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What is the difference of plums and prunes?
Plums and prunes are closely related fruits that both provide a variety of health benefits. While they share some similarities, there are also some key differences between plums and prunes.
First, let’s define what plums and prunes actually are:
- Plums are a type of stone fruit that have a smooth skin and a pit in the middle. There are many different varieties of plums that come in a range of colors like red, purple, green, blue, yellow, etc.
- Prunes are dried plums. They are made by dehydrating plums to remove the moisture. The drying process causes the plums to shrivel up into the wrinkled, raisin-like fruit that we call prunes.
So in essence, prunes are just a processed, dried form of plums. The main difference lies in the moisture content – plums are juicy and fresh, while prunes are dried out.
Although plums and prunes originate from the same fruit, their nutrition profiles differ due to the drying process used to produce prunes.
|46 per 100g
|240 per 100g
|11g per 100g
|63g per 100g
|1.4g per 100g
|7g per 100g
|0.7g per 100g
|2.2g per 100g
|0.3g per 100g
|0.38g per 100g
|157mg per 100g
|732mg per 100g
|6mcg per 100g
|59mcg per 100g
As you can see, prunes are much higher in calories, carbs, fiber, potassium, and vitamin K compared to plums. This is due to the drying process which removes moisture and concentrates the nutrients into a smaller serving size. The fiber content is particularly high in prunes.
Taste and Texture
Since prunes are simply dried plums, they tend to taste like a concentrated, shriveled up version of plums. Prunes have a very sweet flavor and chewy, sticky texture. They taste much sweeter than fresh plums.
Plums have a smooth, juicy flesh that can range from tart to sweet depending on the variety. The skin also ranges from smooth to fuzzy. The texture is firm and juicy when ripe. One of the main appeals of fresh plums is their rich, sweet-tart flavor and refreshing juiciness.
Due to the drying process, prunes contain a lot more natural sugar than fresh plums. Here’s a comparison:
|2.4g per 100g
|22.8g per 100g
|2.4g per 100g
|19.6g per 100g
|3g per 100g
|12.6g per 100g
|9.6g per 100g
|63.8g per 100g
Prunes contain about 6-8 times more sugar than plums by weight. Both have natural sugars like glucose, fructose, and sucrose. But the drying process results in prunes being very concentrated sources of these sugars.
Calories and Carbs
The increased sugar content also affects the calorie and carb differences between plums and prunes. As shown earlier, prunes contain about 5 times more calories and carbs than plums. A 100 gram serving of prunes has 240 calories and 63g of carbs, while plums only have 46 calories and 11g of carbs.
Most of the extra calories in prunes come from carbs. Prunes get about 85% of calories from carbs, compared to only 25% in plums. So prunes are much higher in carbs and calories due to the natural sugars formed during dehydration.
Prunes are an exceptionally high fiber food. A 100 gram serving provides 7g of fiber, which is about 28% of the daily recommended intake. Plums contain only 1.4g of fiber in the same serving size.
The drying process concentrates the fiber into a smaller serving size. Since the plum shrinks down into a prune, it becomes much more dense with fiber. The skin of the plum also becomes more concentrated after drying into a prune.
The glycemic index (GI) measures how quickly a food raises blood sugar. Despite their high sugar content, prunes actually have a low glycemic index.
Prunes have a low GI of 29, while plums are even lower at 24. For comparison, table sugar has a GI of 65. The dense fiber, fructose, and sorbitol in prunes help slow the absorption of glucose, resulting in a more gradual rise in blood sugar.
Vitamin and Mineral Content
Although plums and prunes have similar vitamin and mineral profiles, the concentrations in prunes can be much higher due to their dried state.
Prunes are rich sources of vitamins K and A, potassium, copper, boron, and antioxidants. Plums also contain good amounts of potassium, vitamins K and C, and polyphenol antioxidants.
Overall, prunes contain higher levels of most vitamins and minerals. But the fresh plum’s content is still considered good relative to its calorie content.
Sorbitol in Prunes
Prunes contain a naturally occurring sugar alcohol called sorbitol. It’s a carb that the body metabolizes slowly. Sorbitol is found naturally in some fruits but is present in very high amounts in prunes (14.7g per 100g).
Sorbitol has natural laxative effects when eaten in large amounts due to its slow digestion. It also contributes to the plum’s low glycemic impact by slowing glucose absorption.
Plums do not contain significant amounts of sorbitol. You’d have to eat well over 10 plums to get the same amount of sorbitol provided in just one prune.
