What Are the Benefits of Eating Prunes?

Prunes, or dried plums are known for their laxative effect. But these wrinkly fruits have many other potential health benefits. They're loaded with nutrients, fiber and antioxidants that may strengthen your bones, improve your vision and help maintain proper bowel function.

Prunes are a powerhouse of vitamins and minerals. Credit: igorr1/iStock/GettyImages

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Prunes are a powerhouse of vitamins and minerals, especially potassium, iron, riboflavin and vitamins A and K, all of which can contribute to keeping your body functioning properly.

Prunes Contain Healthy Macronutrients

These fruits are nutrient-dense but pack a substantial number of calories. Per serving, or 1/4 cup, pitted prunes contain about 105 calories. If you're trying to manage your weight, you should definitely monitor your consumption of prunes.

The sugar content in prunes is quite high — 17 grams per serving — but it is the natural form of sucrose, fructose and sorbitol. Due to their low glycemic index rating, prunes have a negligible impact on blood sugar levels.

The glycemic index is a ranking of how quickly blood glucose levels rise after you eat a particular food. Prunes have a GI rating of 29 and a glycemic load of 10, and low GI foods may reduce your risk of Type II diabetes and heart disease.

A good source of energy, prunes provide 28 grams of carbohydrates per serving. Eating three plums for a pre-workout snack will give you 19.2 grams of carbs, without any fat or cholesterol.

Read more: Everything You Need to Know About Carbs and Why You Shouldn't Cut Them

Prunes get their reputation for being one of the foods that help you poop thanks to their high fiber content. A 1/4-cup serving delivers 3.1 grams of fiber — that's more than 12 percent of the recommended daily intake.

Prunes Are Packed With Nutrition

Eating a bowl of stewed prunes each morning will set you up with a small amount of protein — about 0.8 grams per serving — and all the vitamins and minerals your body needs for good health. These fruits provide the following essential minerals:

  • Calcium: 18.7 milligrams or 1.5 percent of the DV per serving

  • Iron: 0.4 milligrams or 3 percent of the DV

    per serving

  • Potassium: 318.4 milligrams or 7 percent of the DV

    per serving

  • Magnesium: 18 milligrams or 4 percent of the DV per serving

  • Phosphorus: 30 milligrams or 3 percent of the DV

    per serving

  • Zinc:

    0.2 milligrams or 2 percent of the DV

    per serving

  • Copper:

0.12 milligrams or 14 percent of the DV

per serving
  • Manganese: 0.15 milligrams or 6 percent of the DV

    per serving

Prunes also deliver high doses of B-complex vitamins. These nutrients provide your body with the energy it needs for the proper function of your brain, muscles, skeletal system and cell function. One serving of prunes contains:

  • Thiamin: 0.02 milligrams or 1.7 percent of the DV

  • Riboflavin:

    0.07 milligrams or 6 percent of the DV

  • Niacin: 0.8 milligrams or 5 percent of the DV

  • Vitamin B5:

0.17 milligrams or 4 percent of the DV

  • Vitamin B6:

0.1 milligrams or 5 percent of the DV

  • Folate: 1.75 micrograms or 8 percent of the DV
  • Vitamin A: 339.4 IU or 11 percent of the DV
  • Beta-carotene: 171.4 micrograms or 2 percent of the DV
  • Vitamin E: 0.175 milligrams or 1.2 percent of the DV
  • Vitamin K: 25.8 micrograms or 21.5 percent of the DV
  • Vitamin C: 0.25 milligrams or 0.25 percent of the DV

Keep Your Bowels Healthy

Adding prunes or plum juice to your diet is a good way to keep your digestive system functioning properly. Prunes are rich in dietary fiber, the sugar alcohol sorbitol and phenolic compounds, all of which are poorly absorbed in the small intestine. They pass undigested into the colon, adding bulk and drawing moisture into your digestive tract to soften the stool, which helps prevent constipation.

The relationship between prune consumption and constipation relief was illustrated in the journal _Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutic_s, published in August 2014 and funded by the California Plum Board.

The systematic review of four trials has found that consuming 100 grams of prunes per day was more effective than psyllium, a bulk fiber laxative, for improving stool weight, consistency and frequency in participants with constipation. Further research was suggested to determine the benefits for non-constipated individuals.

Additionally, prunes have been shown to have a positive effect on the microbiota, or gut bacteria, in the digestive system. Research from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences in Texas and the University of North Carolina showed that prunes promote the retention of beneficial bacteria in the colon, which could help reduce the risk of colon cancer. The results of the research were presented at the 2015 Experimental Biology conference in Boston.

A large prospective study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, published in August 2015, also suggested that colorectal cancer rates were reduced with a high intake of dietary fiber.

Prunes: Good Source of Iron

Prunes are also a good source of iron, a mineral your body needs for growth and development. Iron aids in the production of red blood cells.

If the levels of iron stored in your body become too low, iron deficiency anemia can occur. Red blood cells become smaller and contain less healthy hemoglobin required to carry oxygen from your lungs to your tissues and organs, including muscles. Weakness and fatigue are common signs of iron-deficiency anemia.

Prunes are particularly beneficial for pregnant women because iron is essential for the developing fetus. Low iron levels may increase the risk of low birth weight and premature birth as well as causing harm to an infant's brain development, according to the National Institutes of Health. In infancy, this condition may lead to delayed psychological development and learning disabilities.

Read more: 5 Negative Side Effects of Eating Too Many Prunes

Improve Bone Health

Prunes boast a unique nutrient and bioactive profile that may be beneficial to the health of your bones. These fruits are chock-full of boron, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, iron, copper and zinc.

Boron is essential for bone growth and maintenance, and prunes contain 1.8 grams per 100 grams. A deficiency in boron may adversely impact bone development and regeneration, as reported in an August 2015 study published in Integrative Medicine: A Clinician's Journal. This nutrient helps reduce urinary calcium loss and has a beneficial effect on vitamin D levels, both essential for bone health.

Prunes are also a good natural source of magnesium, a mineral stored mostly in your bones. It contributes to the structural development of the skeletal system and has been shown to increase bone strength.

Furthermore, these fruits provide both potassium and phosphorus, minerals that help form and preserve the bones. Insufficient potassium can cause loss of calcium, while a severe deficiency of phosphorus may result in bone pain and softening of the bones due to bone loss.

These naturally sweet fruits also provide your body with iron, copper and zinc, which are necessary for collagen synthesis, a process that contributes to the infrastructure that holds your bones together.

A small controlled trial published in the journal Osteoporosis International in July 2016 examined possible dose-dependent effects of prunes on low bone density in 48 postmenopausal women. Researchers found that consuming five to six prunes per day for six months was effective in preventing bone loss in women prone to osteoporosis, perhaps due to the inhibition of bone resorption.

Help Your Vision

Prunes contain many antioxidants that support normal vision. These include vitamins A, C, E and zinc, as well as the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin.

Vitamin C is needed for the formation of connective tissue including collagen, which is found in the corneas. Along with vitamin E, it may reduce the progression of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and cataract formation, according to the American Optometric Association.

Lutein and zeaxanthin are found in the retina, macula and lens of the eye. These compounds improve the pigment density in your eyes and protect against harmful high-energy light waves, such as the sun's ultraviolet rays, according to Harvard Health Publishing.

The Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS2) showed evidence that lutein and zeaxanthin may protect from age-related macular degeneration. Its findings, which were published in the journal Ophthalmology in July 2012, showed that the group with early signs of AMD, who took lutein and zeaxanthin daily, had a 10 to 25 percent reduced risk of progression of the disease compared to the control group.

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