The Health Benefits of Prunes (plus, a peek at how they’re made in California!)
This post was sponsored by the California Prune Board, but (as always!) all opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting the organizations that make Lake Shore Lady possible!
It’s become pretty clear that you guys are interested in all different kinds of wellness topics. And while I’m not a registered dietitian, I love chatting about nutrition with you – especially when it includes empowering information! Our world is constantly telling us what NOT to eat, so it’s always exciting for me when I can nerd out about how great something is for us! Especially when it’s delicious 😉
Remember when I went to Northern California last year to learn about California Prunes? Well, a few weeks ago, I got to attend this year’s event, too! I feel so lucky that I was invited again, because this time I had way more context around the super fruit. I’ll admit – they weren’t a part of my routine before last year, but as soon as I got back, I found California Prunes at Trader Joe’s and kept a bag in my pantry at all times. When people would ask me about the trip, I’d end up launching into all of the reasons why they should be eating prunes, too! And no, telling people in real life about California Prunes isn’t a part of these #sponsored deliverables. It just naturally filtered into my life and I’ve seen the benefits of prunes firsthand. I’m a full blown prune superfan now!
The thing is – it’s hard not to fall in love with them when you get to see the gorgeous orchards and chat with the passionate growers. These families have been doing this for generation after generation because they believe in the product. I mean, once you hear all the health benefits of prunes, it’s kind of a no brainer. So, let’s chat about them!
What are prunes exactly?
While prunes are technically dried plums, it’s all a little bit more specific than that. Prunes from California start as the Improved French variety, a varietal that stemmed from the Petit d’Agen plums in France. Once the fruit reaches optimal pressure (in other words, maximum sugar content for drying), they harvest the plums. They are then brought to dehydrators where they are washed, loaded onto trays, and moved into drying tunnels where they dry for 18-22 hours. After that, they are rehydrated and pitted… and just like that, we have a California Prune!
Why should I buy California prunes specifically?
California produces 99% of the nation’s prunes and 40% of the world’s prune crop. Cleary, they know what they’re doing! But beyond that, they also care deeply about giving consumers the best possible product. The growers hand tend their orchards to meet the most rigorous farming standards of anywhere in the world. They have figured out how to balance the temperature, humidity, and time in their climate controlled tunnels so the prunes are dried as efficiently (and safely!) as possible. The attention to detail is second to none. And you can taste the difference!
Plus, it’s nice that you don’t need to necessarily look for a specific brand. All you need to do is look for California on the packaging. I usually get mine at Trader Joe’s!
What do they taste like?
California Prunes are sweet without being in-your-face sugary. And unlike tough dried fruit, prunes are soft, chewy, and just a little sticky. I tend to think of them like a mix between a big raisin and a date.
Benefits of Prunes
You might have heard that prunes can… help you go to the bathroom. You’re not wrong! But most people don’t understand that the reason for that is because they’re high in fiber, sorbitol, and polyphenols. It goes so much farther than just helping you go. The main benefit of prunes is that they help with your overall gut health.
A serving of prunes (4-5 pieces) usually contains around 3 grams of fiber, which makes it an easy way to get closer to the recommended 25-30 grams of fiber each day. And while you may have noticed sorbitol as a sugar substitute in processed products, it is naturally found in prunes. This helps move water into the large intestine, which stimulates digestion. In other words, eating a serving of prunes each day (don’t overdo it!) can help regulate your digestive system.
So many people take medication to help reduce high blood pressure and cholesterol levels… but did you know that eating a few prunes each day can also help do that?!
I just read about a study that compared subjects who at 3-6 prunes each morning for 8 weeks vs. those who only had a glass of water. Those who had prunes had lower blood pressure, total cholesterol, and LDL cholesterol (the bad kind). While there are a few reasons for this, the fact that a serving of prunes has 280 mg of potassium is huge. That’s 6% of your daily value right there!
Prunes have been linked to a reduced risk of bone conditions due to low bone density, like osteoporosis and osteopenia. They are high in vitamin K which is a nutrient known to help the process of bone mineralization. In addition, antioxidants help fight inflammation; and zinc, magnesium, potassium and boron help with bone formation and structure. There is also research that shows eating a serving of prunes each day can help slow down bone loss in postmenopausal women. How crazy is that?
Helps manage appetite and blood sugar.
This one isn’t as straight forward as gut or heart health, but it’s still a major benefit of California Prunes. Basically, the high amounts of soluble fiber help keep blood sugar from spiking by slowly raising the glucose levels in your blood. Prunes are naturally sweet but low on the glycemic index, which can be really helpful for people with a sweet tooth or diabetes. It also slows down your digestion and absorption, which can help you feel more satisfied for longer. In other words, reaching for a prune instead of a cookie, using prune puree to cut back on sugar when baking, or adding them to your oatmeal instead of brown sugar or even a sugary fruit, can all help you manage your appetite and blood sugar in a major way.
Do you know about any of these benefits of California Prunes?!
Isn’t it so interesting?! I’m working on a post all about the easy ways to incorporate prunes into your diet, too – but in the meantime you can learn more about California Prunes online at www.CaliforniaPrunes.org and on social media @CAprunes!
PS. You might also like my Healthier Pumpkin Bread (with prune puree!) and my Antioxidant Smoothie!