Belonging to the same family as peaches, nectarines and cherries, plum is one of the most well-known stone fruits in the world. Stone fruits are classified based on the single hard stone-like seed found inside each of them.2 The plum fruit is eaten fresh or as a dried fruit. It is also made into plum wine, and is popular in cakes, puddings, as plum jam, and plum sauce. Historically, sugar plums were a luxurious favorite. Indeed, plum recipes and uses are extensive.
So, what is a plum after all? Is a plum a fruit? The answer is yes, it is a drupe fruit belonging to the genus prunus, and the two most common commercial species are prunus domestica and prunus salicina, or European and Japanese plums respectively.2 The plum tree or shrub grows across Europe, United States, Japan and China.1 The fruit comes several colors, from the more commonly seen red plums and black plums, to the more exotic yellow plums, and even white plum variety.
In this article, we will answer the question, ‘Are plums good for you?’ We will also examine its nutritional facts and break down the many health benefits of eating this popular fruit.
The top plum benefits include:
1. Antioxidant Activity
2. Anti-Inflammatory Properties
3. Help Iron Absorption
4. Anti-Cancer Properties
5. May Prevent Heart Disease
6. Assist Cognitive Function
7. Constipation Relief
8. Rich in Vitamins and Minerals
9. Nutrient Dense Pregnancy Food
10. Good for Bone Health
Not only are plums a tasty and succulent fruit to consume, they are also low in calories and rich in nutritional benefits.2 So what are plums good for? Let us take a look into the many health benefits of plums.
Plums Have Antioxidant Activity
Rich in phenolics and anthocyanins, plums encourage antioxidant activity in the body. This high phenolic content is one of the principal reasons plums are still receiving much scientific attention, with over 20 studies researching the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects of plums alone.2
Plums Are Anti-inflammatory
Plums have been shown to have anti-inflammatory characteristics.2 One study showed that dried plum polyphenols were able to dramatically reduce lipopolysaccharide-induced nitric oxide production (a pro-inflammatory marker) by 43%.7
Plums Help the Body Absorb Iron
Plums have been shown to encourage the body to absorb iron from other foods consumed. This helps fight anemia and improve hemoglobin levels.11
Plums Have Anti-Cancer Properties
The phenolic compounds in plums may benefit the body by neutralizing free radicals, a known factor in the development of cancer.3, 10 As well, plum and prune extracts have been seen to induce apoptosis, or cell death, in cancer cells.2
Plums May Prevent Heart Disease
Studies suggest that consumption of plum is associated with reduced cardiovascular risk. One human study showed that a dose of 11.5g of prunes reduced both systolic and diastolic blood pressure in patients.2 Moreover, there is also promise that plums may have cholesterol lowering properties.4
Plums May Improve Cognitive Function
While there are few human studies currently, several animal studies have shown cognitive improvements in groups given plum and prune juices. In two studies, both rats and mice were seen to have higher cognitive abilities than the control groups. The chlorogenic acid found in plums has also been seen to reduce anxiety related behaviours in rats.2
Relieve Constipation With Plums
One of the most commonly known benefits of prunes and prune juice is its laxative effects. The dietary fibre found in plums acts as a laxative and regulates functioning of the digestive system. The laxative property is found after consuming either dried or fresh plums or plum juice.2
Plums Are Rich in Vitamins And Minerals
Plums are rich in vitamin C, an essential vitamin needed for many functions in the body, including wound healing and metabolizing fats and proteins.8 Just one plum contains nearly 10% of the daily recommended value of vitamin C. Other vitamins found in plums include vitamin A, vitamin K, and folate.
The mineral content of plums is also quite rich, with one 66g plum containing 4mg of calcium, 5mg of magnesium, 11mg of phosphorous, and a whopping 104mg of potassium.
Plums Provide Nutrition During Pregnancy
Since plums contain a range of nutrients like vitamins C, A and K as well as potassium and other minerals, one can assume the health benefits of plums during pregnancy are many. Constipation, a frequently occurring symptom during pregnancy, can also be regulated by consuming plums.4
Plums Are Good for Bone Health
There is a large and strong body of evidence that supports that plums support bone health. Plum extract has been shown to increase bone calcium retention by 20%, and dried plums can help prevent age related bone loss as well as restore bone that has already been lost. One study also showed that dried plum had a significant positive effect on bone mineral density in the ulna and spine of post-menopausal women.2
When it comes to plums, nutrition is packed inside the little fruit. It contains a number of vitamins and other essential nutrients. Moreover, calories in a plum are minimal and they are low in fat. As a result, there are benefits of plums for weight loss seekers, too, as a delicious, low calorie snack.
Here is a detailed look at what is inside a plum, nutrition facts and values:
1 Plum (66g)
Dietary Fiber: 0.9g
Vitamin C: 6.3mg
Types of Plum
Between 19 to 40 different species of plum exist.2 However, broadly speaking, there are two types of plums that are commonly found commercially, the Japanese plum and the European plum.
