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More than just a juicy fruit that's a seasonal delight in the kitchen, plums have a lot to offer in health benefits and wellness support, offering nutrients that influence everything from constipation to cognition
They can be easily transformed into sauces, jams and chutneys; they can also add a nice sweet touch to your meat dishes or turnovers. Plums, though, aren't just a tasty treat whether eaten fresh or dried. They also offer a bevy of health-promoting properties that are hard to ignore.
Mounting research on plums shows promising outcomes on their anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and memory-improving qualities.[i] Researchers are particularly drawn to this fruit for its high phenolic content, primarily antioxidants called anthocyanins. Here's a rundown of 11 reasons to love and eat plums with gusto today.
11 Top Health Benefits of Plums
1. Promote Bone Health
Dried plum or prunes, scientifically known as Prunus domestica L., are believed to be effective in preventing and reversing bone loss.
To test this, researchers recruited 236 women, one to 10 years postmenopausal, to their study and found that dried plum significantly reduced the blood levels of bone turnover markers in the subjects.[ii] They concluded that dried plum can improve bone mineral density in postmenopausal women partly by suppressing the rate of bone turnover.
Similar findings on dried plums emerged in male animal models, where they increased bone mass, suppressed pro-inflammatory cytokines and promoted peak bone mass.[iii] They also prevented bone loss in a male osteoporosis model via varying pathways.[iv]
2. Support Cognition
Consuming fruits and vegetables potentially protects against age-related cognitive decline, particularly when it comes to high-antioxidant produce. In a study on aging animal subjects, those that drank plum juice from 19 to 21 months of age showed improved working memory in an activity.[v] Those fed dried plum powder weren't different from the control group, likely because of the smaller quantity of phenolics in the powder form.
3. Relieve Constipation
Consuming prunes may effectively aid in treating constipation. People who ate 2 ounces or 50 grams of prunes daily for three weeks reported having better stool consistency as well as frequency versus the psyllium group.[vi]
Be careful, however, as consuming too many prunes may lead to unwanted effects, such as diarrhea. Make sure, too, that there aren't added sugars if you're consuming prune juice for the bowel benefits.
4. May Inhibit Breast Cancer
Previous studies highlighted plum's anti-mutagenic effects. Researchers tested an acetone extract of immature Chinese plum fruit and found it offered higher levels of total phenolics and condensed tannins compared to mature plums.[vii]
The extract from immature fruit possessed cytotoxic effects, indicating potential to be a safe, promising dietary intervention against the development of breast cancer.
5. Support Heart Health
In one study, participants drank prune juice and consumed three or six prunes every morning for eight weeks, or drank only a glass of water on an empty stomach.[viii] The prune and prune juice group experienced significantly lower blood pressure, total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol versus the water group.
In another study, men diagnosed with high cholesterol had lower LDL cholesterol levels after they consumed 12 prunes every day for eight weeks.[ix] In a separate study, consuming polyphenol-rich peach and plum juice prevented risk factors for obesity-related metabolic disorders as well as cardiovascular disease in animal models.[x]
6. May Fight Liver Cancer
In a study published in 2009, immature plum extracts strongly inhibited cancer cell growth in HepG2 cells, which are implicated in liver cancer.[xi] Immature plum and its active compound, epicatechin, were deemed "a natural resource for developing novel therapeutic agents for cancer prevention and treatment" by the researchers.
7. Antibacterial and Anti-Inflammatory Properties
Prunus domestica, in a study, demonstrated "remarkable power" in antibacterial tests, especially against Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli, for two extracts studies.[xii]
A separate study assessed the antioxidant activity in plums that mediates its anti-inflammatory benefits, finding that chlorogenic acids were a major source of the antioxidant activity in the fruit.[xiii] Consuming fresh plums may be a challenge as they are seasonal, so converting the juice extract into powder is a common strategy.
Drying, however, may affect the polyphenols present and influence the various ways plum inhibits the growth of foodborne pathogens.[xiv] Plum extract powders, for instance, showed greater anti-inflammatory activity depending on the treatment and temperature used in the drying process.
8. Lung Cancer Benefits
In probing the underlying effects of purified plum polyphenols on human lung cancer cells, scientists concluded that there is a potential for the polyphenols to be an effective dietary intervention for cancer or during chemotherapy.[xv]
9. Weight Loss Support
In a study, researchers evaluated the effects of water-extracted plum on adiposity and inflammation in cells, analyzing aspects such as total phenolic and flavonoid content along with antioxidant activity.[xvi]
Their results emphasized the potential for plum to be a natural agent in preventing and improving obesity. Snacking on dried plums may also increase satiety as well as decrease subsequent food intake, helping control obesity.[xvii]
10. Maintain Blood Sugar
In vitro, animal and some human studies have highlighted functional foods' ability to influence insulin resistance and underlying oxidative stress and inflammatory processes leading to diabetes. In a study, data indicated that a functional foods-based diet, including plums, may help manage Type 2 diabetes.[xviii] Plums also have the potential to increase levels of the hormone adiponectin, which plays a role in regulating blood sugar.[xix]
11. May Combat Colon Cancer
Tested in vitro on colon cancer cells, a polyphenol-enriched plum extract inhibited the growth of cancer cells and attenuated cancer-induced cell damage.[xx] It also appears to protect muscle cells from tumor-induced cytotoxicity, the researchers wrote.
