A Prune by Any Other Name

Let’s talk about prunes.

Dried PlumsI know, I know! This is not a topic that most people would consider for dinner conversation. But I do have a few prune stories.

We’ll start with a trip I took. A couple years ago, my mom and my sisters and I went on a cruise. I took advantage of the room service and ordered a bowl of stewed prunes for breakfast every day. My middle sister (always the one who isn’t afraid to say anything) asked, “Why did you order prunes? Are you having problems?”

That seems to be the general consensus about prunes — they have a reputation related to bowel movement, laxatives, and/or as a remedy for other digestive “problems.”

No, I wasn’t having “problems.” I just like prunes and hadn’t thought about buying them at home.

So. That was story #1. Here’s story #2.

We were having dinner at a neighbor’s home and got into a discussion of new foods and favorite things to eat. She was excited to share a new product that she just loved to put in salads.

She showed me the package. They were “dried plum” pieces.

I had to laugh. Those are prunes! Rebranded, of course, but prunes! Once I told my friend what I knew, she thought for a few seconds and then laughed with me. What great marketing.

It seems that back in 2001, the plum growers got together and petitioned the FDA to change the name of their dried fruit. Their argument was that “dried plum” has a more positive connotation than “prune.” The goal was to modernize the product and remarket it as a healthful snack food, instead of something that grandma ate when she needed a laxative. I guess it worked, because my friend bought them!

Of course, I had to go looking for dried plums too. I was surprised to find that while some of the products were in fact called dried plums, most of the items I saw were still called prunes. There were even individually-wrapped dried plums that were marketed as easy-to-take-with you snacks.

Plums. A Prettier Alternative.It’s interesting to note that the images on the packages of prunes are almost always pictures of fresh plums. You can see why they might choose plums instead of prunes. Just look at the photo above! Along with a bad image, prunes just aren’t very photogenic.

Now I’m not saying that dried plums don’t deserve their reputation as a laxative, because they do. A 1-cup serving of prunes has 12 grams of both soluble and insoluble dietary fiber. In other words, a 1-cup serving of prunes provides about 1/3 of the fiber that men need and almost half the amount that women need each day.

But then let’s not forget that prunes are dried fruit. That makes them a concentrated energy source. One cup of prunes or dried plums is loaded with 418 calories and 111 grams of total carbohydrates. They are also nutrient-dense, providing vitamins K and A, niacin, riboflavin, vitamin B-6,  calcium, phosphorous, potassium, zinc, copper, and manganese. Prunes are virtual powerhouses of nutrients.

Too much of a good thing can lead to that previously-discussed “digestive side effect.” In addition to the fiber, it’s interesting to note that prunes are a natural source of the sugar alcohol sorbitol, which also has a natural laxative effect.

If you’re like me and just like prunes, or if you are looking for a healthful snack/way to increase your dietary fiber consumption, then the California Dried Plum Board says that you can safely eat up to 10-12 prunes a day. That’s a little more than ½ cup of dried fruit. If you’re not used to eating a diet high in fiber, start small — with just four or five prunes — to avoid any undesirable digestive side effects.

So what are you waiting for? Grab some dried plums today!

By Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS, Professor Emeritus at The Ohio State University

Fiber is one of our favorite topics, so we’ve added a free handout to this post. Check out the guide to fiber and blood glucose and get your copy today! Originally, this page was only accessible to Communicating Food for Health subscribers, so if you like what you see, consider getting a membership.

Fiber and Blood Sugar

It may come as no surprise that there are tons of educational materials about fiber in the store! Check out a few of the most popular options…

Holiday Secrets

Holiday Secrets

Fiber Stars Poster

Fiber PowerPoint and Handout Set

Basic Nutrition Poster Set

Substitute a Fruit for a Fat

I’ve been looking for more ways to modify recipes to make them more healthful.  This quest started as part of my recent Heart-Healthy Cooking class, but it has continued as part of my regular life. Revising recipes to make them better for your health can be an objective for anyone who wants to eat a little less fat, cholesterol, and sugar.

Prunes in BlenderLet’s start small.

Two great replacements for butter, oil, and sugar in baking projects are applesauce and prune puree.


Well, both applesauce and prune puree can replace half of the fat in many recipes. So if the recipe calls for 1 cup of oil, you can use ½ cup of applesauce and ½ cup of oil. You may also need to reduce the baking time by up to 25%. Watch your baked goods closely and pull them out as soon as they’re cooked through.

So why do applesauce and prunes make decent fat replacements in recipes? The answer lies in the fruit. You see, the fruit provides both moisture and structure to the baked goods. That’s why this substitution is best for foods like apple cakes or brownies, though it works well in cookies and cakes too.

Let’s take this a little further. There are other benefits to these substitutions.

For example, when you add applesauce or prune puree to a recipe, you may be able to reduce the amount of sugar. The natural sugars in the applesauce and prune puree provide additional sweetness, which can be balanced by a reduction in the sugar you add to the recipe. To avoid over-the-top sugar content, be sure to purchase unsweetened applesauce.

By making this substitution, you’re also adding a little more fruit to the recipe! Yay! That’s more fiber and nutrients than you would have gotten with the original recipe.

So, how can you put this plan into action?

You can buy ready-made prune puree or just make your own by combining six tablespoons of hot water and eight ounces of prunes (about 23) in the blender. This makes about ¾ cup of prune puree.  Note: for diabetics, this approach does increase the carbohydrate count in the end product.

And of course, you can make your own unsweetened applesauce or pick up a jar at the store.

Brownies, ReimaginedSubstitution Tips:

Applesauce seems to go best with lighter colored and flavored products. Think apple cakes or oatmeal cookies.

The prune’s flavors and colors go well with chocolate and spicier treats like gingerbread, spice cake, and brownies.

These substitutions do work with box mixes, but you have more control over the other ingredients if you make the entire recipe from scratch.

By Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS, Professor Emeritus at The Ohio State University

Yes, there’s totally a free handout too. Check it out!

Healthful Holiday Baking

There are tons of other ways to make your holiday celebrations more healthful! Check out these wonderful holiday education resources

Holiday Challenge Kit

Holiday Challenge Kit

Holiday Secrets Book and Cooking Demo Program

Holiday Secrets Book and Cooking Demo Program

Holiday Poster Value Set

Holiday Poster Value Set

Holiday Fruit Lights Cards

Holiday Fruit Lights Cards