If you were ever handed a glass of prune juice to sooth an upset stomach when you were little, your grandma knows what’s up. But prune juice also comes with lots of other potential health benefits. Here’s what you need to know about this naturally sweet sip.
What is prune juice?
Prunes are dried plums. Technically, any dried plum could be a prune, but prune juice generally comes from a specific kind of dried plum: Prunus domestic. To turn these prunes into a juice, they’re boiled in water and turned into a liquid.
Whole prunes have a lot of fiber. When those prunes get juiced they lose a lot of that fiber, but they do still hold onto some of it. That fiber helps keep food moving along your digestive tract (and out the other end).
Plus, prune juice contains sorbitol, which is a type of naturally occurring sugar alcohol. Sorbitol can’t be completely digested or fermented by the bacteria in your intestines and it naturally draws water into your gastrointestinal tract. It acts like a natural laxative, helping to kick constipation to the curb by supporting smooth bowel movements.
But that’s not all: Prune juice also has dihydrophenylisatin in it. That’s produced when the prunes are steamed to make the juice. This chemical is also a natural laxative.
With less constipation, you might also be less likely to get hemorrhoids. A hemorrhoid is when a vein in your anus or rectum gets swollen. This can happen when you have to try too hard to go number two. Hemorrhoid-related pain can range from uncomfortable to unbearable and you might experience some bleeding.
How can prune juice help? With sorbitol keeping things moving, you’re more likely to have softer, more regular stools. That makes it less likely you’ll be straining yourself when you’re going to the bathroom. And happy poops, happy butt.
Prune juice is high in potassium, which is a mineral that your body needs to do lots of different things. It helps maintain normal fluid levels in cells, contract muscles, balance sodium levels in your blood, and maintain normal blood pressure.
In general, studies suggest that potassium-rich foods help reduce blood pressure in people with hypertension. A 2010 study also found that people who drake prune juice or ate prunes daily had lower blood pressure and a lower risk of hypertension.
Another way that prune juice might boost your heart health is by lowering your cholesterol. That’s the substance that could lead to atherosclerosis (narrowing arteries caused by plaque build-up). Atherosclerosis can lead to heart failure, stroke, or heart attack because it’s harder for enough blood to flow through these channels.
While researchers aren’t totally sure why prune juice might have this affect, they point to the fact prunes contain certain types of antioxidants that may lower LDL cholesterol. Soluble fiber also seems to play a role.
Your body needs iron to support blood health — and prune juice has plenty of it. In fact, just a half cup of prune juice has 3 milligrams of iron. That’s about 17 percent of the FDA’s daily recommended value for adults.
Iron allows your blood cells to create hemoglobin, a component of blood that carries oxygen from your lungs throughout your bod. Getting enough iron every day can help prevent the most common type of anemia, a condition where your body doesn’t have enough healthy red blood cells.
One of the minerals in prunes is boron, which your body uses to build and maintain your bones. In fact, this mineral’s also used to treat bone conditions like osteoarthritis and osteoporosis.
One 2016 animal study, for example, found that prunes reduce the effect of radiation on bone marrow. That could help combat bone density loss. Two other studies, one in 2016 and one in 2017, found that prunes could help prevent bone density loss in postmenopausal women.
Prunes — and prune juice — are typical go-to snacks for people trying to manage their weight. Prune juice can help you feel full thanks to its fiber content. That may help you eat fewer calories, but still feel satisfied.
Prune juice also has a low glycemic index, meaning it isn’t likely to cause a spike in your blood sugar. How can it have a low glycemic index when it tastes so sweet? That’s thanks to its high sorbitol levels. This makes your body absorb that glucose more slowly.
Your body’s natural processes create byproducts called free radicals. When these free radicals group together, they can cause oxidative stress. That type of stress can damage your DNA and increase your risk for a number of health problems (like heart disease, cancer, and diabetes).
That’s why you need antioxidants. They help neutralize free radicals, reducing the damage that they do to your body, and keeping you healthy in the process. Prune juice is packed with antioxidants that can help reduce inflammation and protect your cells from damage.
In particular, prunes appear to have anthocyanins, an active antioxidant that could reduce your risk of certain cancers.
Prune juice contains several key vitamins for your body, including:
- vitamin B (keeps your brain, nervous system, and immune system healthy)
- niacin aka Vitamin B3 (supports your nervous system, skin, and digestive system)
- vitamin C (helps growth, development, and repair of all body tissues)
- vitamin K (important for blood clotting)
- Calcium (helps build strong bones)
It also contains minerals like phosphorous, manganese, copper, and magnesium.
Traditionally, prune juice was given to people with liver disease, including hepatitis and jaundice. There’s some evidence that this use could be helpful.
For example, a 2010 study found that prune juice could help reduce some harmful chemicals in the blood that come from liver health problems.
Colon cancer can be an aggressive and difficult to detect cancer. But the antioxidants in prune juice *might* help lessen your risk of developing this disease.
We need a lot more research in this area to know whether this can truly make a difference, but so far studies are promising. For example, a 2012 study suggests that prune juice could prevent constipation and possibly prevent colon cancer.
Prune juice doesn’t come without any potential negative effects. Here are a few things to watch out for.
- Could worsen certain health conditions. Prune juice could make symptoms of certain conditions worse. Talk with your doctor to make sure prune juice is safe for you, especially if you experience ulcerative colitis or overactive bladder.
- Digestive discomfort. Because of the sorbitol and fiber, prune juice could make you feel gassy or bloated. It could even cause diarrhea. That’s why it’s important to gradually add prune juice to your diet and avoid drinking it if you’re already sick with diarrhea.
- Unwanted weight gain. Prune juice could support weight loss, but drinking too much could counteract those effects. It’s relatively high in calories, so it’s best to enjoy it in moderation if you’re looking to lose or maintain your weight.
- Allergies. Prunes do have a little bit of histamine in them, which means that some people might develop allergies to prunes. If you’re allergic to prunes, steer clear of prune juice.
Prune juice has plenty of health benefits, especially if you drink it in moderation. It has plenty of important vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that can help boost your heart and bone health, and it can help ease constipation. It may even lessen your risk for certain health conditions.
But it’s possible to get too much of this good thing. The high sorbitol content could cause gas, stomach aches, or even diarrhea for some folks.