Prunes have the reputation of being very good for us, especially when it comes to our digestion. But there’s more to these wrinkly little gems than meets the eye. Let’s take a look at the nutrients in prunes, the role each plays in the body, and why prunes are so good for our health.April 27, 2022 4:40 pm June 09, 2021 8:08 pm
What are the nutrients in prunes?
Prunes are made by gently drying fresh plums until much of the water has been removed, resulting in a tender, wrinkled fruit with a dark purple colour.
A 30g serving of prunes (around three) will provide you with 72 calories. The vast majority of this energy is provided by carbohydrates, which make up about 96% of the fruit. (The remaining 4% is made up of protein (3%) and fat (1%).
Prunes are extremely low in fat at around 0.1g per serving. However they are very high in fibre, providing 8% of your daily requirement, or around 2.1g, in every 30g serving.
Alongside the macronutrients in prunes, you’ll also find plenty of healthy vitamins and minerals. These include potassium, calcium, magnesium and vitamins K, E and A.
In short, prunes pack a nutritional punch!
Macronutrients in prunes
In a 30g serving
Prunes contain negligible amounts of fat, saturated fat and cholesterol. They are also low in protein, providing 0.7g per serving.
On the other hand, prunes contain significant amounts of carbohydrate, fibre and sugars. Let’s take a look at their role in your body.
Carbohydrates in prunes
The total carbohydrates listed on food labels include dietary fibre, sugars and starch. Therefore, the numbers you see listed under ‘fibre’ and ‘sugars’ above are included within the total for ‘carbohydrate’.
Some people, for example people with diabetes or those trying to lose weight, find it useful to calculate the ‘net carbohydrate’ in their food. This is a calculation of the amount of carbohydrates which your body is able to digest, and you can calculate it by subtracting the amount of fibre from the total amount of carbohydrates. The net carbohydrate in a 30g serving of prunes would therefore be 17g.
Of those net carbohydrates, 11g are sugars.
While this number might seem rather high, remember that these are naturally occurring sugars. You are also consuming them alongside the other nutrients present in the fruit, such as fibre, which also have an effect on how they are absorbed.
If you consumed 11g of granulated refined sugar, it would cause your blood sugar to quickly rise and then crash. However this doesn’t happen with dried fruit, like prunes.
Prunes have a low glycemic index (29/100). The glycemic index measures how quickly your blood sugar levels rise after eating a certain food.
Those with a high index are associated with large fluctuations in your blood sugar level, whereas low GI foods produce smaller, steadier changes. Scientists believe that eating low GI foods can help prevent type 2 diabetes and heart disease, as well as playing a role in weight loss.(2)
As you can see, it’s important to bear in mind not only the total amount of sugar in a food, but also how your body absorbs it.
All fruit is relatively high in natural sugars, and this is especially true for dried fruits, whose nutrients have been made more concentrated by the removal of water.
So, although it may be that there are a lot of sugars in prunes, it’s not something to worry about.
One thing you might want to consider is when you eat prunes; many dentists advise that you should eat dried fruit with meals rather than as a snack. This is to prevent the fruit lodging in your teeth, where their natural sugars can contribute to tooth decay.
The high amount of fibre in prunes is part of the reason they have gained such a reputation for helping with digestive health. In fact, they’re one of the most commonly recommended remedies for constipation.
As we know, fibre helps food to move through our digestive system and allows us to absorb more nutrients. There are two types: soluble and insoluble fibre.
Insoluble fibre adds bulk to the material moving through our intestines, slowing it down so we can better absorb the nutrients in our food. Soluble fibre, on the other hand, creates a gel-like substance which allows food to pass smoothly through our digestive system. Prunes contain both types.
However it’s not just the high levels of fibre in prunes which helps with constipation. Prunes also contain phenolic compounds such as neochlorogenic and chlorogenic acids, which are thought to have a laxative effect.(3)
This may help explain why prunes seem to be better than other high-fibre foods at ‘helping things along’ in the digestive system!
"Prunes contain phenolic compounds such as neochlorogenic and chlorogenic acids, which are thought to have a laxative effect.(3) This may be why they're so good at 'helping things along' in the digestive system!"
Micronutrients in prunes
Now, let’s take a look at the micronutrients, i.e. the vitamins and minerals. These are some of the most healthful nutrients in prunes.
Minerals in prunes
In a 30g serving
As you can see, 100g of prunes would provide you with an impressive 16% of your daily requirements for potassium, and 10% of your magnesium.
It would also provide smaller amounts of important minerals such as iron, calcium and zinc. However, as potassium and magnesium are the minerals present in the highest amount, let’s take a look at what they do for the body.
In America, potassium has been identified as a ‘shortfall nutrient’, meaning that most people struggle to get enough of it in their diet.
However, it’s an incredibly important mineral which contributes to heart and bone health, and may also reduce your risk of serious illnesses such as stroke and coronary heart disease.(4)
Eating prunes regularly will help you on the way to to meeting your daily targets for potassium, however you will need to eat other potassium-rich foods as well. These include bananas, avocados, dried apricots and sweet potatoes.
