Along with the many plum health benefits, they are one of those few fruits that can be enjoyed year-round, thanks to the ease with which they can be dried. Prunes (dried plums) are more effective than fresh plums as a laxative. There are more than 200 types of plums, but because of their flavor and quality, the queen of them all is a variety called “Claudia” in honor of Queen Claudia, the first wife of king Francis I of France.
Plum Nutritional Facts
All varieties of plums are similar in composition. They are only differentiated by their sugar content and natural coloring, which determines the skin and pulp color. Plums contain fewer proteins and fats (less than one percent of these nutrients). They have a balanced proportion of all vitamins and minerals (except vitamin B12), although in small amounts.
Plums’ non-nutrient components are remarkable and explain this fruit’s laxative action on the intestine:
VEGETABLE FIBER: This is soluble, primarily pectin. Fresh plums contain about 1.5 percent, while prunes can reach seven percent. PECTIN is a complex carbohydrate that soaks up water in the intestine, boosting the volume of the feces and encouraging evacuation. It also absorbs cholesterol and biliary salts, which are eliminated with the feces.
DIHYDROXYPHENYLISATIN: This substance, also known as oxyphenisatin, has been chemically identified. Its function is to gently stimulate the peristaltic action of the intestine, promoting the movement of the feces. In addition to being laxative, their most important role, plums are diuretic, depurant, and hypolipidemic (reduce blood lipid level).
Plum Health Benefits
CONSTIPATION: The combined action of pectin and the substance that stimulates intestinal movement makes plums gentle and effective laxatives. In contrast to insoluble vegetable fiber such as bran, plums’ soluble fiber soothes and protects intestinal walls. A study finished at the University of California showed that twelve prunes a day (approximately one hundred grams) increased the weight of the feces by twenty percent, making them softer and easier to expel.
Consuming plums regularly (fresh plums in summer, prunes the rest of the year) eliminates intestinal atony and helps reeducate the bowel. Prunes contain more pectin and active ingredients, but fresh plums are also practical. Since plums and prunes are nonirritating laxatives, they may be used without risk of long periods (months or even years), which cannot be done with other laxatives. Children and the elderly tolerate plums and prunes very well, making them the laxative of choice for constipation in both groups.
HIGH CHOLESTEROL: The fiber in prunes, comprised primarily of pectin, reduces cholesterol levels in laboratory animals and humans. After eight weeks of eating twelve prunes (approximately one hundred grams) a day, in addition to their regular diet, LDL (harmful) cholesterol levels in a group of volunteers dropped about five percent.
CHRONIC DISORDERS: Plums are mildly diuretic, depurant, and detoxifying. Their deficient protein, fat, and sodium content makes them very suitable in cases of arteriosclerosis, excess uric acid, gout, degenerative conditions of the joints (rheumatism and arthrosis), and liver disease (chronic hepatitis, cirrhosis, etc.). In all these situations, adding several plums or prunes to breakfast is a healthful practice.
PREVENTION of COLON CANCER: The same study cited earlier showed a twenty percent reduction in the lithocholic acid level of the feces. Lithocholic acid and other biliary acids in the feces are related to cases of colon cancer: the higher concentration of these acids in the feces, the greater the risk of colon cancer. The fact that soluble fiber in certain foods protects against colon cancer has been an established scientific fact for years.
Therefore, regular plum or prune consumption is a very appropriate prophylactic for all at risk of colon cancer, whether for genetic reasons (intestinal polyps) or lifestyle reasons (a diet lacking in vegetable fiber, chronic constipation, or diverticulosis).
Plum Scientific Facts
- Scientific name: Prunus domestica L.
- Other names: Prune, prune plum, greengage.
- French: Prune.
- Spanish: Ciruela.
- German: Pflaume.
- Description: Fruit of the plum tree, which is of the botanical family Rosaceae that reaches a height of five meters. The fruit is a round or oblong drupe that may reach seven centimeters in diameter. It has a woody pit containing an inedible seed.
- Description: The plum has its origins in the countries of the Caucasus and Asia Minor (Turkey). The Greeks and Romans introduced it to Europe, from where it has spread to North America, Argentina, Chile, and Australia. Today, the North American state of California is one of the world’s greatest producers of prunes (dried plums).
Prunes and Plums for Breakfast
It is possible to add plums or prunes to breakfast any time of the year: Fresh plums in summer and prunes the rest of the year. Plums, especially prunes, are rich in soluble vegetable fiber (pectin) and in a substance that increases the peristaltic movement of the intestine (dihydroxyphenylisatin or oxyphenisatin).
Prunes are extraordinary for their iron, vegetable fiber, and copper content. One hundred grams of prunes (about twelve pieces) offer:
- Roughly one-third of the daily need for fiber.
- One-fourth of the daily necessity for iron.
- Almost one-third of the daily need for copper, a trace element that helps maintain arterial walls and bones, contributes to the prevention of arteriosclerosis and osteoporosis.
Someone can increase the laxative effect of prunes by soaking them overnight and eating them the following day for breakfast. Drink the water they have been soaking in for maximum benefit.
The ideal breakfast to fight constipation and protect the intestine should contain prunes, yogurt, honey, and a few slices of whole-grain or rye bread.
How to use and Prepare Prunes
- FRESH: Raw plums must be at their peak of ripeness to be well tolerated by the stomach.
- PRUNES: These may be eaten just as they are or soaked overnight. The usual dose is from six to twelve prunes, preferably in the morning.
- CULINARY PREPARATIONS: Plums and prunes make various delicious dishes, compotes, and jams. These also have a laxative effect.
George D. Pamplona-Roger, M.D. “Encyclopedia of Foods and Their Healing Power.” George D. Pamplona-Roger, M.D. Encyclopedia of Foods and Their Healing Power. Trans. Annette Melgosa. Vol. 2. Chai Wan: Editorial Safeliz, 2005. 233, 234, 235. Print.