One of the most tried and trusted health juices in the world is prune juice, which provides a rich supply of nutrients and a long list of potential health benefits when consumed in moderation.
What is Prune Juice?
Prune juice comes from prunes, which is a different name for dried plums. Plums have the scientific name Prunus domestica, and these fruits are grown for their fresh varieties as well. However, more than 1,000 different types of plums are grown specifically to dry as prunes. As plums begin to dry, they retain all of their nutrients, but also increase in a particular active ingredient known as sorbitol. Prunes also have a longer shelf life and a pleasant taste, which is why they are so popular in juice form.
Prune juice is typically diluted with some water for a tart and rejuvenating drink. Due to some of its specialized health benefits, it has often been thought of purely for problems with constipation, but in fact, prunes have a diverse range of nutrients beyond their soluble and insoluble fiber content. This juice is easy to make and a single glass will have significant levels of fructose, sorbitol, potassium, iron, manganese copper and various antioxidant compounds, among others. Therefore, while there has long been a stigma against prune juice as being only for older generations, more and more people are adding this juice to their health regimen due to its impressive effects.
Benefits of Prune Juice
The top benefits of prune juice include optimizing the digestive process, stimulating circulation, protecting heart health, strengthening bones, preventing cancer, increasing brain function, boosting the metabolism, supporting respiratory health, lowering blood pressure and aiding weight-loss efforts.
Perhaps more than any other benefit, this juice is known to stimulate the digestive system. If you are suffering from constipation or indigestion, a single glass of prune juice can often get things moving again. The dietary fiber found in prune juice, combined with the presence of sorbitol, can stimulate the digestive process and help to improve nutrient uptake in the gut.
Recent research on the effects of this juice have shown that it can measurably improve the microflora environment of your gut, which can lower your risk of colon cancer. More research is being done on the antioxidant effects of the juice on other types of cancer.
Regulates Blood Pressure
With the significant levels of potassium found in prune juice, this beverage can help to keep your blood pressure under control. Potassium is a vasodilator, meaning that it can relieve the tension on the arteries and blood vessels, putting less strain on the cardiovascular system and lowering your risk of atherosclerosis, heart attack and stroke.
There is quite a bit of iron in juice made from prunes, and this mineral is necessary for the production of red blood cells. This will help to boost your circulation, providing more oxygenation and nutrients to the areas of the body that need it, as well as increasing energy levels.
With a wide range of B vitamins, prune juice is able to ensure that our metabolism is regulated, which includes regulating enzyme and hormone production, eliminating birth defects and strengthening the immune system.
The nutrient density in prune juice is very high, and it can also help to release leptin, a hormone that tells the body it is full. This appetite-suppressant quality is why this juice is so often recommended to people on weight-loss diets.
Improves Respiratory Health
Numerous studies have connected the intake of prune juice with better respiratory function and a lower risk of COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder). This is due to the presence of key antioxidants that can reduce inflammation and oxidative stress in the respiratory passages.
The list of minerals contained in prune juice is a clear sign that it contributes to bone density and preventing the onset of osteoporosis. This is particularly important as we begin to age, another reason why prune juice is so popular among older generations.
The antioxidants, vitamin C and B-family vitamins found in this juice are essential for brain and nervous function, and this can also help to eliminate oxidative stress and lower your risk of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Nutritional Facts of Prune Juice
Prune juice is a rich source of dietary fiber, with a single cup representing more than 10% (2.6g) of your daily recommended intake. Beyond that, however, prune juice also contains very high levels of vitamin B6, vitamin C, iron and manganese, as well as high levels of other B-family vitamins, copper, phosphorus, zinc, vitamin K, magnesium, selenium, calcium and vitamin E. Finally, prune juice boasts sorbitol – a slowly digested sugar alcohol – and other phytochemicals that can function as antioxidants in the body.
Prune Juice for Pregnancy
Although many experts are cautious when recommending dietary choices for pregnant women, prune juice is one that appears to be widely accepted and promoted in the health community. It is particularly effective for constipation during pregnancy, which is quite common at any point in the pregnancy term. This can help to ease discomfort and pressure in the bowels, preventing hemorrhoids and other related conditions, such as cramping, bloating and excess flatulence.
The other nutrients of prune juice are also beneficial during pregnancy, but the most frequent reason for use is the laxative effect of this beverage. As with any dietary item during pregnancy, consume this drink in moderation, and be sure to clear its use with your doctor first.
Side Effects of Prune Juice
There are a few side effects to consider before drinking prune juice, such as the risk of diarrhea and gastrointestinal distress, dehydration, weight gain, low blood sugar and oxidative stress.
- Diarrhea and Dehydration – Prune juice not only contains a high level of dietary fiber, but also sorbitol, both of which can act as a laxative substance in the body. While some people specifically drink this beverage for those emptying effects, excessive intake of dietary fiber can cause abnormal amounts of gas and bloating, as well as diarrhea. Attached to that potential side effect is dehydration, which can happen very quickly if you are experiencing diarrhea symptoms.
- Weight Gain – A single serving of prune juice should be enough to get your system feeling great, but that glass also contains 180-200 calories. If you are drinking an excessive amount of prune juice, you need to factor this into your caloric intake for the day, or you risk gaining weight.
- Diabetes – Many studies have linked the intake of prune juice with a reduction in blood sugar levels. This can be excellent for those trying to manage diabetic symptoms, but if you are already on blood sugar-lowering medication, speak with your doctor before adding prune juice into the mix.
- Carcinogens – Prune juice contains measurable levels of acrylamide, which is a neurotoxin and a carcinogenic substance. Although the concentration is considered quite low, it is still worrisome for people who have high levels of oxidative stress or are at high risk for various cancer.