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The Health Benefits of Plums and Prunes

written by: BStone • edited by: Rhonda Callow • updated: 7/22/2010

Purple, red, green, or yellow plums, fresh or dried, eating this fruit is one of the sweetest ways to slow the aging process and fend off degenerative diseases. Learn about the benefits of eating prunes, as well as the health benefits of fresh plums.

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    History of Prunes and Plums

    purple plums The plum has been a part of the human diet for at least two thousand years. European plums originated in southern Europe; they were brought to the United States in the 17th century, where new varieties of plums developed. Japanese plums originated in China, although they were highly cultivated in Japan. The practice of making plums into prunes started in Western Asia, and then moved towards the west as the prune became a staple in parts of Europe. Today, the United States, Russia, China, and Romania are the largest plum producers. California is the world's biggest prune producer.

    Along with peaches, nectarines, and almonds, plums are part of the Prunus genus of plants. They are characterized by large pits surrounded by rich, juicy fruit. Between European plums, Japanese plums, American plums, and Ornamental plums, there are over two thousand different types of plums. They come in an assortment of colors, from blue-black to yellow plums, with pink, green, or orange flesh.

    Prunes are dried plums. They have a slightly different chemical composition from being sun-ripened and then dried. Prunes have a different mineral content and a higher percentage of fiber per serving. They are just as sweet as fresh plums, but with a sticky texture. Both are delicious fresh, or stewed. There are many benefits of eating both prunes and plums.

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    Plums, Prunes and Antioxidants

    Both versions of the Prunus domestica have been portrayed as potential super fruits for their high antioxidant content. There is a lot of attention surrounding this fruit, whether fresh or dried, along with a significant amount of research to support the claims of the health benefits of plums and prunes. These fruits contain phytonutrients called phenols, specifically neochlorogenic and chlorogenic acid. These antioxidants have a direct impact on neutralizing the free radical, superoxide anion radical. Their activity also prevents the oxidation of fats - protecting the fatty material that makes up part of our brain cells, cell membranes, and preventing free radical damage to cholesterol, which would otherwise lead to plaque build-up on artery walls.

    Vitamin A and C found in these fruits also act as powerful antioxidants in the body. For a more potent effect, be sure to eat plums when they are very ripe.

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    Nutritional Value of Plums and Prunes

    Plums and dried plums are both excellent sources of vitamin C, which along with being a water-soluble antioxidant, this nutrient is necessary for immune health, tissue regeneration, and iron absorption. Vitamin A, a fat-soluble antioxidant is responsible for keeping membranes moist, including the skin, the eyes, and mucous membranes, increasing their effectiveness and ability to ward off infection. Vitamin A is also important for maintaining good vision. Both versions of the plum also provide a respectable amount of heart-healthy potassium. This mineral helps to regulate blood pressure, making sure the heart is not strained, and contributes to the general functioning of all major organs.

    The nutrients in plums include vitamin B2 or riboflavin. This vitamin must be consumed on a daily basis as the body is incapable of either producing it or storing it. Riboflavin helps with energy production, metabolizing carbohydrates, amino acids, and fats.

    The specific benefits of eating prunes include their high insoluble fiber content. Prunes have a reputation for promoting intestinal health and regularity for good reason. There action helps to greatly reduce the risk of colon cancer by encouraging the elimination of waste as opposed to allowing it to sit in the intestines. It binds with cholesterol and other harmful substances during its trip through the body. The insoluble fiber in dried plums also acts as nourishment for beneficial bacteria within the intestinal tract, further improving the health of the digestive system. Prunes are also a good source of the mineral copper which is needed for energy production.

    Whether you prefer plums or prunes, enjoy this fruit on a regular basis. It is a proven source of antioxidants, and one of the most valid super fruits.

    Sources:

    WH Foods

    Organic Facts

    Phytochemicals

    photo credit: Jeltovski