Prunes are dried plums that are well-known for their ability to relieve constipation. They are high in fiber, which helps add bulk to stool and promotes regularity. But how many prunes should you eat per day to enjoy their benefits without overdoing it? This article provides nutritional information on prunes, their health benefits, how many to eat daily, and some delicious ways to enjoy them.
Nutritional Profile of Prunes
Prunes are made from dried plums, which are the fruits of plum trees. Here is an overview of the nutritional profile of prunes (based on a 100g serving):
- Calories: 239
- Fiber: 7g
- Carbs: 63g
- Fat: 0.5g
- Protein: 2g
- Vitamin A: 3% DV
- Vitamin C: 3% DV
- Vitamin K: 21% DV
- Potassium: 14% DV
- Copper: 13% DV
- Manganese: 15% DV
As you can see, prunes are high in carbohydrates and fiber. They contain very little fat or protein. Prunes also provide a variety of vitamins and minerals like vitamin K, potassium, copper and manganese.
Health Benefits of Prunes
Here are some of the top health benefits associated with eating prunes:
Prunes are most well known for their ability to relieve constipation. They contain insoluble fiber that helps add bulk to stool. This promotes regularity and prevents constipation. Prunes also contain a natural laxative compound called dihydrophenylisatin that stimulates the intestines.
Support Bone Health
Prunes contain a variety of nutrients that help support bone health. They are high in vitamin K, potassium, magnesium and copper. All of these minerals play essential roles in building and maintaining strong bones.
Promote Heart Health
The nutrients in prunes may help reduce high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, two major risk factors for heart disease. They also contain antioxidants that can help protect LDL cholesterol from oxidation, which can damage arteries.
Aid Blood Sugar Control
Despite their sweet taste, prunes have a low glycemic index of 29. This means they don’t cause dramatic spikes in blood sugar. Fibers in prunes also slow the absorption of sugar in the bloodstream.
Support Digestive Health
In addition to preventing constipation, fiber in prunes may promote overall digestive health. It feeds the good bacteria in the colon, which play several crucial roles like producing vitamins, absorbing nutrients, and protecting against infection.
How Many Prunes Should You Eat Per Day?
Most experts recommend eating about 1⁄4 cup of prunes (or around 7 medium prunes) per day to enjoy their benefits. Below are general guidelines based on different health goals:
For relieving occasional constipation:
- 2-3 prunes per day
For preventative digestive health:
- 3-5 prunes per day
For bone health:
- 5-7 prunes per day
It’s best to increase your intake gradually to assess your tolerance. More is not necessarily better when it comes to prunes.
Consuming too many may result in loose stools, gas or abdominal discomfort. If you experience these side effects, reduce your portion at your next meal.
For most healthy adults, up to 1⁄2 cup of prunes per day appears safe. But as with any food, moderation is key.
Prune Serving Size Equivalents
To give you a better idea of what a typical serving size looks like, here are some prune equivalents:
|1⁄4 cup prunes
|About 7 medium pitted prunes
|1⁄3 cup prunes
|About 9 medium pitted prunes
|1⁄2 cup prunes
|About 12 medium pitted prunes
As you can see, a quarter cup is equal to around 7 medium size prunes. This is a reasonable daily serving for most healthy adults.
Tips for Eating Prunes
Here are some simple tips to enjoy prunes as part of a healthy diet:
Look for pitted prunes
Pitted prunes are easier to eat than prunes with pits. Just pop them right in your mouth for a quick, convenient snack.
Store them properly
To prevent prunes from drying out, store them in an airtight container in a cool, dark place like your pantry. They will keep fresh for several months.
Enjoy prunes on their own
Prunes are tasty and portable, making them the perfect easy snack. Bring some along in a small baggy when you’re on-the-go.
Pair prunes with nuts
For more staying power, enjoy prunes with raw almonds, walnuts or cashews. The protein and fats will help you feel fuller.
Combine prunes with cereal or yogurt
Chop prunes and sprinkle them on top of Greek yogurt, oatmeal, or high-fiber cereals like bran flakes or granola.
Use prunes to sweeten recipes
For a natural sweetness, use prunes to replace some of the sugar in muffins, cakes, breads and other baked goods.
Make a prune puree
For smoothies or oatmeals, simply blend pitted prunes in a food processor with a bit of water to make a sweet puree.
Potential Side Effects
When enjoyed in moderation, prunes are generally safe with very few side effects. However, there are some things to keep in mind:
- May act as a natural laxative, causing loose stools when overeaten
- Contain high amounts of sorbitol, which may cause gas and bloating
- High carb and calorie load may not suit low-carb diets
- High fiber content may cause abdominal discomfort if increased too quickly
- Due to their laxative effect, best to avoid giving excess prunes to children
Start with a small serving and increase slowly over a few weeks to allow your body to adjust. This should minimize any potential digestive side effects.
Some people may also need to be cautious of potassium levels in prunes due to medications or chronic kidney disease. Speak with your healthcare provider if you have any concerns.
The Bottom Line
Prunes are nutritious and offer a variety of health benefits, especially for digestion and regularity. About 1⁄4 cup or 7 medium pitted prunes per day is a reasonable amount for most healthy adults to obtain benefits without overdoing it.
Prunes make a convenient, on-the-go snack and can be easily incorporated into various recipes. Just be mindful of portion sizes and drink plenty of fluids when eating them to stay regular.
Overall, prunes are a healthy food to include as part of a balanced diet. Their fiber, nutrients, and natural laxative effects make them a great option to improve digestion and promote overall well-being.