When it comes to preventing or delaying bone loss as part of aging, it is often recommended to recharge calcium rich foods and drinks, and while it’s still important advice, a recent study in Advanced in Nutrition suggests prunes can also provide a boost for bone health.
Looking specifically at postmenopausal women, who have the highest rate of bone loss, the researchers found that eating about 10 prunes every day for a year led to decreased signs of bone loss, and that even six months of regular prune consumption showed less total bone mineral density loss compared to those who did not eat the dried fruit.
One possible reason this is happening, they noted, is that prunes cause beneficial changes in the gut microbiome, leading to less inflammation levels throughout the body. In turn, this can reduce the type of oxidative damage to cells that affects bone density.
In addition to helping with bones, prunes may also offer benefits for reducing abdominal fat. Although dried fruit is generally not recommended for weight loss efforts due to its high caloric density, one 2014 study presented at the European Congress on Obesity examined the effects of eating prunes daily over a 12-week period with participants who were overweight or obese.
Those who ate a small amount of the dried fruit lost about four pounds in that time period and nearly an inch off their waistlines. Although these are modest results, the researchers noted that weight loss seemed to be increasing at the end of the study, due to a greater feeling of satiety. This means that it is possible that in the longer term, the prunes may still be helpful for weight loss.
One important note if you’re looking to add prunes to your diet: Be sure to read the Nutrition Facts label, suggests a functional medicine dietitian. Maria Zamarripa, DR. Prunes are already high in calories due to the concentration of their natural sugars during dehydration, but some manufacturers add even more sugar during processing. That can reduce or even nullify the anti-inflammatory effects that come from eating prunes.
“For many people, they may be getting more sugar than they realize unless they look at the labels and avoid products with added sugars,” she says Eat this, not that!“That can happen even with a product like prunes, which may seem like it doesn’t need to be sweetened, but could be anyway.”
Another consideration is that it doesn’t take much to make you feel full, but you do need to factor in those calories. In the 2014 study, for example, those who ate prunes every day had about a cup, which is about 400 calories.
The researchers in that study suggested combining prunes along with fresh fruits and vegetables for the best effect. With regular consumption, both your bones and your belly may thank you.