Plums and prunes are closely related fruits that both provide a range of health benefits. While fresh plums are juicy and sweet, prunes are dried plums that have a chewy texture and more concentrated flavor. Many people use the names “dried plums” and “prunes” interchangeably, but there are some differences between these dried fruits.
What are Plums?
Plums are stone fruits that grow on trees in the genus Prunus. There are over 2,000 varieties of plums that come in a rainbow of colors including red, purple, green, blue, yellow, and white. Popular types of plums include:
- Black plums
- Red plums
- Green plums
- Yellow plums
- Purple plums
Plums can range in size from 1 to 3 inches across. Their flesh is juicy and varies from firm to soft in texture. The skin may be smooth or covered in a waxy coating depending on the variety. Plums contain a large, flat pit in their center.
These summer fruits are packed with nutrients and antioxidants. Some of the health benefits of plums include:
- High vitamin C content
- Fiber for healthy digestion
- Potassium to support heart health
- Polyphenols that act as antioxidants
Plums have a sweet and tart flavor that makes them delicious to eat fresh. They are also used dried or in jams, juices, compotes, chutneys, and desserts.
What are Prunes?
Prunes are a specific variety of dried plum. They are made by drying certain types of European plums that are high in sugar and low in acid. The most common types of plums used for prunes include:
- French Prune d’Ente
- Italian Prune Stanley
- German Zwetschge
To make prunes, plums are washed and dehydrated whole without their pits using sun drying, warm air drying, or a combination of both. The drying process concentrates the sugars and flavors, giving prunes a wrinkled appearance and chewy, sticky texture.
Compared to fresh plums, prunes are lower in water and richer in fiber and antioxidants. A 1⁄4 cup of prunes contains:
- 2 grams of fiber
- 19% DV vitamin K
- 14% DV potassium
- 7% DV vitamin A
- 7% DV copper
The deep brown color of prunes comes from their high antioxidant content. Prunes have an intense sweet flavor and are commonly eaten as a snack or used in recipes.
Differences Between Plums and Prunes
While prunes are technically a type of plum, there are some key differences between fresh plums and prunes:
|Juicy, soft flesh||Dry, chewy flesh|
|Smooth thin skin||Wrinkled, thick skin|
|Sweet and tart flavor||Intense, deep sweetness|
|Higher water content||Lower water content|
|Typically eaten fresh||Ideal for cooking and baking|
In summary, the main differences are:
- Texture: Plums are juicy while prunes are drier and chewier.
- Flavor: Prunes have a very sweet, concentrated taste compared to plums.
- Appearance: Prunes are shrivelled with deep brown wrinkled skin while plums have smooth, thin skin.
- Water Content: Plums are around 85% water whereas prunes are only 18% water.
- Uses: Plums are mostly eaten fresh, while prunes are better for cooking due to their high sugar content.
Both plums and prunes are nutritious, but there are some differences in their nutrition profiles. Here is a comparison of the nutrients in 100 grams of raw plums versus 100 grams of dried prunes (source):
|Vitamin K||6% DV||59% DV|
|Copper||4% DV||19% DV|
As you can see, prunes are significantly higher in calories, carbs, fiber, and vitamins/minerals than fresh plums. However, plums still offer a decent amount of nutrients given their high water content.
Both plums and prunes offer important health benefits:
- Digestion: Plums act as a mild laxative due to their fiber, sorbitol, and isatin content. These compounds help stimulate bowel movements and relieve constipation.
- Heart health: With antioxidants like chlorogenic acid and potassium, plums can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
- Bone health: Plums contain vitamin K and polyphenols that support bone mineral density and reduce inflammation that contributes to osteoporosis.
- Anemia: The iron in plums helps increase the production of red blood cells that carry oxygen throughout the body.
- Diabetes: Polyphenols in plums have anti-diabetic effects by improving insulin sensitivity and lowering blood sugar levels.
- Digestion: Prunes are an excellent remedy for constipation thanks to their high fiber content, sorbitol, and phenolic compounds.
- Heart health: The antioxidants and potassium in prunes support heart function by reducing cholesterol, inflammation, and blood pressure.
- Bone health: Prunes are rich in vitamin K, copper, magnesium, and polyphenols that improve bone density and strength.
- Anemia: With high iron levels, prunes promote red blood cell production to prevent anemia and improve oxygen circulation.
- Diabetes: The compounds in prunes help increase insulin sensitivity and stabilize blood sugar levels.
While both provide similar benefits, prunes may be more effective for constipation relief and bone health due to their higher nutrient content.
Usage and Recipes
Plums and prunes can be used interchangeably in some recipes, but their different characteristics make them suitable for the following uses:
- Eating raw
- Yogurt parfaits
- Jams, jellies, preserves
- Grilling or roasting
- Cakes, muffins, pies
- Oatmeal and cereal
- Trail mixes
- Energy bars
- Stews and braises
- Puddings and custards
Some recipe ideas that use plums or prunes include:
- Plum tart
- Grilled chicken with plum sauce
- Plum jam
- Plum cobbler
- Prune cookies
- Prune cake
- Braised short ribs with prunes
- Overnight oats with prunes
- Prune bread
- Moroccan tagine with prunes
Plums are generally cheaper to purchase than prunes. Some average costs are:
|Plums (1 lb)||$2-4|
|Prunes (1 lb)||$4-8|
However, prunes are more energy and nutrient-dense in smaller serving sizes. You may need to eat 2-3 plums to get the same benefits as a 1⁄4 cup of prunes. So prunes can provide more nutritional value for the cost.
Availability and Storage
The availability of plums and prunes varies by region but generally:
- Plums are available during summer months
- Prunes are available year-round
- Plums should be refrigerated and used within 2-5 days
- Prunes can be kept at room temp for months or refrigerated for even longer
So prunes have a much longer shelf life compared to fresh plums.
Are Prunes Healthier than Plums?
Overall, prunes are healthier than plums due to their higher concentration of fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Prunes offer stronger medicinal and nutritional value, especially for digestive health, bone strength, heart function, and diabetes management.
However, plums still provide an array of important nutrients and health benefits. The choice between plums and prunes depends on factors like:
- Intended use in recipes
- Preference for fresh versus dried fruit
- Nutritional needs
- Cost and availability
Both prunes and plums can be part of a healthy, balanced diet. Including a serving of nutrient-dense prunes or juicy plums each day can provide key health benefits.
The Bottom Line
Prunes and plums are closely linked – prunes are a specific variety of plum that has been dried. While plums are typically eaten fresh, prunes are used dried in recipes due to their sticky texture and intense sweetness.
Both provide important nutrients and health benefits, but prunes contain higher levels of fiber, potassium, vitamin K, antioxidants, and polyphenols. This concentration makes prunes marginally healthier, especially for digestion, bone health, heart function, diabetes, and anemia.
So in essence, prunes can be considered an upgraded superfood version of plums. But fresh plums still offer a nutritious option, especially during plum harvest season for maximum flavor and juiciness.