Latin Name: Prunus domestica
What is a Prune?
Prunes, sometimes called California dried plums, come from several types of plum species whose seed is easily separated from the pulp. In the past several years, the word “prune” has been replaced in markets with “dried plum,” to avoid the association between the dried fruit and its treatment as a remedy for constipation in the elderly.
Originating near the Caucasus Mountains and Caspian Sea in Western Asia, plums were carried throughout Europe. They were brought by Louis Pellier to the United States in 1856 when he came to capitalize off of the Gold Rush; instead, he found himself to be much more successful at cultivating plums and by the turn of the century, ninety thousand acres of plums covered California’s land. Even today, California’s plum crop provides 70% of all the world’s prunes. Dried prunes are eaten as snacks and breakfast foods, added to sauces, and even used as medicine.
What are the health benefits of Prunes?
According to traditional Chinese medicine, prunes are cooling to the system; they reverse stomach acidity and improve appetite by promoting digestion. The dried sour plum is used therapeutically in Chinese medicine to treat digestion problems, stomach flu, allergies, and parasites.
Since prunes aid in digestion and work against constipation, they keep the intestines clean and so decrease our likelihood of the development of hemorrhoids or colon cancer. Their insoluble fiber feeds the “good” bacteria of the large intestine, which in turn protects the stomach against pathogens. Their soluble fiber on the other hand allows food to stay in stomach longer, which leads to better digestion and a more gradual release of glucose into the bloodstream. In general, diets high in fiber have been proven to help prevent breast cancer, high cholesterol, and heart disease.
In addition, prunes are very high in antioxidants, specifically beta-carotene and both neochlorogenic and chlorogenic acids. Antioxidants prevent the oxidation of cells, cholesterol, and plaque buildup, supporting heart health and addressing a variety of inflammatory conditions, including arthritis and asthma. High levels of potassium in prunes also make them good for blood pressure and bone health.
Where can I find Prunes?
Dried plums, or prunes, can be found year round in most grocery stores, health food stores, and specialty markets.
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