[i] Igwe O et al "A Systematic Review on the Health Effects of Plums (Prunus domestica and Prunus salicina)" Phytother Res. 2016 May;30(5):701-31. Epub 2016 Mar 16.
[ii] Hooshmand S et al "Comparative effects of dried plum and dried apple on bone in postmenopausal women" Br J Nutr. 2011 May 31:1-8. Epub 2011 May 31.
[iii] Shahnazari M et al "Dietary dried plum increases bone mass, suppresses proinflammatory cytokines and promotes attainment of peak bone mass in male mice" J Nutr Biochem. 2016 08 ;34:73-82. Epub 2016 May 10.
[iv] Franklin M et al "Dried plum prevents bone loss in a male osteoporosis model via IGF-I and the RANK pathway" Bone. 2006 Dec;39(6):1331-42. Epub 2006 Aug 4.
[v] Shukitt-Hale B et al "Plum juice, but not dried plum powder, is effective in mitigating cognitive deficits in aged rats" Nutrition. 2009 May;25(5):567-73. Epub 2008 Dec 18.
[vi] Attaluri A et al "Randomised clinical trial: dried plums (prunes) vs. psyllium for constipation" Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2011 Apr;33(7):822-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2036.2011.04594.x. Epub 2011 Feb 15.
[vii] Yu M et al "Induction of apoptosis by immature fruits of Prunus salicina Lindl. cv. Soldam in MDA-MB-231 human breast cancer cells" Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2007 Feb;58(1):42-53.
[ix] Tinker L et al "Consumption of prunes as a source of dietary fiber in men with mild hypercholesterolemia" Am J Clin Nutr. 1991 May;53(5):1259-65.
[x] Noratto G et al "Consumption of polyphenol-rich peach and plum juice prevents risk factors for obesity-related metabolic disorders and cardiovascular disease in Zucker rats" J Nutr Biochem. 2015 Jun ;26(6):633-41. Epub 2015 Feb 26.
[xi] Yu M et al "Induction of apoptosis by immature plum in human hepatocellular carcinoma" J Med Food. 2009 Jun;12(3):518-27.
[xii] Belhadj F et al "ANTIOXIDANT, ANTIHEMOLYTIC AND ANTIBACTERIAL EFFECTS OF DRIED AND FRESH PRUNUS DOMESTICA L" 2014 Jan.
[xiii] Chun O et al "Contribution of individual polyphenolics to total antioxidant capacity of plums" J Agric Food Chem. 2003 Dec 3;51(25):7240-5.
[xiv] Silvan J et al "Modulation of Antibacterial, Antioxidant, and Anti-Inflammatory Properties by Drying ofL. Plum Juice Extracts" Microorganisms. 2020 Jan 15 ;8(1). Epub 2020 Jan 15.
[xv] Li W et al "New Insights into the Mechanisms of Polyphenol from Plum Fruit Inducing Apoptosis in Human Lung Cancer A549 Cells Via PI3K/AKT/FOXO1 Pathway" Plant Foods Hum Nutr. 2021 Mar ;76(1):125-132. Epub 2021 Feb 27.
[xvi] Choe W et al "Water-extracted plum () attenuates adipogenesis in murine 3T3-L1 adipocyte cells through the PI3K/Akt signaling pathway" Exp Ther Med. 2018 Feb ;15(2):1608-1615. Epub 2017 Nov 27.
[xvii] Stacewicz-Sapuntzakis M "Dried plums and their products: composition and health effects--an updated review" Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2013;53(12):1277-302.
[xviii] Mirmiran P et al "Functional foods-based diet as a novel dietary approach for management of type 2 diabetes and its complications: A review" World J Diabetes. 2014 Jun 15; 5(3): 267-281. Epub 2014 Jun 15.
[xix] Mirmiran P et al "Functional foods-based diet as a novel dietary approach for management of type 2 diabetes and its complications: A review" World J Diabetes. 2014 Jun 15; 5(3): 267-281. Epub 2014 Jun 15.
[xx] Alsolmei F et al "Polyphenol-Enriched Plum Extract Enhances Myotubule Formation and Anabolism while Attenuating Colon Cancer-induced Cellular Damage in C2C12 Cells" Nutrients. 2019 May 15 ;11(5). Epub 2019 May 15.