The Health Benefits of Plums and Prunes

June 10, 2008


Brief History of Plums

The plum is related to the peach, cherry, nectarine, apricot and almond, and dried plums are commonly referred to as prunes. The Prunus domestica, or European plum is primarily used for making prunes, and the Prunus salicina, or Japanese plum is the most commonly eaten fresh plum.

Prunus domestica originated in western Asia, while Prunus silicina are native to China, and are mentioned by Confucius dating back to 479 BCE.  Prunus silicina was first taken to Japan, hence the name Japanese plum, before being introduced to other parts of the world. In Chinese mythology the plum tree is associated with great age and wisdom.

Today plums are second only to apples as the most cultivated fruit, with China the leading producer, and the US, Serbia, Romania and Germany other large plum producing countries.

Nutrients in Plums & Prunes

Plums are a very good source of vitamin C. They are also a good source of vitamins Bl, B2, and B6, and dietary fiber. Prunes are a very good source of provitamin A. They are a good source of potassium, thiamin, riboglavin, vitamin B6, boron and dietary fiber.

Plums Nutritional value per
100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy 192 kJ (46 kcal)
* Carbohydrates 11.4 g
Dietary fiber 1.4 g
* Fat 0.28 g
* Protein 0.70 g
* Vitamin A 345 IU
* Vitamin C 9.5 mg
Phosphorus 16 mg
Potassium 157 mg
A comprehensive breakdown of nutrients can be found in the Nutrition Database where this food can also be added to a meal planner.
Plums, dried
(prunes), uncooked
Nutritional value per
100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy 1,006 kJ (240 kcal)
* Carbohydrates 63.88 g
Dietary fiber 7.1 g
* Fat 0.38 g
* Protein 2.18 g
* Vitamin A 781 IU
* Vitamin C 0.6 mg
Phosphorus 69 mg
Potassium 732 mg
A comprehensive breakdown of nutrients can be found in the Nutrition Database where this food can also be added to a meal planner.

Prunes for Osteoporosis Prevention

Several studies have demonstrated that dried plums, or prunes, which contain high amounts of polyphenols, can restore bone mass and structure.

In a 3-month study involving 58 postmenopausal women, dried plums significantly increased serum levels of insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I) and bone-specific alkaline phosphatase (BSAP) activity. Higher levels of both serum IGF-I and BSAP are associated with greater rates of bone formation. Although further studies are desirable, these results suggest that dried plums may have beneficial effects on bone mineral density.

Another study concluded that dried plum polyphenols enhance osteoblast (bone formation) activity.

Prunes are a good source of boron, which is believed to play a role in prevention of osteoporosis.

Prunes for Cholesterol Reduction

Phenolic compounds in prunes had been found to inhibit human LDL oxidation in vitro

Prunes for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention

High potassium content of prunes (745 mg/100 g) is beneficial for cardiovascular health.

Plums for Cancer Prevention

According to the American Cancer Society, foods high in fiber and vitamin A may offer some protection against cancers of the gastrointestinal and respiratory tracts as well as cancers induced by chemicals.

Researchers have found that the phytonutrients in plums inhibited in vitro breast cancer growth without adversely affecting normal cell growth.

Plums and Prunes as a Natural LaxativePrunes

Plums and prunes are both effective laxatives, with prunes being the more effective of the two. The laxative action of both prune and prune juice could be explained by their high sorbitol content.

Some food chemists suggest that what makes the prune such an effective laxative is not its fiber but another constituent, an unidentified derivative of the organic chemical isatin, which is related to another natural substance, biscodyl, the active ingredient in some over-the-counter laxative tablets and suppositories. Biscodyl is a contact laxative that induces the secretion of fluid in the bowel and stimulates contractions of the intestines that push waste through the colon more quickly and efficiently.

Glycemic Index of Plums

In a study to determine the estimated glycemic index of various foods, it was concluded that plums have a low GI.

Adverse Reactions from Prunes

When they are dried, prune plums may be treated with sulfites (sulfur dioxide, sodium bisulfite, and the like) to inactivate polyphenoloxidase, an enzyme that hastens the oxidation of phenols in the prunes, forming brownish compounds that darken the fruit. People who are sensitive to sulfite may suffer serious allergic reactions, including potentially fatal anaphylactic shock, if they eat prunes treated with sulfites. Also, prunes treated with sulfite compounds are high in sodium.

1. The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods by Michael Murray, Joseph Pizzorno, and Lara Pizzorno.
2. Benders’ Dictionary of Nutrition and Food Technology.
3. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference.
4. Arjmandi BH, Khalil DA, Lucas EA, Georgis A, Stoecker BJ, Hardin C, Payton ME, Wild RA. Dried plums improve indices of bone formation in postmenopausal women. J Womens Health Gend Based Med. 2002 Jan-Feb;11(1):61-8. PMID: 11860726.
5. Bu SY, Hunt TS, Smith BJ. Dried plum polyphenols attenuate the detrimental effects of TNF-alpha on osteoblast function coincident with up-regulation of Runx2, Osterix and IGF-I. J Nutr Biochem. 2008 May 19. [Epub ahead of print] PMID: 18495459.
6. Yingsakmongkon S, Miyamoto D, Sriwilaijaroen N, Fujita K, Matsumoto K, Jampangern W, Hiramatsu H, Guo CT, Sawada T, Takahashi T, Hidari K, Suzuki T, Ito M, Ito Y, Suzuki Y. In vitro inhibition of human influenza A virus infection by fruit-juice concentrate of Japanese plum (Prunus mume SIEB. et ZUCC). Biol Pharm Bull. 2008 Mar;31(3):511-5. PMID: 1850578.
7. Stacewicz-Sapuntzakis M, Bowen PE, Hussain EA, Damayanti-Wood BI, Farnsworth NR. Chemical composition and potential health effects of prunes: a functional food? Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2001 May;41(4):251-86. PMID: 11401245.
8. Carol Ann Rinzler, The New Complete Book of Food. A Nutritional, Medical, and Culinary Guide

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