What do you get when you mix holy water and prune juice? A religious movement. Yes, the poor prune has been the butt of jokes like this for decades. Well now thanks to some new research, prunes may have the last laugh.
A randomized study conducted at the University of Iowa compared the effectiveness of prunes (dried plums) to psyllium fiber (found in products like Matamucil) in 40 constipated subjects.
They gave one group 50 grams of prunes (about 5-6 prunes) eaten two times a day and the other group 11 grams of psyllium (1 tbsp.) taken with water twice a day. Both dosages supplied the same amount of dietary fiber, 6 grams. Each group was followed for three weeks, with a one-week break in treatment. Then each group switched treatments for three weeks.
Although both prunes and psyllium increased the number of bowel movements, the prunes produced a greater increase than psyllium. Measures of stool consistency also improved when subjects were consuming prunes.
So what does this mean? When your doctor or grandmother prescribes the old remedy of prunes for constipation they are on target. This is still the best and naturally safe known remedy for constipation.
Psyllium is often recommended by physicians for constipation relief as well. It is a soluble fiber that dissolves in water and is derived from plant husks. It is great at absorbing and holding water, adding bulk to stools.
But, prunes contain soluble and insoluble fiber in equal amounts as well as antioxidant polyphenols. Prunes also contain about 15 grams of sorbitol (a sugar alcohol found in fruit and often used as a sugar substitute) per 100 grams. Sorbitol has laxative effects in some individuals.
For those who don’t know what to do with the bounty of plums from your trees, try drying them. Here is a great website with step by step directions on how to dry them in a convection oven if you don’t have a dehydrator: http://www.ehow.com/how_2105858_turn-plums-prunes.html.