I’ve become re-obsessed with prunes of late. And with good reason!
Prunes tend to be most well known for their constipation relieving properties. And quite rightly so! They are high in fibre, sorbitol (a sugar alcohol that can loosen the stool) and a natural laxative compound called diphenyl isatin that can make them a wonderful digestive aid.
Prunes are also a great source of energy in the form of simple sugars, but do not mediate a rapid rise in blood sugar levels as they are high in soluble fibre that helps to keep blood sugar levels stable. Soluble fibre slows the rate that food leaves the stomach and, as a result, delays the absorption of sugar into the blood stream. Soluble fibre also increases the body’s sensitivity to insulin. In addition, the soluble fibre in prunes can also help you feel satisfied for longer, thereby reducing the likelihood of overeating. Both of these properties can be beneficial in preventing Type 2 diabetes and obesity as well as other blood sugar imbalance disorders. They shouldn’t be eaten in excess of course!
Prunes contain large amounts of phenolic compounds, specifically the phytonutrients neochlorogenic and chlorogenic acids, which may aid in the laxative action and also delay glucose absorption.
Studies have shown that these phenolic compounds help to prevent damage to cells particularly when it comes to the oxidation of lipid (fat) molecules in the body. Since all of our cell membranes, as well as our brain cells, are largely made up of lipids which contain fat, these are important phytonutrients to have in the diet. These compounds have also been found to inhibit the oxidation of LDL cholesterol in the body making them an important factor in the prevention of cardiovascular and chronic diseases. Additionally, the high potassium content of prunes can be beneficial for cardiovascular health.
Prunes are rich in beta carotene, Beta-carotene is an anti-oxidant and protects against the damage of free radicals on our cells, meaning, among other things, it can help reverse the signs of aging. Vitamin K works in conjunction with beta carotene to fight the signs of aging by helping reduce bone loss and improving circulation. A 2013 study showed that an increased intake in beta carotene can actually make people happier!
Dried prunes are an important source of boron, which is not only postulated to play a role in prevention of osteoporosis but, along with vitamin B6, is an important co-factor for the uptake of magnesium into cells. You can read more about the importance of magnesium here and here. A serving of around 4 prunes fulfils the daily requirement of boron for an adult.
So in summary we have seen that prunes may be beneficial for the following:
– Digestive tract and colon health
– Blood sugar balance / Type 2 diabetes
– Lowering LDL cholesterol
– Cardiovascular health
– Oxidative stress / damage and chronic disease
– Improved bone health
– Magnesium uptake in cells
Throw a couple of prunes in your kids lunch box today and eat a couple yourself while you are at it.
Chemical composition and potential health effects of prunes: a functional food? http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11401245
Studies on the relationship between boron and magnesium which possibly affects the formation and maintenance of bones. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2222801
Comparative effects of dried plum and dried apple on bone in postmenopausal women. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21736808
Randomised clinical trial: dried plums (prunes) vs. psyllium for constipation. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21323688
Depression Phenotype, Inflammation, and the Brain: Implications for Future Research http://journals.lww.com/psychosomaticmedicine/Abstract/2016/05000/Depression_Phenotype,_Inflammation,_and_the_Brain_.2.aspx