prunes benefits

Prune juice is well-known as a remedy for constipation. However, there is much more to this tart and sweet juice. Being rich in several vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, it offers several health benefits. Read on to learn about the nutrition and health benefits of prunes and prune juice.

What is prune juice?

Prunes are dried plums. The juice made from dried plums is known as prune juice.  This dark purple juice has a sweet and slightly tart taste. There are many varieties of plums available which provide a variety of color, texture, and taste. But the term prune generally applies to Prunus domestica, a widely available European plum.

The process of making prune juice is relatively simple. The plums are first harvested and dried. The prunes are then placed in boiling water and soaked till the fruit starts to disintegrate and the juice begins to release. This mixture is then separated and filtered. The liquid that remains is prune juice that is high in nutrition and dietary fiber.

Nutritional values of prune juice

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) one cup (256 grams) of prune juice  contains (1) –

  • Calories – 182
  • Protein – 56 grams
  • Carbohydrates – 44.67 grams
  • Fiber – 2.6 grams
  • Sugar – 42.11 grams
  • Fat – 0.08 grams
  • Potassium – 707 mg (20% DV)
  • Phosphorus – 64 mg (6% DV)
  • Magnesium – 36 mg (9% DV)
  • Calcium – 31 mg (3% DV)
  • Iron – 3 mg (17% DV)
  • Vitamin C – 10.5 mg (17% DV)
  • Vitamin B6 – .558 mg (28% DV)
  • Niacin – 2 mg (10% DV)
  • Vitamin K – 8.7 mcg (11% DV)

Health benefits of prunes and prune juice

1. Treats constipation

One of the most known benefits of prune juice is its ability to relieve constipation. Prunes are rich in fiber and contain sorbitol, a known laxative. During a 2014 review of four trials, researchers discovered prunes are superior to psyllium in improving stool frequency and consistency (2).

2. Lowers colon cancer risk

Consuming prunes and prune juice can reduce the risk of colon cancer. According to research from Texas A&M University and the University of North Carolina, prunes have a positive effect on gut microbiota throughout the colon, which helps reduce the risk of colon cancer (3). An earlier study from Japan showed that prune extract suppresses the proliferation and induces apoptosis of human colon carcinoma cells (4). Further research is needed to study the effect of prunes on other carcinomas.

3. Helps in weight loss

Prunes are an excellent source of dietary fiber. Fiber keeps you feeling fuller for longer, which helps prevent unhealthy snacking. Prunes also have a low glycemic index, which means they do not lead to spikes in blood sugar levels. The high sorbitol content of prunes may be in part responsible for this.

According to a study from San Diego State University, dried plums elicit lower plasma glucose and insulin AUC than low-fat cookies and tend to promote higher plasma ghrelin (5). So, you must add prunes to your diet if you want to lose weight.

4. Lowers blood pressure

Drinking prune juice can reduce blood pressure. Prune juice is rich in potassium, which helps balance the levels of sodium in the blood. Elevated levels of sodium can lead to high blood pressure. According to a 2010 study, 259 hypertensive volunteers took either prune juice or a glass of plain water early in the morning on an empty stomach. The result showed that the group that took prune juice had reduced blood pressure as compared to the control group (6).

5. Reduces cholesterol levels

Prunes are rich in pectin, which has strong antioxidant properties. These antioxidant properties of prunes help lower the levels of heart-damaging cholesterol. According to a study by the University of Minnesota,  when rats with atherosclerosis were given dried plum powder for five months, their serum cholesterol levels were significantly lower (7). Another study from Australia showed that diets rich in dietary fibers reduce serum cholesterol and lower the risk of heart disease (8).

6. Prevents anemia

Prunes are a rich source of iron. One cup (256 grams) of prune juice contains 3 mg of iron, which is 17 percent of our daily requirement. So drinking prune juice can prevent anemia and its symptoms like shortness of breath, irritability, and fatigue.

7. Protects bones and muscles

Prunes are rich in boron, a mineral which helps to metabolize critical vitamins and minerals in the body and helps build strong bones and muscles. Studies have also shown that prunes help prevent and reverse bone mass and structural loss in postmenopausal women (9).

