following side effects.
Side Effects or Contraindications of Prunes:
Consuming more than ten prunes can trigger diarrhea owing to high digestive fibre and sorbitol presence. These both components serve as a laxative, causing severe diarrhea thus leaving you tired and dehydrated. Prunes can also cause intestinal bloating, distress, flatulence, nausea, stomach cramps, if eaten in high amounts. Acrylamide in prunes is a potential risk behind cancer. Make sure to pick prunes that were dried at right temperature.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Prune Juice Good for Pregnant Women?
Yes, prune juice is highly recommended for pregnant women to regularise bowel function and treat constipation, owing to its natural laxative action. In addition, it is packed with the goodness of iron, vitamin K and antioxidants that help to pump iron stores and meet the increasing demand for iron during pregnancy.
Can Diabetics Take Prune?
Yes, the richness of soluble fibre in prune aids, to slow down the process of absorption of glucose in the bloodstream. Also, dietary fibre keeps you satiated and maintains insulin and blood sugar levels under control.
Does Prune Juice, Induce Gas?
Prune juice is known to cause certain gastric issues in a few people. As it contains sorbitol and fibre, which are responsible for causing digestive issues like flatulence and bloating, when taken in large quantities.
Can I Have Prune Juice Daily?
Though prune juice is healthy for the system. But it is not advisable to have it in excess amounts. The recommended intake is one serving per day, which is 6 dried prunes or one serving of prune juice per day.
Prunes or dried plums are available extensively in the US but have become quite popular in the recent years in India, as well. While plums in India are often referred as Alau Bhakra, dried plums are a thing of west and are being embraced for its high digestive fibre and a wealth of nutrients. In India, dried plums with rich nutritional profile can be store bought for enjoying the benefits of good heart health, managing diabetes, strengthening bones, muscles besides treating a wide range of gut related issues. Prune juice is equally good and gulp a glass of it down daily for regulating bowel movements and treat constipation. However, take it in moderate amounts as prunes in excess cause stomach distress leading to diarrhea, nausea and flatulence.If you are pregnant, lactating mother or giving it your baby for the first time, check with your doctor if prunes are recommended for you, as a part of your diet plan.