Got Prunes? Just Five a Day Can Increase Bone Health

Mooove over milk, prunes are a rising star for stronger bones.

Prunes and mint in a bowl on old wooden table, selective focus.Photo: Shutterstock / SMarina
Photo: Shutterstock / SMarina

One in three women over the age of 50 will break a bone because of osteoporosis. Most people know that adequate calcium, vitamin D and physical activity contribute to bone health, but new research suggests that dried plums (your grandma called them prunes) can not only help stop bone loss, but potentially reverse bone loss in women who are at risk.

What Researchers Found

A recent article published in the journal Nutrients reviewed multiple studies on prunes and bone health. The most promising compared two groups of postmenopausal women with reduced bone mass: One group ate 10-12 prunes a day, and the control group ate the equivalent in dried apples.

After three months, the prune group showed a significant increase in the markers of bone formation compared to the control group. Follow-up research suggests that the protective effects might be long-lasting (we’re talking years, not months) and can be gained by eating just 5-6 prunes a day, which is a lot easier for most people to add to their everyday diet than 10-12 prunes a day.

What’s Next

You guessed it: More research needs to be done to find out just how prunes are working to improve bone health. In the meantime, it’s fair to say that adding dried plums to your diet is a smart choice. After all, regardless of any positive effect on bone health they may contribute, prunes are a good source of fiber, vitamin K and vitamin A. Just be sure you’re choosing brands without added sugar and that you’re swapping them with another food instead of merely adding them to your diet. After all, prunes are nutrient-dense, but they’re also calorie-dense.

Five Easy Ways to Eat More Prunes

If it seems daunting to add these oldies-but-goodies to your day in a significant way, Dawn Jackson Blatner, RDN and author of The Superfood Swap, has some simple ideas to get you started eating more:

  • Add to smoothies for natural sweetness
  • Mash and use as jam on a PB&J
  • Sprinkle chopped prunes over yogurt, main dish salads and oatmeal
  • Include with cheese and whole grain crackers on a cheese board
  • Pop one as a quick after-meal sweet treat—at home or on the go

If that last one leaves you scratching your head, Blatner says it may sound ridiculous to eat a prune for dessert, but she suggests giving it a try. You may find that the sweetness of a prune is all you need to satisfy your cravings. If you’re concerned about any…ahem…digestive issues, just add them to your diet gradually and eat them throughout the day instead of all in one sitting. Considering all of the health recommendations that require major lifestyle changes, eating five prunes a day is a pretty effortless path to better bone health.

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Peggy Woodward, RDN
Peggy is a Senior Food Editor for Taste of Home. In addition to curating recipes, she writes articles, develops recipes and is our in-house nutrition expert. She studied dietetics at the University of Illinois and completed post-graduate studies at the Medical University of South Carolina to become a registered dietitian nutritionist. Peggy has more than 20 years of experience in the industry. She’s a mom, a foodie and enjoys being active in her rural Wisconsin community.