By Anne Palumbo
Should we pity the poor prune? It’s shriveled, wrinkled and puckered.
It’s best known for relieving constipation. It’s granny’s favorite fruit. It’s never in restaurants but always in nursing homes. And its sexy makeover — from dowdy prune to provocative dried plum — never gained enough traction to stick.
But, no, we should not pity the humble prune. We should take a cue from granny and get to know this delicious dried fruit even better!
Boasting an impressive array of nutrients — over 15 different vitamins and minerals — a prune’s health benefits go way beyond the bathroom.
Ready for some surprises?
Prunes are great for bones. Yes, bones! Current studies suggest that simply eating a serving of five prunes a day may help slow and prevent bone loss. While it’s not entirely clear why prunes promote bone health, this mighty dried fruit has many properties to consider: good amounts of vitamin K and potassium (both vital for strong bones), a wealth of antioxidants that may protect bones from cell damage, and the potential to increase certain hormones that are involved in bone formation. No wonder Granny’s doing the Rumba with Gramps into the wee hours!
Another startling perk from this toothsome dried plum? Prunes benefit heart health. Their fiber helps lower cholesterol; their powerful antioxidants keep inflammation at bay; and their potassium helps lower blood pressure and ease tension in the walls of blood vessels. Indeed, a trifecta of nutrients to help keep our tickers tocking longer.
Lastly, prunes are good for guts in more ways than one. While the insoluble fiber in prunes promotes regular bowel movements, the soluble fiber helps to moderate digestion and absorb nutrients from our food. What’s more, prunes contain sorbitol — an ingredient known to have a laxative effect — which can increase stool frequency. Feeling blocked-up and sluggish? Passing stools as hard as golf balls? You know what to reach for!
An average serving of four prunes has 90 calories, 3 grams of fiber, and no fat, cholesterol or sodium. Final surprise? A recent study found that people who snacked on prunes felt less hungry and ate fewer calories overall than people who ate other foods.
Look for prunes that have no added sugars and are preservative-free. Tightly reseal opened packages and store in a cool, dry place. Prunes do not need to be refrigerated. If you’re not used to eating prunes or other fiber-rich foods, you may want to start slow with one to two prunes a day and slowly work your way up.
Quinoa Salad with Chopped Prunes and Prune Vinaigrette
Adapted from californiaprunes.org Serves 4-6
For the salad:
¾ cup quinoa
1½ cups water
½ cup chopped red pepper
½ cup chopped yellow pepper
¼ cup parsley, finely chopped
zest from 1 lemon
1-2 tablespoons lemon juice
½ cup slivered almonds, toasted
For the vinaigrette:
½ cup water
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon coarse black pepper
1-2 tablespoons water to thin, as needed
Make the salad
Rinse the quinoa (to remove bitterness) and drain well. Combine the rinsed quinoa and water in a saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, then decrease the heat to low to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook until the quinoa has absorbed all the water, about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the pot from heat, cover, and let quinoa steam for 5 minutes. Transfer the quinoa to a medium bowl and fluff with a fork.
Cut the peppers into small chunks, finely chop the parsley, and cut the prunes into quarters. Drizzle vinaigrette over fluffed quinoa and mix well. Add the peppers, parsley, prunes, lemon zest, lemon juice and slivered almonds and gently mix again. Adjust seasonings and serve.
Make the vinaigrette
While quinoa is cooking, make the vinaigrette. Cut prunes in half and put in a small pan with ½ cup water. Bring to a boil and then decrease the heat to low to maintain a gentle simmer. Simmer, uncovered, for around 10 minutes until the water is almost gone. Stir occasionally while prunes are cooking.
Remove from heat and transfer to a small food processor. Add oil, balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard, salt and pepper and blend until fairly smooth. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons water to get a pourable thickness.