The Health Benefits of Prunes
Prunes -- AKA dried plums -- are sweet, chewy fruits that contain an impressive array of nutrients. Seriously. Most people know that they can help to treat constipation. But they do other positive things to other parts of your body as well.
1) They keep your blood sugar under control: The soluble fiber in prunes slows the movement of food from the stomach to the intestines, and slows the rate at which glucose is absorbed from food. These traits helps to keep blood sugar within healthy limits, and the soluble fiber in prunes may even help to reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes (by increasing insulin sensitivity).
2) They improve bone health: Researchers at Florida State University have discovered that eating prunes appears to reverse osteoporosis in older women. Specifically, women who ate 100g of prunes each day were found to have significantly improved bone markers after just three months.
It is suspected that this health benefit comes from the fact that prunes provide you with boron, which studies show is linked to a reduced likelihood of osteoporosis and brittle bones. It is also worth noting that the potassium in prunes may encourage improvements in bone health as well.
3) They lower cholesterol levels: The antioxidants in prunes help to prevent damage from dangerous free radicals, and so they prevent as much bad cholesterol from sticking to the walls of your blood vessels. This reduces your risk of developing cardiovascular diseases.
Further, the soluble fiber in prunes binds to bile acids and allows them to be excreted in bowel movements. This results in lower cholesterol levels as well, as the liver must use up cholesterol in order to produce new bile acids.
4) They help to boost energy: Prunes provide you with copper, and copper encourages the body to metabolize and use carbohydrates. This produces plenty of energy, so prunes are an ideal snack if you are tired or tend to suffer from slumps between meals.
5) They can protect you against certain types of cancer: A study on over 50,000 postmenopausal women revealed that the ones who ate the most prunes (and other fiber-rich foods) were 34% less likely to develop any form of breast cancer. On a more general note, scientists at Tufts University have recently discovered that prunes have a higher antioxidant capacity than any other food.
This means that they may help to reduce your risk of developing cancer, as some studies support the claim that antioxidants can help to prevent DNA damage that can lead to cancer when damaged cells multiply out of control. Prunes have this excellent nutritional property because they contain high levels of hydroxycinnamic acids and anthocyanins.
6) They prevent damage to fats: Prunes contain phytonutrients called phenols, and these have repeatedly been proven to effectively reduce the degree of oxygen-based damage to fats. While the benefit of this may not be immediately obvious, consider that our brain cells and cell membranes are primarily made up of fats. As a result, it is highly significant that prunes can reduce the likelihood of damage to these important building blocks of the body.
7) They can help you lose weight: The amount of fiber found in prunes means that eating prunes can help you to feel full and satisfied for a long time after eating. When you feel full, you are discouraged from overeating or excessively snacking between meals.
8) They promote a healthy digestive system: Prunes help the good bacteria in your digestive system to thrive, so that the types of bacteria that can cause disease do not dominate your digestive system. This is because good bacteria are sustained by the fiber in prunes.
9) They promote iron absorption: Prunes encourage your body to absorb more iron, and you need iron in order to manufacture hemoglobin (which is responsible for carrying oxygen to all of your cells).
10) They can treat constipation: If you are extremely constipated, prunes can help to alleviate your discomfort. This is because prunes are extremely high in fiber, which makes your bowel movements softer and bulkier. This fact about prunes also makes them capable of assisting your body’s natural detoxification processes, encouraging old waste to be evacuated from the colon.
In addition, prunes contain one gram of the carbohydrate sorbitol, which causes diarrhea in large quantities. The relatively small dose found in prunes provides your colon with just enough stimulation in order to help ease constipation without causing diarrhea.