Prunes Nutrition Facts

6 Health Benefits You May Not Know About

Prunes, annotated
Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Prunes are made from plums and are often referred to as dried plums. Although prunes are naturally rich in potassium and fiber, they are also high in calories and sugar because they are so concentrated. 

Approximately 99 percent of the prune supply in the United States and 40 percent of the world’s supply is produced in California. There are several varieties of dried plums, the most common of which is the Petit d'Agen. Prunes are an economical and convenient food choice because they do not spoil quickly. They are available year-round and can be found in practically every grocery store.

While prunes are well known for their laxative effects, they may also help suppress appetite, prevent bone loss, lower the risk of colon cancer, and reduce cholesterol, blood sugar, and high blood pressure.

Nutrition Facts

The following nutrition information is provided by the USDA for five pitted prunes (47.5g) .

  • Calories: 115
  • Fat: 0.2g
  • Sodium: 0.9mg
  • Carbohydrates: 30.5g
  • Fiber: 3.4g
  • Sugars: 18g
  • Protein: 1.1g

Nutrition Facts

Prunes are both tasty and nutritious if consumed in moderation. Unfortunately, it is easy to go overboard if you regularly snack on prunes or any dried fruit. By way of example, one prune contains around 23 calories, whereas one fresh plum contains 46 calories. 

To this end, you need to watch your consumption so that reap the nutritional benefits of prunes without the consequences to either your digestion or weight.

Carbs in Prunes

Most of the calories in plums come from carbs in the form of sugar. A single prune contains no less than 3.6 grams of sugar, mostly glucose, fructose, and a type of sugar alcohol known as sorbitol. Despite their high carb and sugar content, prunes have a low glycemic index (GI), meaning they only cause a small rise in your blood sugar. While this may make prunes an acceptable snack for people with diabetes, it would likely be on the "do not eat" list of many low-carb diets.

Fat in Prunes

Prunes are virtually fat-free with only trace amounts of "healthy" monounsaturated fats. The total fat content is a mere 0.2 grams per serving. This doesn't mean that you can eat prunes with abandon and not gain weight. When fructose is metabolized by the liver, it gets turned into fat, which is then secreted into the bloodstream. A half-cup of prunes contains no less than 30 grams of fructose, equal to two cups of pineapple.

Protein in Prunes

Despite being "meaty," prune also don't offer much in the way of protein. On average, a sedentary man needs roughly 56 grams of protein per day, while a sedentary woman only needs 46 grams per day. If you are a vegetarian, you may need to bolster your diet with foods like nuts, beans, tofu, seitan, or temp

Micronutrients in Prunes

Prunes are a great source of vitamin A, which promotes eye and skin health, and potassium, which the body needs to regulate fluid balance, muscle contractions, and nerve signals. 

Prunes deliver vitamin A in the form of five carotenoids: alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, lutein, and zeaxanthin. The first three carotenoids are vital to healthy nerve function. Lutein and zeaxanthin are found in the retinas and prevent eye damage by blocking out blue light wavelengths.

Because of their high potassium content, people on potassium-restricted diets (usually as a result of kidney disease) are advised to avoid prunes.

Prunes also an excellent source of vitamin K, which is important for bone health and wound healing. A half-cup serving provides no less than 65 percent of the daily value (DV) of vitamin K recommended by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Prunes also offer a good amount of vitamin C, calcium, and iron.

Health Benefits

Beyond their nutritional value, prune may offer benefits to those with constipation, high blood sugar, high cholesterol, high, weight problems, osteoporosis, and other health conditions.

Constipation

Prunes have long been considered a staple home remedy for constipation. This is because prunes contain high amounts of pectin, a type of soluble fiber. In fact, around 60 percent of the dietary fiber in prunes is pectin. 

Soluble fiber absorbs water to form a gel-like substance inside the digestive tract. This helps to soften stools and ease them gently from colon to the rectum. Doing so reduces the risk of constipation-related hemorrhoids or hemorrhoidal pain during bowel movements. The sorbitol in prune also functions as a laxative by drawing moisture from the lining of the intestine. 

2014 review of studies from King's College London concluded that prunes are a far more effective laxative than psyllium husks found in products like Metamucil. By contrast, eating too many prunes can cause gastrointestinal distress due to excessive bowel stimulation.

High Blood Sugar and Cholesterol

The soluble fiber in prunes also binds to substances like sugar and cholesterol, preventing or slowing their absorption into the blood. This accounts for prune's low GI value, wherein the fiber not only slows the absorption of the sugars from the prunes themselves but other foods you may have eaten.

