Plums are a type of stone fruit, which means they contain a hard pit (or stone) which is surrounded by soft, pulpy flesh and a thin skin. There are about 20 main types, and the one we're most used to seeing at the grocery store is the Japanese plum, according to the University of California, Berkeley.
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Depending on the variety, plums vary in shape, size and color. Plums may be red, purple, blue-black, green, amber or yellow while their flesh can have a rainbow of hues including orange, pink, yellow or green. They may be as large as a peach or as small as a cherry and are typically round but may also be heart-shaped or oval.
Dried plums are referred to as prunes and are widely available nationwide and all year-round
Plum Nutrition Facts
One medium plum, with a diameter of approximately 2 1/8 inches, is equal to a single serving. One medium plum contains:
- Calories: 30
- Total fat: 0.2 g
- Cholesterol: 0 mg
- Sodium: 0 mg
- Total carbs: 7.5 g
- Dietary fiber: 0.9 g
- Sugar: 6.5 g
- Added sugar: 0 g
- Protein: 0.5 g
- Total fat: One plum contains 0.2 grams of total fat, which includes .03 grams polyunsaturated fat, .09 grams monounsaturated fat, 0 grams saturated fat and 0 grams trans-fat.
- Carbohydrates: One plum contains 7.5 grams of carbohydrates, which includes 0.9 grams of fiber and 6.5 grams of naturally occurring sugars.
- Protein: One plum has 0.5 grams of protein.
Vitamins, Minerals and Other Micronutrients
- Vitamin C: 7% of your Daily Value (DV)
- Vitamin K: 4% DV
- Copper: 4% DV
- Thiamin (vitamin B1): 2% DV
- Niacin (vitamin B3): 2% DV
- Pantothenic acid (vitamin B5): 2% DV
- Potassium: 2% DV
- One plum is not a significant source of iron (1% DV), magnesium (1% DV), phosphorous (1% DV), folate (1% DV), zinc (1% DV) and vitamin A (1% DV).
Health Benefits of Plums
Like all fruit, plums have an abundance of vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber, among other nutrients.
1. Plums are Antioxidant Powerhouses
Free radicals are a regular occurrence in our bodies and are linked to causing oxidative damage and triggering aging and a range of diseases.
The polyphenolic compounds in plums include phenolic acids, including anthocyanins, flavanols and chlorogenic acids — which have been found to have numerous positive effects including antioxidant activity, anti-inflammatory and anticancer traits, according to the October 2013 issue of the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry.
2. Plums Are Linked to a Reduced Risk for Obesity
Plums are a source of fiber and have a low glycemic index, and have been shown to improve insulin sensitivity and lipid and glucose metabolism while reducing inflammation, per a May 2017 article in the Journal of Obesity and Therapeutics. That's why the researchers deemed the fruit potentially helpful in preventing and/or managing obesity and obesity-related issues.
The fiber in plums and prunes are prebiotics, which feed the good bacteria in our gut. This helps with the absorption of nutrients, fat metabolism and removal of toxins, to name a few, according to the Journal of Obesity and Therapeutics study. Prebiotics also help increase insulin sensitivity, which aids in the treatment and prevention of type 2 diabetes.
3. Plums and Prunes Can Help Keep You Regular
Plums and prunes are often used for their laxative effects, although prunes are more notorious for preventing and relieving constipation.
Both the fresh and dried fruit helps add bulk to the stool and decrease transit time in the GI tract. Prunes are better than psyllium in terms of keeping people regular, according to research published in the August 2014 issue of Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics.
Prunes also contain sorbitol, a sugar alcohol that can relieve constipation, but when taken in large quantities, could cause gas, bloat and diarrhea. So it's important to monitor your own individual tolerance.
Their fiber content combined with other characteristics, including chlorogenic acids and phenolic compounds, all contribute to beneficial changes in GI function.
Plum Health Risks
Oral allergy syndrome, or pollen-food allergy syndrome, is the most common allergic reaction related to plums. It's caused when a person's immune system reacts to pollen and proteins in a food, triggering an allergic reaction, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.
Symptoms include swollen lips, mouth, tongue, or throat and an itchy mouth and/or scratchy throat. Those affected with oral allergy syndrome can often eat the offending food when it's cooked because the cooking process breaks down the proteins and cell structure, so the immune system no longer recognizes the food as a threat.
There are no indications of interactions between plums and medications.
Plum Preparation and Useful Tips
How to Choose Your Plums
Choosing good quality plums can be deceiving at times. Follow these tips the next time you find yourself picking plums at the grocery store or your local farmers' market:
- Plums should yield to gentle pressure, especially at the end opposite the stem.
- Plums should have a sweet fragrance.
- Avoid plums that are damaged, discolored or mushy.
- Firm plums can be left out at room temperature to further ripen.
- Once ripe, plums can be stored in the refrigerator
for up to five days. Allow them to reach room temperature prior to eating to enjoy the maximum
sweetness and juiciness.
- To remove the pit, cut the plum in half lengthwise, gently twist the halves in opposite directions and remove the pit.
- To freeze plums, cut in half, remove the pit and place in resealable freezer bags. Plums can be stored in the freezer for up to six months.
Creative Ways to Use Plums
Plums simply need to be washed gently under cool running water before eating. Plums are delicious as is, eaten whole as a simple snack, but are great as part of a raw or cooked dish as well. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Chop plums and add to fruit salad, oatmeal or yogurt.
- Poach plums in red wine and top with lemon zest for a fruity dessert. Top with a dollop of whipped cream or a scoop of ice cream.
- Chop plums, cilantro, onions and jalapeño and mix together with lime juice and salt for a fruity salsa.
- Mix diced plums with baby spinach and a cooked grain, like brown rice. Then toss with a basic vinaigrette and some cheese or toasted nuts for a hearty grain salad.
Alternatives to Plums
If you're not into the taste or plums, other stone fruit — including peaches, cherries, nectarines and apricots — are great options. Other substitutes include apples and pears.
- My Food Data: “Plums”
- Food Chemistry: “Antioxidant potential of different plum cultivars during storage”
- Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry: “Identification of Phenolic Compounds in Plum Fruits (Prunus salicina L. and Prunus domestica L.) by High-Performance Liquid Chromatography/Tandem Mass Spectrometry and Characterization of Varieties by Quantitative Phenolic Fingerprints”
- Journal of Obesity and Therapeutics: “Plums as Potential Dietary Agents to Prevent Obesity and Obesity-Related Disorders”
- The British Journal of Nutrition: “Linking the gut microbiota to human health”
- Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics: “Systematic review: the effect of prunes on gastrointestinal function”
- ACAAI: “Oral Allergy Syndrome”
- University of California, Berkeley: "Types of Plums"