Don't sleep on prunes for vitamins, minerals, and gut-healthy fiber.
You’ll never come across a prune tree because prunes aren’t your typical fruits. They may be sweet and have seeds like many fruits do, but they don’t grow on bushes or trees. That’s because prunes are made by drying plums.
What Are Prunes?
That’s right—prunes are dried plums, kind of like raisins are dried grapes. “Dehydrating plums extends their shelf life and also yields prunes,” explains Jenna Volpe, RDN, LD, an Austin-based registered dietitian. “You can snack on prunes on their own or chop them and add them to cereal, oatmeal, granola, or trail mix for added sweetness and fiber.” Volpe adds that prunes even make for a sweet treat after dinner.
Since prunes come from plums, the two have overlapping nutritional values and even share some benefits. However, prunes are actually higher in some nutrients than plums, giving them a slight edge when it comes to those health benefits. Known for being high in fiber, prunes are most often associated with digestion and gut health. This is definitely true, but prunes have plenty more health benefits and important nutrients to offer too.
Top Benefits of Prunes
Prunes are an excellent source of fiber.
Perhaps one of the most well-known benefits of prunes is their high fiber content—something most Americans aren’t getting enough of. The recommended amount of fiber varies depending on your age and sex, but the general target is 25 grams (g) per day for women and 38 g per day for men, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. While this may not seem like much, only about 5 percent of Americans currently meet this target.
To close the fiber gap, as it’s often referred to, Los Angeles–based registered dietitian Maggie Moon, RD, says eating more high-fiber fruits like prunes could help. “Prunes are high in fibers that feed good gut bacteria and help bulk up stool volume,” she explains. “They also contain other components that feed good gut bacteria, such as sorbitol, which can help with regularity.”
Prunes contain a whopping 7.1 g of fiber per 100-gram serving, according to the USDA. That’s around nine or 10 prunes, which sounds like a lot—but that means five or six prunes eaten throughout the day adds up to about 4 g of fiber.
Prunes are a natural way to relieve constipation.
Everyone needs plenty of fiber in their diet, but those who struggle with irregularity and constipation tend to watch their fiber intake extra closely.
“Prunes and even prune juice are natural remedies for constipation, and this has been backed by research,” Volpe says, pointing to a 2022 trial that recommends prunes as a therapy for chronic constipation. “While they’re high in fiber, their laxative-inducing effects may also be attributed to the high content of [natural] sorbitol, pectin, and polyphenols.”
What’s more, a 2019 trial found that eating between 80 g and 120 g of prunes per day increases stool weight and frequency (aka it bulks up your stools and improves regularity). Researchers aren’t sure if it’s due to the prunes’ fiber, sorbitol, or other plant compounds, but it could be chalked up to a combination.
According to Volpe, not everyone will experience an urgent need to go after eating prunes, but there’s enough evidence to suggest that these dried fruits prove helpful for those who aren’t as regular as they’d like.
Prunes support bone health with vitamin K and potassium.
Your diet and lifestyle are important factors in osteoporosis prevention and general bone health. “Many people aren’t aware that prunes are naturally high in vitamin K and potassium, two micronutrients that help regulate bone remineralization,” Volpe says. Osteoporosis is a condition that causes weak and brittle bones. An estimated 10 million people are affected by it, while many millions more have low bone density. This can increase the risk of bone fractures and broken bones. Postmenopausal women are much more likely to develop osteoporosis, per the Office on Women’s Health.
A 2022 trial found that a 50-gram serving of prunes per day helped prevent the loss of bone mineral density in the hips and potentially reduce the risk of hip fractures in postmenopausal women.
Prunes’s potassium may help lower high blood pressure, too.
Potassium is considered one of the best nutrients for lowering blood pressure (hypertension), and prunes are a good source of it. The American Heart Association recommends 3,400 milligrams (mg) of potassium per day for men and 2,600 mg daily for women. With 732 mg of potassium per serving, prunes can account for nearly a third of your daily target for the heart-healthy nutrient.
“Potassium is an essential mineral for regulating healthy blood pressure, so prunes could serve as a high-potassium fruit for people with hypertension,” Volpe says. “There isn’t much formal research confirming the benefits of prunes specifically for reducing blood pressure, but we know that getting enough dietary potassium is generally beneficial for most people with high blood pressure.” Indeed, studies confirm the blood pressure lowering-effects of potassium.
Prunes may help improve risk factors for heart disease.
Like osteoporosis, postmenopausal women are at greater risk for heart disease, per the CDC. It’s the leading cause of death among women, and women are more likely to die from it than men. Healthy lifestyle habits, such as quitting smoking and adopting a balanced diet, are some of the ways to reduce the risk factors. Making prunes part of your regular meal is also one way to support heart health, Moon notes.
Prunes may lower blood pressure and encourage healthy cholesterol levels, which could reduce the risk for heart disease. In a 2020 trial, snacking on 200 calories worth of prunes daily was found to reduce the risk of chronic disease by lowering LDL (aka “bad”) cholesterol levels. In postmenopausal women, eating 100 g of prunes per day significantly improved total cholesterol and improved risk factors for heart disease, according to a 2021 trial.
Some of prunes’ heart health benefits could also be explained by the high-fiber content. Aside from its role in supporting digestion, fiber has loads of benefits. It’s essential for a healthy diet because it helps keep cholesterol levels in check, which reduces the risk for cardiovascular disease.
Promotes promote satiety and feelings of fullness.
Some foods are more satisfying than others, and especially when it comes to sweet foods, prunes fall into this category. “If you’re looking for a satisfying snack, prunes are a better choice than cookies,” Moon says, pointing to a 2010 study that found prunes to have a higher satiety index than bread and cookies. If you're craving a convenient, sweet, juicy, chewy treat, prunes are definitely the way to go over refined sweets like candy or baked goods. “Eating prunes resulted in a lower blood sugar response compared to bread and cookies and tended to lower hunger hormone activity.”
Feeling full and satisfied prevents overeating, which can be taxing on the digestive system and cause unhealthy fluctuations in blood sugar levels, so snacking on something like prunes can support a healthy metabolism, appetite levels, and body weight maintenance.
Are Prunes High in Sugar?
Prunes don’t usually have any added sugars, but they do contain naturally occurring sugar: One prune contains about 3.6 g of sugar. Dried fruits like prunes are more dense and concentrated so will be higher in sugar than their whole fruit counterparts (from which the water content is removed.) For reference, 100 g of prunes contains 38 g of sugar; meanwhile, 100 g of plums contains roughly 10 g of sugar).
How Many Prunes Can You Eat Per Day?
Generally, most people can tolerate and should aim for a serving of five prunes, Moon suggests. Many studies have participants eat around double that number of prunes per day, but this is not necessary or recommended for everyone. If you want to significantly up your prune intake, Moon recommends starting with just one or two per day and slowly increasing the amount.
Are Prunes Safe for Everyone to Eat?
Too much of anything can be a bad thing, Volpe reminds us. Before you start adding prunes to every meal, there are a few things you should know.
“People navigating blood sugar imbalances should limit their consumption of prunes since they contain a significant amount of sugar in relatively small quantities,” Volpe says. She adds that the fiber in prunes can help buffer the sugar content, and that they’re still relatively low on the glycemic index; however, people with diabetes, for example, should be mindful of their intake.
Other groups may also want to consider enjoying prunes in moderation. Since prunes can get things going, those with loose stools or diarrhea may find prunes to trigger their symptoms, Volpe says. Some people on a potassium-restricted meal plan, such as those with kidney disease, may also want to limit their prune consumption since they’re high in potassium, she adds.
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