What Is Prune Juice Good For
Prune juice is high in antioxidants, vitamins, and fiber, which work as a laxative and can help maintain a healthy digestive system along with preventing heart disease, strokes, and other health problems. It’s also an excellent source of: Vitamin A. Vitamin C.
In the United States alone there are more than 100 different types of prunes available — from seedless to those that weigh about 2 pounds (907 grams) each. The fact that you’re reading this article means you probably like them on some level, but it’s good to know exactly what they do for your body so you can make informed decisions on how to eat them most effectively.
The word “prune” comes from the Latin phrase “primere,” meaning “to cut off.” This refers to the way the fruit has been harvested in its early stages when its fleshy part is still attached to the tree branch. If left to grow, the plant would continue producing new branches and leaves instead of fruits. In order to preserve the fruit, farmers have developed methods of removing the fleshy part while leaving behind the bark. This method allows the fruit to be stored for long periods of time without spoiling.
There are several varieties of plums grown throughout France, Italy, Spain, Germany, England, Russia, China, Japan, Mexico, Brazil and California. Each variety bears differently shaped fruits ranging in size from less than one inch (2.54 centimeters) up to 4 inches (10 cm). Although all these fruits may look similar, they vary greatly in their nutritional content, taste and texture.
Prunus dulcis or common European plum is perhaps the best-known type of prune and is widely used in cooking and baking. Plums are low in calories and fat and contain no cholesterol. They’re also rich in vitamin E, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, calcium, iron and folic acid. But the nutrient of interest here is carotenoids. Carotenoids are pigments found in plants such as carrots, tomatoes, peppers and apricots. They give these foods their orange coloration. You’ll find carotenes in sweet potatoes and lycopene in watermelon. These antioxidant compounds fight cancer, help prevent cardiovascular diseases, boost immune function, and reduce risk of cataracts and macular degeneration.
So why don’t we get enough? Americans only consume 3 percent of our daily requirement of beta-carotene. And although we typically think of vegetables as our main sources of carotenoids, it turns out that even if you eat plenty of leafy greens and cruciferous veggies, you might not reap the full benefits because many fruits actually contain higher levels of carotenoids. So next time you reach for a glass of red wine after dinner or snack on a bowl of fresh strawberries at breakfast, remember that you could be getting a double dose of vitamin C, plus beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin.
How Do Antioxidants Work?
Antioxidants are substances within food that protect against damage by free radicals, unstable molecules formed during normal metabolism that cause cell destruction leading to chronic illnesses including cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, arthritis, cataracts, atherosclerosis, stroke and heart attack. Free radicals are highly reactive atoms or molecules containing an odd number of electrons. When two free radicals meet, they will automatically combine to form another free radical. While that sounds bad, it doesn’t mean that antioxidants won’t help. In fact, they work by breaking down the chain reaction of free radicals, neutralizing harmful chemicals, reducing inflammation, strengthening muscles, improving circulation and protecting DNA.
The human body produces its own antioxidants, but it does a poor job of maintaining adequate supplies. Because of pollution, cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption, radiation exposure and stress, our bodies accumulate free radicals faster than they can be destroyed. To compensate for all the oxidative damage caused by free radicals, the cells need extra protection. That’s where antioxidants come in. They act as the body’s defense team, fighting free radicals before they destroy the delicate tissues and organs of the body.
But just how powerful are these little defenders? According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, dried plums contain 5 mg of vitamin C per serving (100 g), compared to 1,000 mg in oranges and grapefruits, 900 mg in lemons, pomegranates and tangerines, 500 mg in blueberries, raspberries and strawberries and 400 mg in green peas and artichokes. So next time you want to add flavor to a meal, try sprinkling some dried plums on top of yogurt or cereal!
Benefits of Prunus Dulcis
As mentioned earlier, prunus dulcis contains lots of nutrients, but here are just a few of the ways the tiny fruits help keep us healthy:
Vitamin A – Beta-carotene is the parent compound of vitamin A, which is essential for vision, bone growth, reproduction, immunity, skin production and healing wounds. People who suffer from certain eye disorders, malnutrition, night blindness or xerophthalmia should supplement their diets with vitamin A to avoid developing these conditions.
Vitamin C – Ascorbic acid is the chemical name for vitamin C. It helps strengthen capillaries and arteries, increases blood flow, improves circulation, protects against infections, reduces muscle cramps and prevents scurvy. Adults age 65 and older require 90 milligrams a day; children younger than 12 years old need 75 milligrams; pregnant women need 60 milligrams; and people with certain medical conditions including kidney disease, diabetes, AIDS, Crohn’s disease and asthma need 200 milligrams.
Fiber – Fiber is important to digestion, elimination and prevention of constipation. It absorbs water to increase bulk, adds substance to stool and makes bowel movements easier. Soluble fiber also binds to bile acids to slow absorption of glucose into the bloodstream and lower insulin levels. Insoluble fiber keeps the intestines clean and decreases intestinal gas, bloating and flatulence. Most adults need 20 to 35 grams of fiber each day, depending on gender and activity level.
Lutein and Zeaxanthin – Luteins are yellow pigment responsible for giving darkly colored egg yolk its characteristic golden hue. Luteins are concentrated primarily in the retina of the eye and play an essential role in vision. Luteins provide antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties that promote healthy eyes. They protect the retina from UV light damage and contribute to normal development of the lens of the eye. Luteins are also needed to produce hormones involved in regulating fertility. Zeaxanthin is a related pigment that gives corn, peaches, mangoes and papayas their bright colors. Studies show that both lutein and zeaxanthin may be effective in delaying or reversing the effects of macular degeneration.
Flavonoids – Flavonoids are a group of natural plant pigments that impart colors from white to deep purple, yellow, orange and red. Some flavonoids include quercetin, catechins, epicatechins, procyanidins, kaempferols and anthocyanidins. Quercetin is an active component of onions, grapes, apples, berries and kale. Kaempferol occurs naturally in tea, coffee, chocolate, avocados and broccoli. Epicatechin is present in cocoa, nuts, seeds and dark beer. Procyanidins occur in peanuts and dark wine. Anthocyanidins are produced by various colorful plants such as gardenia flowers, delphiniums and azalea species. All flavonoids perform multiple functions in the body, including acting as antioxidants, blocking carcinogens, inhibiting enzymes linked to tumor formation and boosting the immune system.
If you’ve enjoyed learning about the unique health benefits of prunes, check out the links below for additional information.
Sources: American Cancer Society, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Mayo Clinic Staff
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