Dried plums, commonly known as prunes, have become a staple American commodity, exerting an array of health benefits such as promoting healthy digestion. Plum trees were introduced to California in 1856; currently the state produces approximately half of the world’s dried plum supply.
What you may not know about dried plums is that they have recently been associated with improved bone health outcomes in three clinical studies of postmenopausal women. As little as one serving a day (about 4-5 dried plums) seems to have a significant effect on bone loss, at least in postmenopausal women. While research on dried plums and bone health in children, adolescents and young adults is emerging and in its infancy, there have been reports of studies showing beneficial effects on bone development in young mice. This data underlines the great need for clinical studies in younger populations.
So why are dried plums showing beneficial effects on bone in both humans and rodents? It could be because they are packed with essential nutrients that are typically under-consumed, such as potassium and dietary fiber. Dried plums also contain many antioxidants that may help decrease inflammation in all cells, bone included.
Bone health across the lifespan is a major public health problem globally. The National Osteoporosis Foundation (www.nof.org) predicts that 10.2 million Americans over the age of 50 have osteoporosis and another 43.4 million have low bone mass, also known as osteopenia. One in three women and one in five men experience an osteoporotic fracture in their lifetime.
If you’re like the majority of adults and aren’t consuming two daily servings of fruit, consider replacing an unhealthy afternoon snack with 4-5 dried plums. For additional information, check out the presentation I gave at the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Food Nutrition Conference & Expo (click here) and the California Dried Plum Board’s website (www.californiadriedplums.org).