When it comes to preventing or delaying bone loss as part of aging, it’s often recommended to load up on calcium-rich foods and beverages, and while that’s still important advice, a recent study in Advanced in Nutrition suggests prunes can also provide a bone-health boost.
Looking specifically at postmenopausal women, who have the highest rate of bone loss, researchers found that eating about 10 prunes every day for a year led to decreased signs of bone loss, and that even six months of regular prune consumption showed lower loss of total bone mineral density compared to those who didn’t eat the dried fruit.
One possible reason for why this happens, they noted, is that prunes cause beneficial changes in the gut microbiome, which leads to lower inflammation levels throughout the body. In turn, this can reduce the kind of oxidative damage to cells that affects bone density.
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In addition to helping with bones, prunes may also offer advantages with whittling your belly fat, too. Even though dried fruits are usually not recommended for weight-loss efforts because of their high calorie density, a 2014 study presented at the European Congress on Obesity looked at the effects of daily prune eating over a 12-week period with participants who were overweight or had obesity.
Those consuming a small amount of the dried fruit lost about four pounds in that timeframe, and nearly an inch off their waists. Although these are modest results, the researchers noted that weight loss appeared to be increasing by the end of the study, due to greater feelings of fullness. That means it’s possible that longer-term, the prunes could continue to be helpful for weight loss.
One important note if you’re looking to add prunes into your diet: Be sure to read the nutrition label, suggests functional medicine dietitian Maria Zamarripa, RD. Prunes are already high in calories due to the concentration of their natural sugars during dehydration, but some manufacturers add even more sugar during processing. That can reduce or even negate the anti-inflammation effects that come from eating prunes.
“For many people, they may be getting more sugar than they realize unless they’re looking at labels and avoiding products with added sugars,” she tells Eat This, Not That!.“That can happen even with a product like prunes, which may seem like it doesn’t need to be sweetened, but might be anyway.”
Another consideration is that it doesn’t take much to prompt those feelings of fullness, but that those calories do need to be kept in mind. In the 2014 study, for example, those who ate prunes every day had about one cup, which is around 400 calories.
The researchers in that study suggested combining prunes along with fresh fruit and vegetables for the best effect. With regular consumption, it’s possible that both your bones and belly could thank you.