Dried Plums, Straight from Nature

November 5, 2013 in fiber, Health, Nutrition by Joyce Bunderson

When plums are dried, they have the deep crevasses that often grace the faces of the elderly. In a society that idolizes youth, something that is wrinkled as …… well, a prune, doesn’t have much of a chance for popularity.

Years ago the California Dried Plum Board changed the name of prunes to dried plums; the name change was based upon marketing (of course). In marketing studies, Americans responded more favorably to dried plums than to prunes, therefore, voila! a name change. The California Dried Plum Board has a nice answer for what makes prunes special: All prunes are plums, but not all plums are prunes.  Prune plum varieties have very high sugar contents that enable them to be dried without fermenting while still containing the pits.

For many years in my young life, I struggled with constipation, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). In my experience, I did not get it under control until taking the recommendation of a gastroenterologist. He advised taking psyllium (Metamucil) twice a day.  I did that for a few years and while doing so, was seldom bothered with the problem. When my husband accepted whole grains and a large volume of vegetables as a treatment for type 2 diabetes, I stopped taking the Metamucil. I must say that if we travel on a long trip and the meals are provided, I take the psyllium until I’m eating our home diet again. It’s pretty difficult to get enough fiber with an ordinary diet.

Prunes not only look like old skin, but they are an old-fashioned remedy for stool consistency. But the funny old-fashioned prunes have the last laugh. The University of Iowa researchers found that psyllium and dried plums were equally palatable and safe, but that the dried plums/prunes were more effective than the psyllium. Both the dried plums and the psyllium helped with problems of constipation, but the prunes actually did a better job in complete bowel movements and measures of stool consistency.

Not only do prunes contain both water soluble and insoluble fiber, but also Sorbitol, a sugar alcohol that has a laxative effect, and in addition it also contains 184 milligrams of antioxidant polyphenols (phytonutrients). Why not use a fruit, one-step closer to nature, especially if it is more effective? I know this is just anecdotal, but personally I think that prunes are actually much more palatable. Swallowing down that thick psyllium fiber was is not a favorite activity. A sweet fruit, on the other hand, I quite enjoy.  In addition, if you need the assistance on a regular basis, you can easily pop a few dried plums into a snack bag and you are on your way. Or if you’re traveling, the dried plums are easy to take with you.

I plan to change my plan for health when away from our home eating; I’m going to pack some dried plums to take along. It will be much more pleasant for me than the gooey drink.

If you’re home and need the assistance of dried plums, you may discover that stewed prunes/dried plums are actually delicious. They’re very easy to make and they’re so nice and sweet, that no sugar is needed to make stewed prunes/dried plums. Check out the website for the California Dried Plums; they have many recipes using dried plums for sweetening recipes, moistening recipes and just plain tasty recipes. I especially enjoyed a statement by Natalie Coughlin, an Olympic Swimmer and spokes-woman for dried plums, she said: “As an athlete, my goal is to stay healthy and make everything I eat count.” Wouldn’t it be nice if the population as a whole would grasp this idea? Make every thing count!

In addition to bowel health, studies have shown that dried plums significantly increased bone mineral density; the citations are included on the California Dried Plum Board’s website.

Living in the modern world, it’s challenging to get enough fiber to support healthy elimination; you may discover that dried plums are an easy answer to an all too common problem.