Prunes are also beneficial in fighting loss in bone density caused by ionizing radiation in radiotherapy patients, radiation workers, and astronauts. According to a 2016 study, prunes and prune powder can reduce the negative effect of radiation on bone marrow, thus preventing bone density loss and promoting bone health (10).

8. Prevents emphysema

Emphysema is a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) which occurs in patients due to oxidative stress. People who are suffering from emphysema experience difficulty in breathing, shortness of breath, and fatigue. Oxidants present in prunes help in the prevention and treatment of emphysema (11).

9. Improves heart health

Prune juice can improve heart health in several different ways. The antioxidants in prune juice help lower cholesterol levels, which helps prevent heart issues. Prune juice is also an excellent source of potassium. One cup of prune juice contains 707 mg of potassium which is 20 percent of the daily value. Potassium promotes overall heart health. Prune juice also contains vitamin K, which helps prevent calcification of arteries.

10. Preserve liver health

People use prune juice as a remedy for hepatitis in traditional medicine. According to a 2010 study, drinking prune juice reduces serum alanine transaminase and serum alkaline phosphatase levels, which may be beneficial in the treatment of hepatic diseases (12). Further research is needed to understand how prune juice can benefit liver health.

11. Improves cognitive health

Prune juice is rich in several vitamins and antioxidants, which help improve brain function. Prune juice contains vitamin B and C, which are known to prevent brain aging, mild cognitive impairment, and Alzheimer’s disease (13).

Ways to add prunes to your diet

You can incorporate prunes and prune juice into your diet in several different ways –

  • Adding prunes to your breakfast cereal such as muesli or porridge can add nutrition and eliminate the need for sugar.
  • You can also add prunes to your salad.
  • Mix them with nuts and eat them as a snack.
  • Add prunes to meat dishes like beef stew or lamb tagine for added flavor.
  • Puree prunes and use them as a jam.
  • Add them to the dough while baking cakes.
  • You can also make your prune juice and have it first thing in the morning.

Make prune juice at home

Ingredients –

  • Prunes – 1 cup
  • Filtered water – 5 cups

Method –

  1. Remove the pits from all the prunes and put them in a glass bowl.
  2. Boil five cups of filtered water in a saucepan.
  3. Now add about one cup of this boiling water to the glass bowl till all the prunes are covered. Save the rest of the water for later.
  4. Soak the prunes in this water for at least 24 hours.
  5. Now blend these prunes and water in a blender till they become smooth.
  6. Now sieve this mixture with the help of cheesecloth.
  7. Add the remaining water to this sieved mixture, and your prune juice is ready.
  8. Chill this juice in the refrigerator.

Side effects of prune juice

  • Prunes and prune juice are generally safe to consume, but they can have some side effects.
  • Prunes contain sorbitol, which can lead to gas and bloating in some people.
  • The insoluble fiber in prunes can worsen diarrhea.
  • In some cases, additional intake of fiber in the diet can lead to constipation.
  • Though prune juice is not as acidic as some other juices, it can trigger acid reflux in some people.
  • Prune juice is high in calories and sugar. It can lead to weight gain and is not suitable for people with diabetes.
  • Prunes contain trace amounts of histamine, which can lead to allergy symptoms in some people.
  • Prunes form a chemical called acrylamide during the drying process. This chemical is considered a carcinogen by the National Cancer Institute.

Final thoughts

Prunes (dried plums) and prune juice have been traditionally used to treat constipation. This highly nutritious fruit provides many other health benefits. It lowers the risk of colon cancer, reduces blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Prunes can improve heart, liver, and cognitive health. Prunes make you fuller for longer and help in weight loss. It prevents anemia, emphysema, and protects bones and muscles.

You can eat prunes as a snack, drink prune juice, or add them to a variety of sweet and savory dishes. However, prunes can also cause some mild side effects. Eating prunes can lead to diarrhea, bloating, and gas in some people. Being mildly acidic, it can lead to acid reflux. Prune juice is high in calories and sugar and can lead to weight gain. It is not suitable for people with diabetes.