Prunes are highly nutritious and like many dried fruits, available year round.  Unfortunately, their reputation as a laxative overshadows the fact that they are an excellent source of vitamins and minerals.   Most think of “keeping regular” when they think of prunes but this sticky sweet treat offers more benefits than just keeping our bowels moving(which lowers our risk of colon cancer).  While prunes are well known for their ability to prevent constipation with their high fiber content, their insoluble fiber also provides food for the “friendly” bacteria in the large intestine.

Prunes’ soluble fiber helps normalize blood sugar levels by slowing the rate at which food leaves the stomach and by delaying the absorption of glucose.  Soluble fiber  also increases insulin sensitivity and can therefore play a helpful role in the prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes.   Soluble fiber also promotes a sense of satisfied fullness after a meal which can help prevent overeating and weight gain.

Prunes or the fresh version- plums are highly acclaimed for their high content of unique phytonutrients called neochlorogenic and chlorogenic acid. These substances are classified as phenols, these damage-preventing substances are particularly effective in neutralizing a particularly dangerous oxygen radical called superoxide anion radical, and they have also been shown to help prevent oxygen-based damage to fats. Since our cell membranes, brain cells and molecules such as cholesterol are largely composed of fats, preventing free radical damage to fats is a huge benefit.  The high fiber content also helps prevent heart disease, lowers cholesterol, boosts immune function and increases energy. 

Prunes deliver vitamin A in the form of five carotenoids. Alpha-carotene, beta-carotene and beta-cryptoxanthin are carotenoids that the body converts into the form of vitamin A used by cells in the eyes that convert light into nerve impulses. Lutein and zeaxanthin are the only carotenoids found in the retina, where they protect cells from harmful blue light wavelengths, according to the American Optometric Association. Lutein and zeaxanthin may lower your chance of developing age-related problems such as macular degeneration and cataracts.

They also contain vitamin K, manganese, iron and plant phenolics that function as antioxidants.   Vitamin K helps prevent cancer, osteoporosis and heart disease.  It’s also important for in prevention of blood clots and keeping calcium in the bones and out of the arteries.  Manganese has the important role of protecting mitochondria — the cellular structures that create energy — from damage caused by free radicals. It’s also beneficial to healthy bone structure, bone metabolism, helping to create essential enzymes for building bones, formation of connective tissues, absorption of calcium, proper functioning of the thyroid gland and sex hormones, regulation of blood sugar level, and metabolism of fats and carbohydrates.

Iron may be best known for carrying oxygen, but it’s also essential for the proper growth and development of the human body.  It helps metabolize proteins and plays a role in the production of hemoglobin and red blood cells.

So now you know prunes offer more than just keeping you regular and do deserve to be a regular part of your diet!

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