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No shame in putting prunes into your grocery bag

Why is it that, real or not, we tend to reject things that associate us with being old? Case in point: Over two decades ago the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a petition to allow prune producers to market their product as “dried plums.” They hoped the new designation would remove the stigma that prunes are only for old folks.

Today the California Prune Board has a new outlook, and it is “embracing and proclaiming the wonders of California prunes with pride.” The board refers to it as a functional food.

What is it in prunes and prune juice, for example, that helps prevent constipation? Scientists say prunes have dietary fiber as well as sorbitol, a sugar alcohol that acts as a mild laxative. As little as a half-cup of prune juice or four to five prunes a day can keep the old (and young) gut working well.

There’s also a growing body of evidence showing that prunes can protect our bones. Two clinical trials from the University of Pennsylvania, for example, found less bone loss and improved bone density in older women who ate five to 10 prunes a day for six months to a year.

Researchers think one possible reason for this positive effect is related to specific nutrients and other substances in prunes that both fortify bones and reduce inflammation.

If you have diabetes, you might deduce from prune juice’s nutrition label that it’s got too much sugar for comfort. But prune juice has three ingredients that work together to prevent spikes in blood sugar: dietary fiber, sorbitol (which is half as sweet at regular sugar) and fructose, natural fruit sugar that has a much lower effect on blood glucose than other types of carbohydrates. Just remember to stick to a half-cup serving size.

Also, consider these tasty recipes: california prunes.org/recipes.

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