Prune's effect on cholesterol levels is equally significant. According to a 2010 study from the University of Queensland, eating 5 to 10 grams of soluble fiber per day can help lower both your total and "bad" low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol by as much as 5 to 11 points.

Weight Loss

In the past, dried fruits were generally avoided in weight loss diets. While they were known to suppress appetite and make you feel fuller, the high calorie and sugar content were considered "no-nos" by many diet experts. Today, that viewpoint has largely changed.

In fact, a 2014 study from the University of Liverpool concluded that obese and overweight people who ate prunes every day for 12 weeks (140 grams per day for women and 171 grams per day for men) lost 2 kilograms (4.4 pounds) more than people who weren't. The prune group also lost 2.5 centimeters (1 inch) more of their waistline compared to the control group.

More impressively, the weight loss appeared to increase in progressive weeks, with many citing reduced appetite as the main cause. No negative side effects were noted.

Colon Cancer

Although there are no suggestions that prunes can either treat or alter the course of any cancer,  researchers from Texas A&M University believe that prunes can alter the gut bacteria in a way that may reduce the risk of colon cancer.

According to the research published in Nutrition and Cancer, lab rats provided a daily diet of dried plums experienced increased concentrations of beneficial Bacteroidetes bacterium and decreased concentrations of Firmicutes bacterium (a type associated with colon cancer). The opposite was seen in rats who were not fed prune. 

Moreover, the rats that were fed prunes had fewer aberrant crypt foci than the control group. Aberrant crypt foci are one of the earliest observable lesions seen in colon cancer.

High Blood Pressure

Prunes are a good source of potassium, an electrolyte that assists with heart rhythm, nerve impulses, muscle contraction, and blood pressure. A 2010 study, which involved 259 people with early hypertension (high blood pressure), reported that people provided a daily diet of prune juice and prunes experience a significant drop in blood pressure after eight weeks compared to those not provided prunes.

Interestingly, the effect was seen after a single dose. As doses increases, "good" high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol also began to rise.

Osteoporosis

Prunes are also a good source of antioxidants, such as phenolic compounds. Thes are the compounds known to reduce heart disease risk by preventing the oxidation of LDL cholesterol. On top of that, phenolic compounds are believed to stimulate bone formation and stave bone loss.

According to a 2017 review of studies, prunes consistently increased bone mass density (BMD) in postmenopausal women at risk of osteoporosis. In one of the reviewed trials, the daily intake of 10 prunes along with a calcium/vitamin D supplement offered greater increases in spinal and forearm BMD compared to women provided supplements alone.

Common Questions

How are prunes produced?

Dried plums are harvested by machines to maximize efficiency. After thorough washing and placement on wooden trays, the harvested fruit is dried in a commercial dehydrator. The drying process concentrates the flavors and reduces most of the fruit's moisture, maximizing its shelf life.

The only preservative used in processing is potassium sorbate used to prevent mold and yeast spoilage. Sorbic acid is a naturally occurring substance found in certain types of apple and berries.

How long can I store prunes?

Dried plums are packaged in one-to-two pound packages for purchase. These products should be fine in their original package for 18 months if stored away from extreme temperature and humidity. Make sure to close the container tightly after opening, as dried fruits may mold if exposed to air and high humidity.

Recipes and Preparation Tips

Dried plums can be eaten alone or added to cereals, hot and cold, trail mix, salads, used in baked goods, stewed for chutneys or compote, or used as a stuffing for roasted meats or chicken. Stewed prunes can also serve as a cornerstone to a healthy meal; chop them up and add them to yogurt or incorporate the into main meal recipes.

Try substituting chopped prune for other dried fruits in the following recipes:

With the exception of smoothies, it is best to use firmer pitted prunes for recipes and avoid the soft prunes found in sealed canisters. If making a puree, soak the fruits overnight in water, drain, and pulverized in a food processor.

Allergies and Interactions

Prune allergies are uncommon but do occur. In most cases, it is related to a condition known as oral allergy syndrome (OAS) in which the body mistakes certain foods for common tree pollens. This cross-reactive response tends to be mild, with a slight burning or tingling sensation in the mouth as well as the swelling of the lips.  With prunes, the cross-reaction is most often associated with birch pollen.

While OAS symptoms generally last for a few minutes, call your doctor or go to your nearest urgent care center if the symptoms persist or there is rash, breathing difficulty, increased heart rate, nausea, vomiting, or dizziness. A severe, whole-body allergy, known as anaphylaxis, is extremely rare with prunes.

There are no known drug interactions with either prunes or prune juice.

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