Prunes: They're Not Just For Pooping

By: Kristen Hall-Geisler  | 

prunes
Prunes have a bad rap. Most of us think they're just good for digestive health, but studies have shown they also help maintain bone density. Africa Studio/Shutterstock

Prunes are a very uncool, unsexy food. They are not avocado toast or cake. They are dried plums. They have a reputation for helping keep your bowel movements regular and for being popular with old people. It's tough out there for prunes.

But what if we told you they're great for building healthy bones that stay strong even as you get older? Now how much would you pay? Actually, you'll pay exactly the same price as you would before you knew this information. Prunes are still, so far, not a designer food.

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When we're young, our bones build more mass than they lose. When we reach our late 20s, we're at peak bone mass. After that, our bones lose more mass than they form, a process called resorption. Post-menopausal women have even more bone loss once their bodies stop producing estrogen.

We're often told we need calcium to build strong bones, and it's true — 99 percent of the body's calcium is in our bones and teeth. We get calcium mostly from foods we eat, such as dairy products, salmon and foods that are fortified with calcium, like juice or breakfast cereal. In order to absorb calcium, the body also needs vitamin D, which we usually get from sunshine. And then to calcify bones, vitamin K steps in to help.

Here's where our friend the prune comes in. Prunes are rich in vitamin K as well as potassium, which also helps maintain bone density. A study published in the journal Osteoporosis International in 2016 showed that eating 50 grams of prunes a day, which is about five or six prunes, is just as effective as a higher dose of prunes.

The study focused on post-menopausal women who had already experienced some loss of bone mass. Eating a handful of prunes every day for six months seemed to prevent bone resorption, which meant the subjects maintained a higher bone mass density.

A 2017 survey of prune studies published in the journal Nutrientsfound that prunes are safe to consume with no adverse effects. Four prunes contain about 280 milligrams of potassium and 22.8 micrograms of vitamin K.

If you're looking for ways to get more prunes in your life, you can just eat them, the same way you would dried apricots or raisins. You can also chop them up and add them to granola, trail mix or oatmeal. Again, anything you can do with another dried fruit, you can probably do with prunes.

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Originally Published: Sep 9, 2020

Prunes FAQ

Where did prunes come from?
Prunes are just dried or dehydrated plums. Actually, a number of U.S. manufacturers now label them "dried plums" to avoid associations with constipation.
Do plums have the same laxative effect as prunes?
Prunes are more effective than plums, even though both contain lots of fiber. Prunes contain lots of soluble and insoluble fiber, as well as natural sugar called sorbitol. All of these soak up a ton of water in the digestive tract, making stools bigger and easier to pass. Fresh fruit generally doesn't contain more than one percent sorbitol, but prunes contain 15 percent. The dried fruit also contains dihydroxyphenyl isatin, which stimulates the intestines and makes them contract, moving stool through the tract.
What are the benefits of eating prunes?
Prunes are rich in vitamin K as well as potassium, which also helps maintain bone density. They can also prevent constipation and colon cancer.
Is prune juice a good laxative?
Yes, it's a great natural laxative due to its high sorbitol content. When giving prune juice to a child, try 2 to 4 ounces and adjust the amount as needed. Adults can stimulate a bowel movement by drinking 4 to 8 ounces of prune juice.
Will prunes make you poop?
Prunes are high in fiber and keep things moving in the colon, but they don't cause diarrhea.
Is it OK to eat prunes everyday?
Prunes are safe to consume with no adverse effects. In fact, eating five or six prunes a day has great benefits for bone density and preventing resorption, particularly as a person ages.

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