Unlocking the Potential of... Prunes?
March is Dietitians of Canada Nutrition Month and this year’s campaign is dedicated to 'Unlock the Potential of Food'. Food has the potential to fuel, discover, prevent, heal, and bring us together. This presents a great opportunity to highlight a food that many people may not consider as playing such an important role in disease prevention … prunes! Yes, I’m serious!
As a dietitian supporting clients in the areas of plant based eating (including vegetarian and vegan eaters), pregnancy, and allergies such as celiac disease, nutrition to support bone health definitely comes up. Clients know that strong bones are key to helping reduce risk for osteoporosis, but often have questions about meeting nutrient needs that go beyond calcium and cows milk.
First, let’s summarize a few facts around bones and bone health:
- Bones are made up mostly of calcium and collagen, and 99% of the body’s calcium is found in the bones and teeth. Calcium and collagen together create the matrix that make bones both strong and flexible, which we refer to as bone mineral density.
- Throughout life, bone is constantly being broken down and built up (ie. constantly renewed) through a process called remodeling. During childhood and teen years, new bone is being added at a quicker rate than bone is being removed. Our peak bone mass is between our 20s and 30s, after which point, withdrawals start to exceed deposits. Osteopenia (weakening of the bone) and osteoporosis (further weakening and fragility of the bone with increased susceptibility to fracture) are more likely if one does not reach peak bone mass during bone-building years of life.
- While calcium is a well known mineral that supports bone health, there are others such as vitamin D, vitamin K, phosphorous, vitamin C, and magnesium. So a wide variety of foods including vegetables, fruit, beans, fish, and nuts and seeds all play an important role in bone health.
Okay, so what do prunes have to do with bone health? While prunes have traditionally been known to support digestive health, most people don’t know that prunes may also prevent and reverse bone loss! So, I’ve partnered up with the California Dried Plum Board as an opportunity to present some cool research around the bone health benefits of prunes.
A randomized controlled trial from the Journal of Osteoporosis International examined the effect of eating 50g of dried plums (equivalent to ~5 prunes) daily for 6 months in osteopenic postmenopausal women. They found that 50g of prunes help to prevent the loss of bone mineral density due to their effect on inhibiting bone breakdown.
Another study published in the British Journal of Nutrition also examined the extent to which dried plums reverse bone loss in osteopenic postmenopausal women. Participants were randomly assigned to one of the two treatment groups: dried plum or dried apple. The dried plum group significantly increased their bone mineral density of ulna and spine in comparison with dried apple. In comparison with corresponding baseline values, only dried plum group significantly decreased serum levels of bone turnover markers.
As the whole package, prunes offer so much potential to maintain a healthy lifestyle, support healthy bones during growing years, and prevent bone disease as we age. Not only that, but prunes are:
- Naturally sweet without any added sugar;
- A source of soluble and insoluble fibre, which means they have a low glycemic index and help manage blood sugar levels;
- A portable snack for your on-the-go lifestyle without taking much time or energy to prepare.
My husband has Icelandic roots, and prunes make up one of our favourite traditional desserts – Vinarterta! But aside from this complex layered prune cake, my favourite way to incorporate prunes into my diet include my recipe for Lemon, Coconut Prune Bites with Oats and Hemp Hearts.
Lemon, Coconut Prune Bites with Oats and Hemp Hearts
2 cups dried plums (prunes), unsweetened
Juice from 1/2 fresh lemon
Zest from 1 full lemon
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1/2 cup rolled oats
4 tbsp hemp hearts
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1) Place all the ingredients together into a food processor and process/blend until it's a uniform mixture (it will start to create one giant ball in your processor:))
2) Roll into balls and dip into loose coconut flakes to cover
3) Store in the refrigerator, consuming within 5 days
So, unlock the potential of prunes this month - just 5-a-day (or ~3 Prune Bites). Are you up for the challenge?
Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post in partnership with the California Dried Plum Board. I received financial compensation to talk about the new research around plums/prunes and bone health. While the information conveyed may support clients’ objectives, the opinions expressed are my own and based on current scientific evidence.
Submitted by Brooke Bulloch, RD