It is a common misconception that a prune is its own specific fruit. A prune is the dried version of any type of plum.
There are many different types of plums, ranging in color, texture, and taste. They all come from the Prunus family, however, and this is where the name prune comes from. Relatives of the plum include nectarines, peaches, and almonds.
Drinking prune juice is one way of consuming these fruits.
A prune is a dried plum and not a separate kind of fruit.
Any dried plum may be considered a prune, but the term usually applies to the dried version of the European plum (Prunus domestica), which is commonly found in stores. Other variations of plums include the Prunus salicina and Prunus Americana.
These three types of plums contribute to most of the prune production in the world. They are all freestone plums, meaning that the pit within the fruit comes out easily. This makes drying and storage simple, and ensures the prune stays as whole as possible throughout the entire process.
Prunes have been used in traditional medicines for centuries. Folk remedies often used prunes as a key ingredient for conditions, such as high blood pressure, jaundice, fever, diabetes, digestion, and constipation .
A study posted to the Journal of Medicinal Plants Research looked at the wide range of compounds in prunes and discovered some exciting nutritional information.
Prunes are a source of some major nutrients, including:
- Amino acids
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin B-complex
- Vitamin K
Prunes are also high in potassium, which may help with cardiovascular issues.
Prunes are a rich source of dietary fiber, containing around 7 grams per 100 grams of fruit
About 80 percent of the fiber in prunes is soluble fiber. The process of drying a plum into a prune actually increases the amount of fiber in the fruit itself.
Possible medical properties of plums
There are also many different medical compounds in prunes, providing specific medicinal actions such as:
Prunes are a rich source of simple sugars. Glucose, fructose, sorbitol, and sucrose are all found within prunes. Because of the natural fibers within the fruit, prunes do not spike the blood sugar as much as the sugars themselves would. However, regular consumption of sugary foods such as prunes should still be monitored.
Prunes are also full of antioxidants. Compounds like chlorogenic acid, neochlorogenic acid, caffeic acid, coumaric acid, and rutin are all found in prunes. These specific antioxidants, called polyphenols, may prevent cell mutation and reduce cancer cell formation. Prunes were found to have the highest range of polyphenols when compared with other dried fruits, such as raisins, figs, and dates.
Prune juice and bowel function
Prune juice, like other juices, may be high in sugar, so drinking in moderation is recommended.
Prunes are probably most known for their laxative effect. Prunes have the ability to mobilize the digestive system and decrease the transit time of bowel movements. This may be due to the combination of soluble fiber and high levels of sorbitol, which is a known laxative.
In a review posted to Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics, researchers noted that prune consumption was more effective than high fiber psyllium husk at treating constipation. The studies note that for people with constipation, prunes may help to increase the frequency of bowel movements and improve the consistency of the stool itself.
For people without constipation, though, the results are not as promising. The researchers noted that more studies are still needed to determine the digestive benefits in nonconstipated individuals.
For people with constipation, drinking ½ cup to one cup of prune juice in the morning may help stimulate digestion. A second cup 30 minutes to 1 hour after a heavy meal may also be helpful.
There are also some precautions that people should take when considering adding prune juice to their diet. It is important to remember that excess juice consumption also means excess sugar consumption. Too much sugary juice can lead to worsened overall health, such as increasing the risk of diabetes and weight gain.
Can children and babies use prune juice for constipation?
Because a small child's digestive system is not fully developed, their needs are different to an adult's. Children may respond well to simply increasing their total liquid intake by 2-4 ounces a day.
According to an article in Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition, fruit juices like prune, apple, and pear juice are generally recommended for constipation in children. However, caregivers should be sure to monitor the amount they are giving, and be ready to scale it back if the child shows symptoms of diarrhea.
Anyone who is experiencing persistent constipation that does not respond to diet or lifestyle changes should speak to their doctor. There are many treatment options available for constipation
There are plenty of other ways to get prunes into the diet other than juice.
For breakfast, prunes can be added directly to hot cereals like muesli, porridge, or rice for natural sweetness without adding extra sugar. Prunes can be added to breads and muffins to replace some sugars while adding fiber and flavor.
Topping a salad with a few prunes may help people increase their daily intake, while others prefer to simply eat them out of the bag. Prunes themselves are very sweet, and can be eaten alone or mixed with nuts in a healthy trail mix.
A few prunes after a meal can serve to curb sweet cravings, as well as provide the body some extra soluble fiber.