A prune is any of various plum cultivars, mostly Prunus domestica or European Plum, sold as fresh or dried fruit. The dried fruit is also referred to as a dried plum. "The scientific name for plums and prunes is Prunus domestica
Prunes are used in cooking both sweet and savory dishes. Stewed prunes, a compote, are a dessert. Prunes are a frequent ingredient in North African tagines. Perhaps the best-known gastronomic prunes are those of Agen. Prunes have also been included in other holiday dishes, such as stuffing, cake, and to make sugar plums. Prune ice cream is popular in the Dominican Republic. Prunes are also used to make juice. In Cornwall, prunes were fermented to form a cider-like drink called "jerkum". Due to the high sugar content of prunes, it was considered particularly potent as compared to contemporary ciders and beers.
Prunes are nutritious fruits that are extremely fun to eat since they have a sweet, deep taste and a sticky, chewy texture. Prunes are actually dried plums, more specifically the dried version of European plums, including the Agen variety.
Unfortunately for the delicious and quite beneficial prune, its name has acquired a somewhat negative connotation, being associated with wrinkles, old age and sluggish gastrointestinal tracts. As our Health Benefits section shows, nothing could be further from the truth. To give prunes some PR that may help overcome this stigma and to promote prunes to their rightful place in the American diet, they have been informally christened with another name, a name that reflects their heritage . . . the "dried plum.
Ideally, you should purchase prunes that are sold in transparent containers so that you can evaluate them for quality. They should be plump, shiny, relatively soft and free of mold. If the packages are opaque, ensure that they are tightly sealed so that the prunes will not have lost any moisture. As with any other dried fruit, try to purchase prunes that are not processed with food preservatives such as sulfites.
Prunes should be stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry and dark place where they will keep for several months. Storing them in the refrigerator will extend their freshness, allowing them to keep for about six months. Regardless of where you store them, make sure that when you open the container, you reseal it tightly to prevent the prunes from losing moisture.
Prunes and their juice contain mild laxatives including phenolic compounds and sorbitol. Prunes also contain dietary fiber. Prunes and prune juice are thus common home remedies for constipation. Prunes also have a high antioxidant content.
Prunes are a very good source of bone-building vitamin K and a good source of heart-healthy fiber and potassium. Prune is a full array of nutrients, including carbohydrates, sugar, soluble and insoluble fiber, sodium, vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, amino acids and more.
Dried prunes have been found to contain high doses of a chemical called acrylamide which is a known neurotoxin and a carcinogen. Acrylamide does not occur naturally in foods but is formed during the cooking process at temperatures 100 °C. Although the common drying mechanism of prunes does not involve high temperatures, formation of high amount of acrylamide has been reported in dried prunes as well as pears.
However, although acrylamide has known toxic effects on the nervous system and on fertility.The acrylamide levels in food were safe in terms of neuropathy, but raised concerns over human carcinogenicity based on known carcinogenicity in laboratory animals.
The fresh version (plums) and the dried version (prunes) of the plant scientifically known as Prunus domestica have been the subject of repeated health research for their high content of unique phytonutrients called neochlorogenic and chlorogenic acid. These substances found in prunes and plums are classified as phenols, and their function as antioxidants has been well documented. These damage-preventing substances are particularly effective in neutralizing a particularly dangerous oxygen radical called superoxide anion radical, and they have also been shown to help prevent oxygen-based damage to fats.
Prunes' soluble fiber helps normalize blood sugar levels by slowing the rate at which food leaves the stomach and by delaying the absorption of glucose following a meal. Soluble fiber also increases insulin sensitivity and can therefore play a helpful role in the prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes. And, prunes' soluble fiber promotes a sense of satisfied fullness after a meal by slowing the rate at which food leaves the stomach, so prunes can also help prevent overeating and weight gain.
Prunes are well known for their ability to prevent constipation. In addition to providing bulk and decreasing the transit time of fecal matter, thus decreasing the risk of colon cancer and hemorrhoids, prunes' insoluble fiber also provides food for the "friendly" bacteria in the large intestine.
The propionic acid produced from prunes' insoluble fiber may also be partly responsible for the cholesterol-lowering properties of fiber. In animal studies, propionic acid has been shown to inhibit HMG-CoA reductase, an enzyme involved in the production of cholesterol by the liver. By lowering the activity of this enzyme, propionic acid helps lower blood cholesterol levels.
In addition, prunes' soluble fibers help to lower cholesterol by binding to bile acids and removing them from the body via the feces. Bile acids are compounds used to digest fat that are manufactured by the liver from cholesterol. When they are excreted along with prunes' fiber, the liver must manufacture new bile acids and uses up more cholesterol, thus lowering the amount of cholesterol in circulation. Soluble fiber may also reduce the amount of cholesterol manufactured by the liver.
Results of a prospective study involving 51,823 postmenopausal women for an average of 8.3 years showed a 34% reduction in breast cancer risk for those consuming the most fruit fiber compared to those consuming the least. In addition, in the subgroup of women who had ever used hormone replacement, those consuming the most fiber, especially cereal fiber, had a 50% reduction in their risk of breast cancer compared to those consuming the least.
The ability of plum and prune to increase absorption of iron into the body has also been documented in published research.
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