Prunes are primarily famous for being a laxative because they are rich in fiber. It's this same vital component that makes them perfect for healthy eating and keeping your hunger to a minimum.
A prune is a dried plum, typically the European variety of plum. The fruit's name was officially changed from "prunes" to "dried plums" by the Food and Drug Administration in 2001.
Though relatively high in calories for their size, prunes have a reputation as a dieter's friend. They add a powerful dose of fiber and some nutrients to your diet that are needed when you follow a lower-calorie meal plan.
Prunes are a sweet way to add fat-free laxative fiber to your diet. A single prune contains more than half a gram of fiber and more than one gram of sorbitol (a carbohydrate that our bodies do not absorb well). Large amounts of sorbitol can cause diarrhea. Prunes also contain the laxative, diphenylisatin. No wonder they prevent constipation. So snack away, just don't go overboard. Although according to the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, it takes only 1/2 cup of dried fruit to count as 1 cup of fruit, you may want to eat less than that at any one time.
In contrast, prunes' reputation for being rich in iron doesn't hold true. In reality, they're a decent, but not spectacular, source. Prunes, however, get overlooked as a source of vitamin A, even though they provide more than ten percent of recommended levels. Potassium is another unexpected benefit you get from eating prunes, which is beneficial for blood pressure and regulating your heartbeat.
Prunes contain the same phenols that plums have, protecting the fats in our system from damage. They also have significant amounts of beta-carotene, whose antioxidant function helps prevent cataracts, cancer, and heart disease.
Selection and Storage
When selecting prunes, look for well-sealed packages, such as those that are vacuum-sealed. After opening, seal the package or transfer the prunes to an airtight container or plastic bag. Stored in a cool, dry location or in the refrigerator, they'll keep for several months.
Preparation and Serving Tips
You can eat them out of the box, of course. They make a great portable fat-free snack. Combine them with dried apricots for a delightful mix of sweet and tangy flavors. Or mix them with nuts and seeds for a healthy trail mix. But watch out: The calories add up fast, about 20 per prune.
If you're not crazy about eating whole prunes, try prune bits in your baking. They'll add sweetness, flavor, and fiber to quick breads, snack bars, even pancakes. Better yet, for real fat-fighting success, puree eight ounces of pitted prunes and six tablespoons of hot water in a food processor for a great fat substitute to use in baked goods. Replace butter, margarine, shortening, or oil in your baked good recipes with half the amount of the prune puree.
For example, if the recipe calls for one cup of butter, substitute a half cup of prune puree. Tightly covered, the prune puree will keep about one week in the refrigerator. Its flavor combines especially well with chocolate-based desserts.
So don't just think of prunes as an antidote for constipation. They help weight loss by keeping hunger at bay and potential inches off your waist.
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