Many processes in the body are determined by enzymes. Magnesium acts as a ‘cofactor’ in the activity of over 300 of them. (A ‘cofactor’ is a non-protein molecule which helps enzymes do their job.)
That means magnesium has a role to play in a wide variety of bodily functions, including muscle and heart contractions, regulating blood pressure and blood sugar, energy production and bone development. You can see now why it’s so important!(5)
What’s more, scientists have found a link between low magnesium intake and a variety of diseases.
Most people in Western countries don’t get enough magnesium. To supplement your prunes, you might also like to add nuts, seeds and green vegetables to your diet. Water also contributes around 10% of your daily target of magnesium; this is true both for tap water and bottled water.(5)(6)
Vitamins in prunes
In a 30g serving
As you can see, the main vitamin which prunes provide is vitamin K. As one of the lesser-known vitamins, it still plays a very important role in the body. Let’s take a look at exactly what it does.
For some reason not as famous as its cousins vitamins A, C, D and E, vitamin K is vital for your overall health.
Vitamin K appears to play a role in bone health, although the mechanisms behind this aren’t fully understood. For instance, one clinical trial noticed that post-menopausal women who were given supplemental vitamin K suffered 50% fewer bone fractures than those taking a placebo.(7)
However, there didn’t seem to be any change in bone density for the women taking vitamin K.
As a result, the researchers have called for more studies to be done to establish exactly how vitamin K helps reduce bone fractures.
There’s also evidence that vitamin K can help prevent coronary artery calcification. This is the build-up of calcium in the walls of your arteries, which can cause them to harden. It’s a risk factor which can help scientists predict one’s likelihood of experiencing cardiovascular problems in the future.
One trial observed that giving vitamins D and K to post-menopausal women delayed the deterioration of their arterial elasticity. This did not occur when they were given vitamin D on its own, suggesting that vitamin K might be the cause of the promising results.(7)
Vitamin K and blood clotting
Perhaps vitamin K’s most well-known role is in blood clotting and wound healing. Indeed, that’s where it got its name; a Danish biochemist named Henrik Dam discovered vitamin K in 1934.
He identified that the newly discovered substance played a role in the coagulation of blood (koagulation in Danish) and named it vitamin K, after its observed effects.(8)
As a result, if you are taking medication to thin your blood, such as Warfarin, you may need to take care with vitamin K. This is because vitamin K encourages your blood to clot, which may interfere with the effects of your medication.(9)
If you are taking Warfarin or a similar drug, your doctor will likely advise you on whether you should be eating foods which are high in vitamin K. However if you’re unsure, or they haven’t provided recommendations as part of your treatment, do ask them for their advice on whether you need to take special care around vitamin K-rich foods.
Other good stuff
Alongside the main macro and micronutrients in prunes, you can find a lot of other beneficial nutrients. These include antioxidants.
The antioxidant compounds found in prunes include caffeoylquinic acids, lignins and flavanoids. Prunes may even have a higher antioxidant capacity than other types of dried fruit.
One study found that the total quantity of phenolic compounds, and the total antioxidant capacity of prunes was higher than that of dates, figs and raisins.(10)
Unexpectedly, the antioxidant power of prunes is actually higher than that of fresh plums.(10) This seems to be down to chemical processes which take place during drying.
Should you be eating prunes?
Prunes are a healthy whole food, full of beneficial vitamins and minerals. They are fat-free, low in calories, have a low glycemic load, and contain lots of gut-friendly fibre.
In short, prunes are a great addition to any diet!
They may be especially beneficial if you suffer from constipation, as their fibre combined with special phenolic compounds seems to produce a gentle laxative effect.
Those who are taking blood-thinning medications such as Warfarin should consult their doctor before adding prunes, or other vitamin K-rich foods, to their diet.
Don’t forget to check out our article on the health benefits of prunes for more information on why you should consider adding these wrinkly wonders to your meals.
Recipe ideas for prunes
Although prunes make a great snack on their own, as mentioned dentists often recommend avoiding dried fruit between meals.
Luckily, there are many ways you can enjoy prunes for breakfast, lunch and dinner!
We love adding chopped prunes to porridge or yoghurt first thing. They add natural sweetness to our breakfast, supply one of our five a day, and set us up to meet our daily fibre targets.
For lunch and dinner, seek inspiration from Moroccan cuisine. Prunes are delicious stirred into cous cous or used to add sweetness and flavour to tagines.
If you have a sweet tooth, they make a great addition to cookies and other baked goods. For dessert, try our delicious saffron rice pudding with prunes. Comforting and exotic, it’s a tasty way to introduce prunes into your routine, and is cosy as can be!
There are plenty of ways to enjoy prunes and their myriad health benefits, so choose the way that works best for you. Whether you love them in dinners or desserts, prunes are a worthy addition to your pantry.
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