Prunes: A Sweet Functional Food Choice
Prunes are no longer just your Grandma’s food choice- they are emerging as a functional food that may play a beneficial role in regularity, gut health, and bone health. While California Prunes come loaded with a variety of health benefits, they can also lend a sultry sweetness to your culturally diverse dishes.
Here are the top four health benefits of prunes.
Prunes Pump up Dietary Fibre Intakes
A diet high in fibre improves regularity and reduces the risk of certain chronic diseases. Epidemiological data suggest that a diet that results in a stool weight of 150 g/d and a total fibre intake of 24 g/d reduces the risk of colorectal cancer (1). Fibre recommendations for Canadian adults range from 30-38 g/day for men and 21-25 g/day for women and 28 g/day for pregnant women (2). Meeting fibre recommendations requires a diet high in vegetables and fruit and including whole grains. Prunes are just one food that can help achieve your daily fibre goals as they contain 6 g of fibre per 100 g of fruit.
Prunes Promote Regularity
You know you need to stay regular (in the bowel sense) to keeping your exercise comfortable and your timing on track. But sometimes, this is easier said than done. Eating a high fibre diet and hydrating well is key to keeping pesky constipation at bay. This point hits home if you happen to be one of an estimated 14.9% of Canadians who suffer from chronic constipation (3). Prunes are both a good source of fibre and a source of sorbitol, a sugar that helps draw water into your intestine which helps soften stool and aids with bulk. A 2019 randomized controlled trial in Clinical Nutrition found that prunes significantly increased stool weight and frequency (4). Great news for athletes who struggle with bowel issues.
Prunes as Prebiotics for Gut Health
Prebiotics are foods high in types of fibre that feed helpful bacteria in your gut and prunes are an example of a great prebiotic choice. Preliminary research published in Clinical Nutrition, and funded by the California Prune Board, suggests that eating California Prunes may help improve the number of good bacteria, like Bifidobacteria, in your gut (4). Bifidobacteria are comprised of a number of different species, many of which have been implicated in beneficial health outcomes for people. For example, Bifidobacteria may help reduce the occurrence of colorectal cancer, treat diarrhea, reduce inflammatory bowel disease symptoms, improve bowel regularity, and improve overall proportions of good bacteria in the colon by competitively excluding pathogens (5).
Prunes Provide Nutrients to Support Bone Health
Preliminary studies suggest that eating about 50-100 g of prunes daily may help prevent bone mineral density (BMD) loss (6, 7). Prunes are a great source of vitamin K and potassium, two nutrients implicated in promoting bone health. A serving of 50 g of prunes provides approximately 120 calories, 3.6 g of fibre, 366 mg of potassium and 30 mcg of vitamin K (8). For athletes, trying to avoid injury, optimal BMD is crucial.
Functional foods are having their day. Your most crucial diet focus remains eating a wide variety of food and lots of vegetables, including whole grains and lean protein choices, and adding small amounts of healthy fat. Within those choices, there may be some added benefit to choosing functional foods. California Prunes can fit within a healthy diet and potentially help with bowel regularity and, gut and bone health.
This blog was written as part of a paid partnership with the California Prune Board.
Helping you choose food to meet your individual sports training needs. Gazelle Nutrition Lab delivers virtual one-on-one or group nutrition counselling and consulting to both recreational and high-performance athletes. In addition, the Gazelle Blog is a free resource for healthy recipes and health tips. Have questions? We’d love to hear from you! Get in touch!
- Cummings JH, Bingham SA, Heaton KW, Eastwood MA. Fecal weight, colon cancer risk, and dietary intake of nonstarch polysaccharides (dietary fibre).Gastroenterology. 1992;103(6):1783–1789. doi:10.1016/0016-5085(92)91435-7
- Trumbo P, Schlicker S, Yates AA, Poos M; Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine, The National Academies. Dietary reference intakes for energy, carbohydrate, fiber, fat, fatty acids, cholesterol, protein and amino acids [published correction appears in J Am Diet Assoc. 2003 May;103(5):563]. J Am Diet Assoc. 2002;102(11):1621–1630. doi:10.1016/s0002-8223(02)90346-9
- Pare P, Ferrazzi S, Thompson WG, Irvine EJ, Rance L. An epidemiological survey of constipation in canada: definitions, rates, demographics, and predictors of health care seeking. Am J Gastroenterol. 2001;96(11):3130–3137. doi:10.1111/j.1572-0241.2001.05259.
- Lever E, Scott SM, Louis P, Emery PW, Whelan K. The effect of prunes on stool output, gut transit time and gastrointestinal microbiota: A randomised controlled trial. Clin Nutr. 2019;38(1):165–173. doi:10.1016/j.clnu.2018.01.003
- O’Callaghan A, van Sinderen D. Bifidobacteria and Their Role as Members of the Human Gut Microbiota. Front Microbiol. 2016;7:925. Published 2016 Jun 15. doi:10.3389/fmicb.2016.00925
- Hooshmand S, Kern M, Metti D, et al. The effect of two doses of dried plum on bone density and bone biomarkers in osteopenic postmenopausal women: a randomized, controlled trial. Osteoporos Int. 2016;27(7):2271–2279. doi:10.1007/s00198-016-3524-8
- Wallace TC. Dried Plums, Prunes and Bone Health: A Comprehensive Review.Nutrients. 2017;9(4):401. Published 2017 Apr 19. doi:10.3390/nu9040401
- The Canadian Nutrient File. Accessed March 27, 2020. https://food-nutrition.canada.ca/cnf-fce/report-rapport.do