When you were younger, did you ever watch your grandmother as she ate her daily serving of prunes and think, “yuck”? Whether you agreed with her food ritual or not, she was on to something. Loaded with nutrients that protect your bones and improve your overall well-being, prunes might be one of the most important foods for healthy aging. Check out these incredible benefits.
What are prunes?
If you didn’t already know, prunes are dried plums. The most common variety are European plums (scientific name: Prunus domestica), which likely originated from the Middle East. Humans have used them to promote a healthy digestive system and reduce the risk of many diseases for centuries.
Nutritional Benefits of Prunes
Prunes contain a decent amount of sugar, but they are also packed with fiber, which slows down the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream. Fiber can also help combat constipation and other digestive conditions like hemorrhoids, which are common in older adults.
Fiber also helps increase beneficial bacteria in the gut, which may contribute to weight loss. In addition, research shows that it promotes satiety, making you less likely to overeat. Just ½ cup serving of prunes contains six grams of fiber, which is a hefty dose.
Prunes are high in other vital nutrients as well, like potassium (which helps with digestion and blood pressure), and other key vitamins like vitamin A, K, B-6, niacin, and iron.
How Prunes Can Promote Strong Bones in Older Women
According to a 2022 scientific review from Advances in Nutrition, an Oxford Academic journal, prunes are anti-inflammatory and work like antioxidants in the body. By reducing inflammation, the nutrients in prunes can reduce oxidative stress on bone cells. This in turn promotes better bone mineral density, particularly in postmenopausal women.
Previous research supports this theory. As shown in a 2016 study from Osteoporosis International, consuming prunes helped prevent loss of bone mass in postmenopausal women who were osteopenic (bone loss caused by aging). Even more impressive? To see results, these women had to eat only five to six prunes a day. Plus, another study from Scientific Reports showed that consuming prunes reduced the effects of radiation on bone mass.
Prunes may boost heart health.
Eating this dried fruit every day can also lower heart disease risk over time. In a 2021 study from the Journal of Medicinal Food, researchers conducted a six month trial to find out if prunes could reduce postmenopausal women’s risk of cardiovascular disease. They recruited 48 women for the study, and had them eat either zero, 50, or 100 grams of prunes daily. At the end of the investigation, they found that just 50 grams daily (that’s about 1/4 cup) significantly reduced inflammation in the body and increased antioxidant levels. Importantly, both 50 and 100 grams of prunes lowered cholesterol levels as well, as compared to the control group.
An older study from 2017 (which was published in Pharmaceutical Biology) found that prunes may lower cholesterol levels because they help regulate our gut bacteria. To be more specific, nutrients in prunes promote good gut bacteria that helps pull cholesterol out of the blood.
Beauty Benefits of Prunes: Healthy Skin, Reduced Hair Loss
Because they’re loaded with iron, prunes have many beauty benefits, too. Iron deficiency, which is very common in older women, causes oxidative damage to the skin, leading to more wrinkles, fine lines, and a dull appearance. Iron deficiency can also contribute to hair loss. Add iron back into the diet by noshing on a few prunes, and the antioxidants in the fruit will send oxygen to damaged skin cells and hair follicles.
Above all, the best thing about prunes may be that you don’t need to eat a lot of them. In most of the studies mentioned, participants ate as little as five prunes daily to see changes. Not too keen about them just as they are? Add these dried fruits to baked goods, puree them to create a jam, or toss them into smoothies. The choice is yours! For the healthiest bet, choose prunes that don’t contain added sugars or preservatives. We love the ones from Sunny Fruit (Buy on Amazon, $7.99).
This article originally appeared on our sister site, Woman’s World.