Hello! March is Nutrition Month – and the theme this year is to unlock the potential of food. What I LOVE about this theme is that it looks at food from all aspects, from micronutrients all the way up to the food system as a whole!
When I was in University, I LOVED learning about the amazing research that would look at an individual food item and its impact on human physiology – right down to the mechanism of action. Super nerdy right?
Today, in honour of Nutrition Month 2019, I partnered with the California Prune Board to talk about unlocking the power of California Prunes. I’ve totally nerded out on a ton of research, and now I’m going to share with you just how powerful this little dried fruit can be!
Prunes for Digestion
As a digestive health dietitian, prunes are one food I am a huge fan of. Now – many of you will say ‘but Andrea, prunes aren’t low FODMAP!’ – however, after the elimination phase, prunes may actually be a helpful tool – especially in IBS-Constipation! In fact, I often encourage the use of prunes, because of their content of sugar alcohols to actually help get bowels moving quicker.
The Super Power of Sugar Alcohols
What makes prunes unique is their content of sugar alcohols – a type of carbohydrate that naturally occurs in prunes. In just 5-6 prunes, there is 15 grams of sorbitol, a type of sugar alcohol that helps to pull water into the bowels.
This helps to speed up digestion and soften stool. I typically recommend to my patients 5-6 prunes to help stimulate the bowels and create a better stool consistency. For chronic constipation, this is a food-first approach you can add in every day. For intermittent constipation, like constipation when travelling, you can take as needed. In fact, I never travel anywhere without a bag of prunes in my suitcase. Travel constipation is a real thing people! Prunes help to keep me regular.
Fantastic Fibre in Prunes
Prunes are chock-full of different types of fibre. The primary fibre found in prunes is called ‘pectin’. In 5-6 prunes, there is 3 grams of fibre. Pectin – a viscous fibre, acts kind of like a ‘net’ trapping cholesterol and helping to reduce total circulating amounts in the blood. Not only that, but the pectin, and another type of fibre, fructans, are considered ‘prebiotic’ fibre. Prebiotic fibre gets fermented by bacteria in our colon. This process of fermentation helps to produce beneficial compounds that have the potential to improve immune function and reduce inflammation in the body, amongst other things!
Prunes contain several types of antioxidants; those from vitamin C, E, and carotenoids, as well as polyphenolic compounds (what gives the prunes their beautiful dark purple colour). Antioxidants can take different actions in the body, and as a gut health dietitian I’m MOST interested in the recent research in the role of poorly absorbed antioxidants and their impact on gut health.
When we can’t break down or absorb these polyphenolic compounds, they travel through to our colon where they act as fuel for our gut bacteria. In animal models, we have seen that certain antioxidants can help to promote the growth of good bacteria in our colon, which in turn, have health benefits for us. These studies hold promise for future research to assess impact in human health!
Mighty Micronutrients in Prunes
Prunes are a source of so many micronutrients including potassium, magnesium, vitamin K, copper, and boron. These micronutrients play a role in maintaining bone health and reducing bone loss. In fact, studies show that eating just one daily serving of 5-6 prunes supports bone health by slowing bone loss. Not only are prunes powerful in helping digestion, but also in helping to reduce the impact aging has on our bones!
If you’re ready to unlock the potential of prunes, try this super simple Powerful Prune Slaw Recipe – we love it as a side, or to top a pulled pork sandwich!
Powerful Prune Slaw
- 10 oz bag of your favourite slaw (we like Kale and Brussels Sprout slaw)
- 1/3 cup California prunes chopped
- 2 Tbsp rice vinegar
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 4 Tbsp mayonnaise
- 2 tsp sugar
- ¼ tsp salt
- pepper to taste
- In a bowl, mix together rice vinegar, oil, mayonnaise, sugar, salt and pepper.
- Toss in slaw and prunes.
- Refrigerate at minimum 1 hour or overnight to let the flavours marinate together.
Disclosure: This is a sponsored post through the California Prune Board. I received financial compensation to talk about the nutritive qualities of prunes. While the information conveyed may support clients’ objectives, the opinions expressed are my own and based on current scientific evidence. I do not engage in business with companies whose products or services do not match my personal and professional beliefs.