Dried plums (aka prunes) are a sweet, low-calorie snack that are full of vitamins and minerals. But they’ve been associated with constipation for so long that they’ve almost become a joke.
But if you’re concerned with preventing osteoporosis and bone loss as you age, you can stop laughing right now. Turns out that the lowly prune is one of the best things to add to your diet if you want to keep your bones strong so they can support you as you get older.
For a decade or more, there’s been consistent evidence that eating prunes can prevent osteoporosis, increase bone mineral density and even reverse bone loss, both in animals and in humans.
Let’s take a look at the most recent research and at why this little fruit may be just what our aging bones need.
Prunes prevent bone loss from spinal cord injury
After someone sustains a spinal cord injury, it’s not unusual for them to develop osteoporosis and bone loss.
Bone loss usually occurs below the point of injury, largely because weight-bearing on those bones has suddenly stopped.
In two separate experiments this year, researchers determined that prunes not only can prevent this bone loss associated with spinal cord injury — but can even restore some of the bone that has been lost.
Dr. Bernard Halloran, Professor Emeritus at the University of California San Francisco, and Dr. Xuhui Liu of the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center conducted the experiments.
In the first experiment, mice that had spinal cord injuries were fed either a diet containing 25 percent dried plum or a control diet for up to four weeks.
The dried plum diet completely prevented bone loss, while the mice in the control group showed 71 percent bone loss volume at four weeks after the injury had taken place.
The second experiment was meant to see whether a dried plum diet would actually restore lost bone.
The mice were divided into two groups. One group was fed the control diet for a full four weeks. The other group received this diet for the first two weeks, to allow bone loss to occur, and then switched to the dried plum diet for the second two weeks.
Remarkably, in only two weeks, the dried plum diet partially restored bone that had been lost. Not only that, but the mice that ate the dried plum diet for those two weeks showed greater bone strength.
Dr. Halloran and Dr. Liu believe that the polyphenols in prunes, as well as Vitamin K and manganese, play a role in inhibiting osteoclasts, cells that are essentially “bone-eaters” (as opposed to osteoblasts, the cells involved in building new bone).
How to get more prunes in your life
You really can’t beat prunes as a quick, easy and sweet snack. One prune has about 20 calories, but no sodium, cholesterol or fat. Prunes are also a great source of fiber.
But if you’re not fond of whole prunes, try prune juice (my choice). It retains a high proportion of the nutrients found in the fruit, higher than most fruit juices. Just be sure to buy prune juice without any added sugar (it’s sweet enough on its own!)
Another good option is prune butter, also known as lekvar. It’s a thick paste made of pureed prunes. It’s used in baby foods and pastries and is a great spread atop a bagel or toast!
A few more ideas:
- Prunes poached in orange juice make a great topping for yogurt or frozen yogurt.
- Try adding diced prunes to your next batch of chili.
- Add diced prunes to carrots as they cook for a sweeter flavor.
And here’s a twist on your Thanksgiving stuffing that includes prunes, turkey sausage and chestnuts: Sausage, Chestnut and Plum Stuffing.
Strong bones never tasted so good!
Prunes for Stronger Bones — Berkeley Wellness
Viewpoint: dried plum, an emerging functional food that may effectively improve bone health — Ageing Research Reviews
Dried Plums (Prunes): Sweet Fiber and Nutrition — Berkeley Wellness