Prunes are dried plums, and they are known for their laxative qualities. Many people try eating prunes or drinking prune juice to alleviate constipation.
Now, researchers are exploring the impact of prunes on other areas of health.
There are many different types of plums, which range in color, texture, and taste. Any dried plum is technically a prune, but the term usually applies to the dried version of the widely available European plum called Prunus domestica.
Other common types of plum are Prunus salicina and Prunus americana. Together, these three types of plum are responsible for most of the prune production in the world.
All three are all freestone plums, meaning that it is easy to remove the pit. This makes drying and storage simple and ensures that the prune stays whole throughout the process.
Drinking prune juice is an easy way to make the most of these sweet, nutritious fruits.
In this article, we look at the benefits and nutrition of prune juice. We also cover the recent research on this dried fruit and explain how people can incorporate more prunes into their diet.
People have used prunes in traditional medicine for centuries, adding them as an ingredient to treatments for:
Prunes and prune juice have a range of proven and possible benefits, including those below:
The most well-known benefit of prunes is their laxative effect.
Eating prunes can mobilize the digestive system and decrease the time between bowel movements. This effect may be due to the fruit being rich in fiber and containing high levels of sorbitol, which is a known laxative.
People with constipation may find that drinking between half a cup and 1 cup of prune juice in the morning helps stimulate digestion. A second cup 30 minutes to 1 hour after a heavy meal may also be beneficial.
In a 2014 review in the journal Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics, researchers noted that prune consumption was more effective than psyllium husk at treating constipation. Psyllium is a popular over-the-counter (OTC) remedy for constipation, and it consists mainly of soluble fiber.
The authors concluded that prunes may help increase the frequency of bowel movements in people with constipation and improve the consistency of the stools.
They also noted that more research is necessary to determine the digestive benefits of prune juice in individuals who do not have constipation.
Prunes can help prolong satiety, meaning that people will feel full for longer after eating them. Prune juice can also offer this benefit.
This feeling of fullness occurs because the soluble fiber content in prunes slows digestion. Prunes also have a low glycemic index (GI), which means that they increase blood sugar levels at a slow rate.
A low-GI diet offers a range of health benefits and may also allow people to go longer without feeling hungry.
Preventing high blood pressure
The potassium content in prune juice helps balance the levels of sodium in the bloodstream.
Elevated sodium levels may contribute to high blood pressure and a range of circulation and heart problems.
According to estimates, hypertension may be responsible for almost half of the cases of ischemic heart disease worldwide. Fewer than 2 percent of adults in the United States consume this amount of potassium.
Protecting bone strength
Dried plums contain a range of plant compounds that may promote bone strength.
This area of bone health is still under investigation. Although research is yet to provide significant evidence of this benefit, including prune juice in the diet is unlikely to cause adverse effects.
Preserving liver health
As part of traditional medicine, people used prunes as a remedy for hepatitis, a liver infection.
A study in 2010 showed that prune juice can help reduce some of the more harmful chemicals that occur as a result of problems with the liver.
However, more research is necessary to explore the full potential of prune juice as a treatment in liver health.
Prune juice for children and infants
Because the digestive system has not fully developed in younger children, their needs are different than those of adults.
The authors of an article in Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology & Nutrition recommend fruit juices, such as prune, apple, and pear juices, as a treatment for constipation in children.
However, caregivers should be sure to monitor the amount that they give a child and be ready to scale it back if the child has any signs or symptoms of diarrhea.
As well as offering several potential health benefits, prunes have an excellent nutritional profile.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), one cup of prune juice, equal to 256 grams (g), contains:
- 2.6 g of dietary fiber
- 31 milligrams (mg) of calcium
- 64 mg of phosphorus
- 8.7 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin K
- 207.97 g of water
- no cholesterol or trans fats
Prunes are also a source of some important nutrients, including:
- vitamin A
- B vitamins
Prunes are high in potassium too, so they can help maintain a good potassium-to-sodium ratio. This balance is essential for keeping cardiovascular issues at bay.
The process of drying a plum into a prune increases the amount of fiber in the fruit. About 60 percent of the fiber in prunes is soluble.
People who are considering adding prune juice to their diet should be aware that it is extremely sugary and high in calories.
Drinking too much juice can result in a person consuming too much sugar.
Excessive sugar in the diet can reduce overall health, increase the risk of diabetes, and reverse the beneficial effects that prune juice has on blood pressure.
People can incorporate prunes into their diet in several different ways.
Adding naturally sweet prunes to hot cereals, such as muesli, porridge, or rice, can remove the need for added sugars. It is also possible to use prunes to replace some of the sugar in bread and muffins, while also adding fiber and flavor.
A straightforward way to increase the number of prunes in the diet is to place a few in a salad. Prunes can also add a sweet element to meat dishes, such as lamb tagine or beef stew.
Alternatively, people can eat them as a standalone snack. Prunes are delicious alone or in combination with nuts in a healthful trail mix.
A few prunes can help curb sweet cravings after a meal and provide the body with some extra fiber at the same time.
Many people are aware that eating prunes or drinking prune juice may provide relief for constipation.
However, prunes may offer additional health benefits, such as lowering the risk of hypertension and aiding weight loss by increasing satiety.
People can enjoy prunes as a sweet snack or add them to a range of dishes.
Anyone experiencing persistent constipation that does not respond to dietary or lifestyle changes should speak to their doctor. There are many treatment options available for constipation.
Can I use prune juice instead of laxative medications?
Eating prunes or drinking prune juice can alleviate constipation, and it can be more effective than laxative medications in some cases.
Start by drinking 4–8 ounces of prune juice in the morning as a first-line therapy for constipation, while ensuring that you also stay hydrated.
If you prefer eating prunes, start with 3 or 4 prunes daily for mild constipation and increase this number over time for more severe symptoms.
Katherine Marengo LDN, RD Answers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.