This Anti-Inflammatory Food Could Help Prevent Osteoporosis, According to Research

Prunes offer more than just fiber—a new study found they might offer some impressive health benefits when it comes to our bones.

A woman with back pain next to a prune on a designed background
Photo: Getty Images / FRANCOIS-EDMOND / ljubaphoto

We all might have some preconceived notions when it comes to prunes (aka dried plums). It's no secret that they have a reputation for being a food that helps keep you regular. We can thank their impressive fiber content for that—3 grams per just five prunes or a cup of prune juice! However, new research has found that these dried fruits might offer more than just digestive health benefits.

A new study in Advances in Nutrition took a look at how prunes might play a role in bone health for postmenopausal women. For this demographic, osteoporosis is a major concern, with cases projected to reach 13.6 million by 2030. Osteoporosis is a bone disease that is characterized by significantly reduced bone mineral density. This can mean the body loses too much bone, isn't make enough bone, is making brittle bone or a combination of the three. As a result, bones are weaker and more prone to fractures. Estrogen is a hormone that protects bones and it sharply decreases at menopause, so post-menopausal women are at a higher risk of osteoporosis.

Luckily, modifiable factors like food choices are becoming increasingly popular for reducing osteoporosis risk, particularly following a Mediterranean diet. Most research around foods for osteoporosis focuses on bone-healthy nutrients like calcium and vitamin D. But this study focused on prune's anti-inflammatory potential and how it might support healthy bones.

The researchers took a look at numerous existing studies around prunes and bone health. From in vivo studies to rodent studies to clinical trials, they reviewed more than 18 studies that all showed prunes provide antioxidants and anti-inflammatory components that might prevent—and even reverse—bone loss. Prunes are high in potassium, copper, vitamin K, vitamin A and many phenolic compounds, which are a type of antioxidant. The researchers explained that these nutrients and phenolic compounds might work synergistically to help maintain bone health after menopause while also reducing oxidative stress and inflammation.

Prunes also provide some gut-healthy benefits from their high fiber content, which might also help quell inflammation. The clinical trials they reviewed found beneficial results in people consuming 50 to 100 grams of prunes per day (roughly ¼ to ½ cup of dried prunes).

While more research is needed to clarify the relationship between prunes and bone health, this is pretty compelling evidence to add them to your eating pattern, especially if you are a postmenopausal woman.

They might not be the most glamorous food around, but there are several delicious and nutritious recipes to help you enjoy prunes, beyond just eating them dried or drinking their juice. Try our Braised Brisket with Carrots & Prunes or our Drunken Prunes for an after-dinner treat.

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