Updated 20 May 2013

Prunes: digestive marvels

Prunes will help you to leave the loo with a happy smile on your face; and will keep it there as long as the dried fruit forms part of your diet.

The humble prune recently gained the official stamp for a highly valued quality from the European Food Safety Authority (Efsa).

Although it's long been known that only 100g per day aids the digestive system and keeps you regular, dealers in prunes may now state the fact on their packaging and in the media. Prunes will help you to leave the loo with a happy smile on your face. And will keep it there as long as the dried fruit forms part of your diet. 
The Efsa's affirmation of this attribute followed years’ of analysis and detailed scientific evidence submitted to the Council by the Californians, who are the worlds’ biggest prune producers. Efsa’s big boss has now given the nod for sentences containing the phrase that "dried plums/prunes can contribute to normal bowel function" to be included in health claims. About 100g per day will do the trick, the Council added. 

It speaks for itself that the Californian prune producers are happy with the announcement, as they already provide the UK with more than half of their requirements  and as the demand for and production of prunes are on a steep incline.

Americans, athletes in particular, are buying heaps of them in the form of gluten-free bars. This is something which may bother the makers of conventional kinds of sweets.  But most people – like our parents, grandparents and their parents – still prefer prunes as they come, stewed and over their cereal or oats, or with custard as a delicious dessert.  

Protect against heart disease and cancer

Aside from the protein content which appeals to the Americans and Europeans, prunes are also a rich source of vitamin C and K, potassium (think muscles and normal blood pressure) and copper (for a beautiful skin and good pigmentation) and they contain zero salt. By eating them instead of salty snacks you will safeguard your body against the multitude of ill-effects that normally result from an overdose of salt.

Recent studies showed that prunes and plums are also the most effective fruit in preventing and reversing bone loss, owing to their phenolic and flavonoid compounds.

What’s more, prunes also protect the heart and can help in the fight against cancer. That's because prunes and plums contain high levels of two scarce phytonutrients - called neochlorogenic and chlorogenic acid - which help to prevent damage to cells, particularly when it comes to the oxidation of fat molecules in the body. As cell membranes, as well as our brain cells, are largely made up of fat, it is important to have these phyto-nutrients in the diet.

And one can never mention it enough: their high soluble fibre content. The soluble fibre in prunes helps to make you feel satisfied after a meal which can prevent overeating and weight gain. They slow the rate at which food leaves the stomach and, as a result, delays the absorption of sugar into the blood.

Dried plums

We've seen more than adequate evidence that eating prunes is good for you ... and come to think of it, will ensure that you will never have to look like one, all wrinkled and oval-shaped. 
And yes, speaking of prunes and their comparison with people that won’t necessarily top your list of favourites; prudish (or prunish) American women between the ages of 25 and 54 reacted so negatively to the idea of prunes that the California Prune Board – all eager to please – pressured their mightier than thou Drug Administration to change the name to the (for them) more appealing dried plums (which they are, after all). It worked! Sales of the super healthy purple fruit have hit new heights.

An overview at the South African situation confirms that people here know what prunes are and that they don’t mind the name, as long as they remain of the consistent high quality that people have become used to and as long as they remain available at a reasonable price.  

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Add prunes to your baking with this delicious recipe:

Montagu  Banana and Prune Muffins

Total Time: 40 minutes
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes


12 cup white sugar
14 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1 cup mashed banana
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 12 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
12 tsp baking soda
14 tsp salt
14 tsp ground cinnamon
1 cup of prunes


Preheat oven to 175°C. Grease and flour a muffin pan, or use paper liners.

In a large bowl, combine sugar, oil and eggs. Beat until smooth. Blend in banana and vanilla. Mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon, then stir into egg mixture until just moistened. Mix in the prunes.  Spoon into muffin cups.

Bake in the preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of a muffin comes out clean.

 - (Montagu Dried Fruit & Nuts press release)


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