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Published on October 21, 2015

It’s not plum crazy to eat prunesIt’s not plum crazy to eat prunes

Prunes get a bad rap. No one enjoys having pruny fingers after a long swim, and one of Dick Tracy’s enemies was the far-from-handsome Pruneface.

And then there’s the health benefit for which prunes are best known. Rich in fiber, prunes help ease constipation, but that’s not something we really like to talk about.

Maybe that explains why the California Prune Board changed its name to the California Dried Plums Board.

Dietician Amy Rose Sager understands the plum producers’ predicament. “They’ve always been called prunes, but now they’re being marketed as dried plums,” she said. “Wouldn’t you rather have a plum?”

You can debate which name to use, but, either way, the prune (or dried plum) has some health benefits worth talking about.

“Constipation disrupts your life, and 60 million Americans suffer from it,” said Sager, who is the per diem dietician for the Visiting Nurse Association of Cape Cod and the past chair of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Vegetarian Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group.

You can make jokes if you want, but “prunes taste better than fiber supplements,” she said.

Prunes are more than nature’s laxative.

“Increasing fiber in your diet can lessen your risk of cancer and other diseases, and prunes are a great source of fiber,” Sager said.

A new study showed that “eating dried plums may be a viable nutrition strategy to help prevent colorectal cancer,” said Dr. Nancy Turner, a research professor in the nutrition and food science department at Texas A&M University.

Dr. Turner said plums promote the health of microbiota in the colon. Although the study was conducted on rats, she said the research did a “good job of replicating a lot of the changes that occur in the human intestine as colon cancer develops.” The research was presented at the 2015 Experimental Biology conference in Boston.

There’s evidence that there are other ways that plums and prunes are good for you.

  • Protect your vision – A single prune provides 3 percent of your daily share of vitamin A. According to the American Optometric Association, vitamin A helps cut the long-term risks of developing macular degeneration and cataracts.
  • Boost your bones – An apple a day is good, but a handful of prunes is better for your bones. Joint research at two universities showed that a group of postmenopausal women who ate prunes every day for a year had higher bone mineral density than a group of women who ate dried apples.
  • Increase your iron – Prune juice is an easy way to get some iron in your system. By helping your body produce healthy red blood cells, iron helps fight fatigue.

Sager suggests adding some diced prunes to your breakfast cereal, in addition to eating them plain. You can also mix prunes and other dried fruit with nuts for a great energy source when you go for a long hike or bike ride.

Looking for some recipes? The California Dried Plums Board’s “quick & easy” recipes include Citrus Rice Pilaf Salad, Dried Plum Turkey Dunks and Chocolate-Dipped Dried Plums.