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A prune is any of various plum cultivars, mostly Prunus domestica or European Plum, sold as fresh or dried fruit. The dried fruit is also referred to as a dried plum. In general, fresh prunes are freestone cultivars (the pit is easy to remove), whereas most other plums grown for fresh consumption are clingstone (the pit is more difficult to remove).
More than 1,000 cultivars of plums are grown for drying. The main cultivar grown in the U.S. is the Improved French prune. Other varieties include Sutter, Tulare Giant, Moyer, Imperial, Italian, and Greengage. Fresh prunes reach the market earlier than fresh plums and are usually smaller in size.
Due to popular perception (in the U.S.) of prunes being used only for relief of constipation, and being the subject of related joking, many of today's distributors have stopped using the word "prune" on packaging labels. Their preference is to state "dried plums".
|Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)|
|Energy||1,006 kJ (240 kcal)|
|Dietary fiber||7.1 g|
|Vitamin A equiv.||
|Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient Database
Prunes are used in cooking both sweet and savory dishes. Stewed prunes, a compote, are a dessert. Prunes are a frequent ingredient in North African tagines. Perhaps the best-known gastronomic prunes are those of Agen (pruneaux d'Agen). Prunes are used frequently in Tzimmes, a traditional Jewish dish in which the principal ingredient is diced or sliced carrots; in the Nordic prune kisel, eaten with rice pudding in the Christmas dinner; and in the traditional Norwegian dessert fruit soup. Prunes have also been included in other holiday dishes, such as stuffing, cake, and to make sugar plums. Prune filled Danish pastries are popular primarily in New York and other parts of the U.S. East Coast. Prune ice cream is popular in the Dominican Republic. Prunes are also used to make juice. In the Cotswolds, prunes were fermented to form a cider-like drink called jerkum. Due to the high sugar content of prunes, it was considered particularly potent as compared to contemporary ciders and beers.
Prunes and their juice contain mild laxatives including phenolic compounds (mainly as neochlorogenic acids and chlorogenic acids) and sorbitol. Prunes also contain dietary fiber (about 7%, or 0.07 g per gram of prune). Prunes and prune juice are thus common home remedies for constipation, however at least one review (by the EFSA) could not find sufficient reliable evidence to either confirm or refute the efficacy of this remedy. Prunes also have a high antioxidant content.
Dried prunes have been found to contain high doses of a chemical called acrylamide which is a known neurotoxin and a carcinogen. Acrylamide does not occur naturally in foods but is formed during the cooking process at temperatures > 100 °C. Although the common drying mechanism of prunes does not involve high temperatures, formation of high amount of acrylamide has been reported in dried prunes as well as pears.
However, although acrylamide has known toxic effects on the nervous system and on fertility, a June 2002 report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the World Health Organization concluded the intake level required to observe neuropathy (0.5 mg/kg body weight/day) was 500 times higher than the average dietary intake of acrylamide (1 μg/kg body weight/day). For effects on fertility, the level is 2,000 times higher than the average intake. From this, they concluded acrylamide levels in food were safe in terms of neuropathy, but raised concerns over human carcinogenicity based on known carcinogenicity in laboratory animals.
- Janick, Jules and Robert E. Paull (2008). The encyclopedia of fruit & nuts. CABI. ISBN 0-85199-638-8. p. 696.
- Stacewicz-Sapuntzakis, M; Bowen, PE; Hussain, EA; Damayanti-Wood, BI; Farnsworth, NR (2001). "Chemical composition and potential health effects of prunes: a functional food?". Critical reviews in food science and nutrition 41 (4): 251–86. doi:10.1080/20014091091814. PMID 11401245.
- Scientific Opinion on the substantiation of health claims related to dried plums of ‘prune’ cultivars (Prunus domestica L.) and maintenance of normal bowel function (ID 1164) pursuant to Article 13(1) of Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006, EFSA Journal 2010; 8(2):1486 [14 pp.]. doi:10.2903/j.efsa.2010.1486
- "USDA Database for the Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) of Selected Foods, Release 2" (PDF). United States Department of Agriculture. May 2010. Retrieved 2013-04-13.
- Acrylamide in dried Fruits ETH Life (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich)
- FAO/WHO Consultation on the Health Implications of Acrylamide in Food; Geneva, 25–27 June 2002, Summary Report. (PDF) . Retrieved on 2012-06-11.
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