Dried vs. Fresh Shelf Life
Dehydrating plums into prunes significantly extends the shelf life. Properly stored, prunes can last for months without refrigeration due to their low moisture content.
Meanwhile, fresh plums only last about 2-4 weeks when refrigerated. At room temp, they may only last 4-5 days before overripening. The high water content makes fresh plums quicker to spoil.
Uses in Cooking and Baking
Both plums and prunes can be used in recipes, but tend to serve different purposes:
- Plums are often eaten raw and can be baked into pies, tarts, cobblers, or other desserts.
- Prunes work well in both sweet and savory dishes. They can be made into sauces or chutneys, or incorporated into stuffings, compotes, breads, cereals, salads, meat dishes, etc.
- Pureed prunes can substitute for butter or oil in baked goods thanks to their sticky, dense texture.
- Chopped prunes add a sweetness that complements spices in savory stews and tagines.
- Prunes add moisture and a chewy texture to items like fruitcakes, granola bars, cookies, muffins, etc.
Overall, plums are preferable for uses where you want fresh fruit texture, while prunes work better for concentrated flavor and moisture in cooking applications.
Both plums and prunes offer important health benefits, thanks to their fiber content and unique antioxidants called polyphenols. Some of their health benefits include:
- Improved digestion: The fiber in plums and prunes helps promote regularity and bowel health.
- Blood sugar control: Despite being high in natural carbs and sugars, prunes have a low GI and may even help manage blood sugar by slowing digestion.
- Heart health: Their fiber, potassium, and antioxidants can help reduce cholesterol and blood pressure.
- Bone health: The potassium and boron in prunes/plums helps strengthen bones and prevent bone loss.
- Cancer prevention: Plums and prunes contain antioxidants that may help protect against cancer growth.
- Vision protection: Lutein and zeaxanthin antioxidants help prevent macular degeneration and loss of vision.
Overall, both fresh and dried forms can provide valuable health benefits thanks to their unique combination offiber, polyphenols, vitamins, minerals, and more.
There are a few potential downsides to keep in mind:
- Prunes are very high in natural sugar, so large amounts may be problematic for people with diabetes or metabolic syndrome.
- Sorbitol can cause gas and bloating in susceptible people.
- Some people may be sensitive to salicylates found in plums/prunes.
- Dried fruits like prunes are sticky, so they may pose a choking risk for young children and elderly adults.
- Both contain carbs, so very large portions will increase calorie intake.
However, when eaten in normal amounts, both plums and prunes are very healthy options with more benefits than drawbacks for most people.
Plums vs. Prunes: How Are They Used in Traditional Medicine?
Both plums and prunes have a long history of use in traditional and folk medicine due to their wide range of health benefits.
Some examples of traditional uses:
- As a laxative to relieve constipation, thanks to their fiber and sorbitol content.
- To help treat jaundice and liver problems. Plums were used in Ayurvedic medicine for this purpose.
- To support heart health and control high blood pressure.
- To promote skin health and wound healing. Plums have even been made into skin creams.
- To strengthen bones and prevent fractures and bone loss.
- As a cough remedy to reduce phlegm and soothe sore throats.
Both plums and prunes remain popular home remedies today for issues like constipation, blood pressure, bone health, and digestion.
Plum or Prune – Which is Healthier?
Plums and prunes have similar health benefits and nutritional value by weight. Prunes are more calorie, fiber and nutrient dense due to their dried state.
For most people, plums may be a better option most of the time for their fresh texture and flavor. But prunes are more portable and have a much longer shelf life.
Prunes can be safely enjoyed every day, but very large portions may not be advisable due to their sugar content. Plums can be eaten more freely.
In general, both foods are healthy options that can be incorporated into a balanced diet. Prunes offer greater convenience, while plums provide a delicious fresh-picked snack.
In summary, plums and prunes share many attributes but have some distinct differences:
- Prunes are dried plums with higher fiber and nutrient content by weight compared to fresh plums.
- Plums are juicy and sweet-tart, while prunes are sticky, chewy, and intensely sweet.
- Prunes last much longer than fresh plums thanks to their low moisture content.
- Both contain polyphenol antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, fiber, and sorbitol sugar alcohol.
- Prunes have more natural sugars and calories from carbs compared to plums.
- Plums have a fresh texture ideal for raw snacking and baking, while prunes work better in cooked dishes.
- In moderation, both plums and prunes can be part of a healthy diet and offer similar health benefits.
So while plums and prunes share common characteristics, their differences in moisture content, taste, texture, and applications make them unique fruits that both have a place in a healthy lifestyle.