When we think of dried plums, or prunes as they are also known, we’re more likely to think of their bowel-regulating abilities than their capacity to build strong bones. But according to research published in the British Journal of Nutrition, we might want to give these sweet and tasty superfoods a second thought for bone health.
According to researchers at the Department of Nutrition, Food and Exercise Sciences, at Florida State University, dried plums are “the most effective fruit in both preventing and reversing bone loss.” The nutrition researchers recruited 236 women who had hit menopause one to ten years earlier, were not on hormone replacement therapy or taking any prescribed medications known to influence bone metabolism. The women were divided into two groups: those who ate 100 grams of dried plums or 100 grams of dried apples. Additionally, participants received 500 milligrams of calcium plus 400 IU of vitamin D daily.
The scientists assessed bone mineral density of the lumbar spine (low back), forearm, hip and whole body prior to the study’s onset and at the end of the study using duel-energy X-ray absorptiometry as well as blood samples of bone health markers.
The scientists found that the women eating the dried plums on a daily basis had a significant increase in bone mineral density compared to the women eating the dried apples. Only the dried plums caused a significant decrease in bone markers linked to a breakdown of bone density.
Preventing bone breakdown tends to be easier than reversing bone loss so the study results are significant. Daily prune consumption showed the ability to both prevent and reverse bone loss.
Additional research in the British Journal of Nutrition had similar results. This time the researchers assessed 160 post-menopausal women with low bone mineral density, but not sufficiently low to be diagnosed as having osteoporosis. Again, they found that prune consumption could prevent and reverse bone loss by limiting the body’s production of compounds that initiate bone depletion.
In the latter study the women ate a normal diet with approximately 10 dried plums daily for a year (about 3.5 ounces).
Fresh plums and dried prunes are known to increase iron absorption in the body as well as boosting vitamin C levels. In addition to aiding bone health, fresh and dried plums have been found to normalize blood sugar levels, improve weight loss and lower cholesterol levels.
Select soft, plump, shiny prunes that are free of any signs of mold. Avoid sulfured prunes. Store in a refrigerator to keep them fresh. You can find ones with or without pits, depending on your preference and plans for use. While they are delicious eaten on their own, they can be pureed and added to recipes in place of sweeteners to boost the fiber and nutritional content. They can also be stewed for a delicious breakfast or pancake or waffle topping.