There’s a dried fruit in town by a new name, but the name change hasn’t altered the inherent cancer-fighting properties and great taste it always had.
Up to 99% of these little portable cancer killers available in the United States are grown in California and it was there the name change was brought about.
These fruits are more commonly known for their ability to keep the digestive tract regular. But they do more than that!
These sweet treats are packed with antioxidants, vitamins, prebiotics and more! Any guesses as to what this tiny nutritional powerhouse might be?
Did you guess these powerful little fruits are dried plums? Dried plums are technically prunes; the California Dried Plum Board conducted a survey and found that people (women ages 25 to 54, specifically) responded more favorably to the name “dried plums,” so they changed the name.(1) Outside the United States the name “prune” is still used.
Whatever they’re called, they’re nothing but sweet goodness for your cells, blood sugar, waistline and perhaps best of all, they’ve been shown to reduce the risk of developing of colon cancer.
Dried plums reduce colon cancer risk
Keeping your digestive tract moving along smoothly is very important to your health. If old food and bacteria aren’t flushed out of your system regularly it creates an environment where cancer cells thrive.
Dried plums have long been used to help relieve constipation and keep the digestive tract regular. The reason for this is twofold:
- Dried plums are very high in fiber
- Dried plums are high in sorbitol, a natural sugar alcohol that acts as nature’s laxative.
A half-cup serving—about 10 dried plums—contains a little more than 6 grams of fiber and 12 grams of sorbitol.
Prune juice has about 15 grams of sorbitol per 8-ounce glass, which is why a few glasses of the juice is more often recommended to ease bouts of digestive problems than handfuls of dried fruit.
Dried plums boost your gut microbiome
Dried plums help keep your colon healthy in more ways than one. In addition to keeping your colon clear, dried plums have also been clinically shown to improve the amount of healthy bacteria in the gut.
A healthy balance of gut flora is so important that researchers found they could predict a person’s risk for developing colon cancer just by looking at the microbiome.(2)
If you’ll recall, I discussed the importance of keeping a healthy balance of bacteria in the gut, back in issue #539, and how eating prebiotics and probiotics work to keep the good bacteria alive and thriving.
Well, it turns out the sorbitol in dried plums is an excellent prebiotic, providing food for the healthy bacteria in your gut.
In a study performed at Texas A&M University, researchers fed a group of rats a high-prune diet and discovered they had more beneficial bacteria in the distal colon (last part of the colon) than the control group that didn’t get prunes.
Researchers also discovered these rats had significantly fewer aberrant crypts, precancerous lesions that can be an early indicator of colon cancer.(3)
This wasn’t the only study to find a link between high consumption of dried plums and reduced colon cancer risk.
Researchers published the results of a study in the journal Nutrition and Cancer that showed rats eating a diet high in dried plum powder had lower amounts of unhealthy bacteria as well as an increased oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC), meaning these rats had a greater ability to neutralize free radicals and stop oxidation in cells.(4)
Dried plums are stacked with phytonutrients
So far, we know dried plums are high in fiber, sorbitol and can increase the healthy bacteria in the gut microbiome. But the hits just keep on coming!
Dried plums are chock full of phytonutrients that not only reduce colon cancer risk, but boost cell health, reducing your overall cancer risks. They contain
- Antioxidants that neutralize free radicals and restore cell health
- vitamin A, an antioxidant that helps vision and immune system health
- vitamin K1 helps in blood clotting
- boron staves off osteoporosis. One serving provided the RDA.
- copper reduces inflammation throughout the body
- potassium (745 mg per serving) keeps your heart healthy(5)
They’re also rich in phenolic compounds such as neochlorogenic and chlorogenic acids, which have been shown to destroy breast cancer cell lines.(6) A half-cup serving of dried plums contains 184 grams of these cancer-killing compounds.
Because of the high fiber and sugar content of dried plums, snacking on a few before a meal may help you feel fuller sooner, helping to control portion intake naturally.
And even though dried plums are sweet enough to satisfy a sweet tooth, eating them doesn’t spike the blood sugar levels like refined sugar, possibly due to the combination of fructose, fiber and sorbitol.
The same phenolic compounds that kill cancer cells also helps delay glucose absorption, making dried plums a perfect snack for just about anyone.
Getting the benefits of dried plums
Incorporating dried plums into your diet is easy, and is safe for nearly everyone. However, if you’re diabetic or have had other insulin problems, talk to your doctor about how the fructose in dried plums may affect your blood sugar.
A serving of dried plums is only about a half cup, or about 10 of these tasty little nuggets. Mix them with raw nuts for a snack, add a few to a smoothie for sweetness and fiber, or add prune juice to your days.
Just remember that the juice is devoid of fiber, so if you go that route you’ll want to make sure you’re boosting fiber intake elsewhere.
Another bonus of dried plums is that they aren’t full of the usual preservatives and sulfating agents one has to be aware of when eating dried fruits.
According to the California Dried Plum Board, only potassium sorbate, a naturally occurring preservative compound is used. And because dried plums are already dark in color, they don’t have sulfating agents, which are usually used to prevent darkening.(7)
So go forth, boost your health, reduce colon cancer risks and maintain a healthy balance of gut bacteria by adding prunes, dried plums, or whatever you want to call them, into your diet. Who knew this little sweet fruit could pack such a nutritional punch?
- Why was the name prunes changed to dried plums? http://www.californiadriedplums.org/about-prunes-and-dried-plums/faq
- The human gut microbiome as a screening tool for colorectal cancer. http://cancerpreventionresearch.aacrjournals.org/content/early/2014/08/06/1940-6207.CAPR-14-0129.abstract
- Dried plums modify colon microbiota composition and spatial distribution, and protect against chemically-induced carcinogenesis. http://www.fasebj.org/content/29/1_Supplement/394.7.short
- Effect of dried plums on colon cancer risk factors in rats. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16351514
- Dried plums and their products: composition and health effects–an updated review. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24090144
- Identifying peach and plum polyphenols with chemopreventive potential against estrogen-independent breast cancer cells. http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jf900259m
- Are preservatives used in processing dried plums/prunes? http://www.californiadriedplums.org/about-prunes-and-dried-plums/faq#question-10