Fresh Pick: Prunes
Forget what you heard about prunes being a food of old age—this sweet and sticky dried fruit with robust flavor promises health and longevity.
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Prunes as an alluring superfood? It’s hard to believe. This wrinkly dried fruit has long been associated with bran cereal, irregularity, and retirement homes. But thanks to research extolling their benefits, prunes have established themselves as a wonder food.
Sweet and chewy, with a complex, earthy flavor, prunes are dried European plums; the most common variety is the La Petite d’Agen, a native of southwest France. They were first introduced in California’s Santa Clara Valley in 1854 and were intensively grown by Luther Burbank, who is considered the father of the American plum industry.
Prunes: Nutrition Facts
For under 100 calories, a serving of 4 prunes has:
- 3 grams of fiber (11% Daily Value)
- 280 mg of potassium (6% DV)
- 23 mg of vitamin K (20% DV)
- 0.1 mg of copper (10% DV)
- No fat, cholesterol, or sodium
- Only 24 grams of carbs (9% DV)
That fiber is of the insoluble variety, the secret weapon for improving sluggish digestion, easing hemorrhoids, and lowering colon cancer risk. Insoluble fiber also produces a compound that helps maintain the body’s population of friendly bacteria, which may help prevent the following:
Prunes are loaded with phenolic compounds, the same class of powerful antioxidants found in berries, red wine, and tea. Phenolic compounds inhibit the oxidation of LDL (harmful) cholesterol, and can reduce the risk of heart disease. As mentioned, these dried gems are also loaded with fiber, which also reduces heart disease risk.
Because of their high fiber content, prunes may have some anticancer effects, especially in preventing colon cancer. Some studies suggest that they may also protect against breast cancer by altering the way the body metabolizes estrogen.
Prunes are exceptionally high in boron—100 grams contain 100 percent of the DV (2–3 grams) of this bone-building mineral that’s essential for preventing osteoporosis. They’re also loaded with potassium, a key to bone health that decreases calcium excretion due to high-salt diets.
Buying and Storing Prunes
Purchase prunes in the bulk bins of most natural foods stores, or buy them prepackaged in bags or cans if you like a softer variety. Prunes should be plump and shiny, and free of sulfites and other preservatives. Store them in a tightly sealed container in a dark cupboard, or in the refrigerator. If they dry out, soak them in warm water or apple juice for 10 minutes before using in recipes.