Scientifically, these are known as prunus salicina. Interestingly, this variety originated in China, but has mostly been cultivated in Japan.2 As compared to their European cousins, Japanese plum trees have rougher barks and are endowed with more flowers. They also tend to be more resistant to disease and of stronger constitution. The Japanese variety ripens faster than the European ones, taking about 3 months. They are usually conical to round in shape.1 A particular type of Japanese plum, the Santa Rosa plum, is now among the most popular varieties growing in California.6 It is grown domestically as well as for commercial purposes.6
One traditional Japanese cuisine includes a dish called Umeboshi – plum which is essentially pickled. However, pickled plum is a little misleading, as ume, the fruit used for pickling, is actually a Japanese apricot, another stone fruit.9
Discovered about 2000 years ago, the European plums are scientifically known as prunus domestica. It was only in the 17th century that travelers and pilgrims introduced plums to the USA.2 When compared to the Japanese versions, European plums tend to be bigger and also stand more erect. The trees have lesser flowers, and leaves that are elliptic. Since Europe sees more frost, the European variety blooms later, and can take as much as 6 months to ripen. European plums are usually oval in shape.1
Today, plums grow not just in Europe and Japan, but also in the United States, Serbia, China and Romania.2 In fact, USA is now the leading producer of dried plums in the world.2 In terms of seasons, by May or June, plums flood the markets and remain in season until September.1 The two varieties have very similar nutritional compositions.2 Whichever variety of plum you find, plum promises you not just a delicious taste, but also a host of health benefits.
Scientific Research Referenced in this Article
- Prajapati, P.M., Solanki, A.S. & Sen, D.J. (2012). Nutrition Value of Plum Tree for Health. International Research Journal of Pharmacy, 2012, 3 (5), pp. 54-56. Retrieved from http://www.irjponline.com/admin/php/uploads/1067_pdf.pdf
- Igwe, E.O. & Charlton, K.E. (2016). A Systematic Review on the Health Effects of Plums (Prunus domestica and Prunus salicina). Phytotherapy Research, 2016 May; 30(5): 701-31. https://doi.org/10.1002/ptr.5581
- Gonzalez-Flores, D., Velardo, B., Garrido, M., Gonzalez-Gomez, D., Lozano,M., Ayuso, M.C., Barriga, C., Paredes, S.D. & Rodriguez, A.B. (2011). Ingestion of Japanese plums (Prunus salicina Lindl. cv. Crimson Globe) increases the urinary 6 sulfatoxymelatonin and total antioxidant capacity levels in young, middle-aged and elderly humans: Nutritional and functional characterization of their content. Journal of Food and Nutrition Research, vol. 50, 2011, No. 4, pp. 229-236. Retrieved from – View Reference
- Cullen, G. & O’Donoghue, D. (2007). Constipation and Pregnancy. Best Practice & Research Clinical Gastroenterology, Volume 21, Issue 5, October 2007, Pages 807-818. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bpg.2007.05.005
- Crisan, D., Roman, I., Crisan, M., Scharffetter-Kochanek, K., & Badea, R. (2015). The role of vitamin C in pushing back the boundaries of skin aging: an ultrasonographic approach. Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology, 8, 463–470. Retrieved from http://doi.org/10.2147/CCID.S84903
- Shamel, A.D. & Pomeroy, C.S. (1934). A bud variant of the Santa Rosa plum: A late-maturing form possibly of commercial importance. Journal of Heredity, vol 25, issue 9, September 1934, pp. 379-382. https://doi.org/10.1093/oxfordjournals.jhered.a103972
- Hooshmand, S., Kumar, A., Zhang, J. Y., Johnson, S. A., Chai, S. C., & Arjmandi, B. H. (2015). Evidence for anti-inflammatory and antioxidative properties of dried plum polyphenols in macrophage RAW 264.7 cells. Food & function, 6(5), 1719-1725. Retrieved November 23, 2017 from http://pubs.rsc.org/-/content/articlelanding/2015/fo/c5fo00173k/unauth#!divAbstract
- Health Canada (n.d.) Monogrpah: Vitamin C. Retrieved November 23, 2017 from http://pubs.rsc.org/-/content/articlelanding/2015/fo/c5fo00173k/unauth#!divAbstract
- Hokari, A., Ishikawa, T., Tajiri, H., Matsuda, T., Ishii, O., Matsumoto, N., … & Maruyama, I. (2012). Efficacy of MK615 for the treatment of patients with liver disorders. World Journal of Gastroenterology: WJG, 18(31), 4118. DOI: 3748/wjg.v18.i31.4118
- Dreher, D., & Junod, A. F. (1996). Role of oxygen free radicals in cancer development. European Journal of cancer, 32(1), 30-38. https://doi.org/10.1016/0959-8049(95)00531-5
- Ballot, D., Baynes, R. D., Bothwell, T. H., Gillooly, M., Macfarlane, J., MacPhail, A. P., … & Bothwell, J. E. (1987). The effects of fruit juices and fruits on the absorption of iron from a rice meal. British Journal of Nutrition, 57(3), 331-343. https://doi.org/10.1079/BJN19870041