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When I first graduated from my master’s program and became a registered dietitian nutritionist, I worked as a food service director in a senior living facility. The number of prunes I ordered from our food vendor was astounding. Needless to say, I saw firsthand what they did to keep the gastrointestinal system in check!
If you’ve also witnessed the power of the prune when it comes to, well, pooping, then we’re in good company. However, research shows that’s not all this fruit can do! From gut health to bone health, the possibilities are proving to be endless when you pop open a bag of prunes.
Prunes are incredibly nutrient-dense
Prunes aren’t just a fiber-packed fruit. They also contain potassium, vitamin K, copper and boron. A standard serving size of prunes (approximately 4 prunes) delivers about 11 percent of the daily value of fiber, 6 percent of the daily value of potassium and 20 percent of the daily value of vitamin K. This combination of nutrients really makes the fruit shine when it comes to bone health.
Prunes also contain important antioxidants that offer immune support and provide heart health benefits.
Prunes may protect your bones
Recently, research regarding bone health has surfaced – and what it shows for both males and females is pretty incredible.
A recent study presented at the World Congress on Osteoporosis, Osteoarthritis and Musculoskeletal Diseases conference showed daily consumption of 50 grams of prunes (or about 5 to 6 prunes) for one year preserved bone mineral density (BMD) at the hip and offered protection for postmenopausal women at increased fracture risk.
Given the fact that BMD declines after menopause and women over 50 are more likely to experience hip fractures, it’s important more food-based therapeutic options are explored to help women receive these important nutrients that help improve their bone health for the long term. And affordable pantry staples like prunes could make an important difference.
Similarly, earlier research published in 2021 on men over 50 found that daily consumption of 100 grams of prunes (about 10 to 12 prunes) for one year demonstrated protective effects on bone health. After the 12-month study, the male participants not only saw significant decreases in bone breakdown, but also improvements in bone strength as well.
While this may or may not speak to your age range yet, the inevitable is in our future. What you do now, nutritionally speaking, will only help you later in life!
Prunes might lower your risk for heart disease
Believe it or not, prunes actually have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that can benefit your heart health.
A recent study evaluated 48 healthy postmenopausal women who were assigned to consume 0, 50, or 100 grams of prunes daily for 6 months. Researchers found that women who consumed 50 to 100 grams of prunes daily showed improved cardiovascular disease risk factors, such as lower total cholesterol, oxidative stress and inflammatory markers.
While both groups who consumed either 50 or 100 grams of prunes experienced increased total antioxidant capacity and antioxidant enzymes, the lower dose group tended to be better tolerated when considering the digestive side effects of consuming such a large dose.
Prunes can help with weight management
Prunes are filled with fiber, with roughly 3 grams per 4-prune serving. Fiber keeps you fuller for longer, which just might offer some weight management benefits.
Soluble fiber moves slowly through your digestive tract, increasing fullness, lowering cholesterol levels and regulating blood sugar levels. Insoluble fiber, on the other hand, speeds up digestion, allowing foods to move quickly through your gastrointestinal tract.
Research has found that prunes, when incorporated as snacks, may influence appetite and body weight in healthy overweight adults. While the sample size of this study was small and there are limitations regarding the diet program intervention participants were a part of with this study, the results do show promise that the nutrient composition of prunes positively affected satiety leading to less total food consumed.
Plus, researchers also found eating prunes in conjunction with a weight loss program may also benefit weight management, though further exploration of this is warranted.
The bottom line
While more research is certainly needed, we do know that prunes offer health benefits that extend beyond the gut in those individuals over 50. With that said, it’s important that more research explores the benefits that adding prunes may have on the younger generation’s health long-term. Who knows, maybe prunes can be the new kale of 2023? Only time will tell.
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