Dried Plums (ne Prunes) Boast Hefty Health Benefits

The Folklore:You can thank the California Gold Rush for domestic dried plums (formerlyprunes). Though plum trees have been cultivated since ancient times, they weren’tintroduced to North America till 1856, by a Frenchman. When he failed miserablyat mining gold, he planted plum trees, covering California with more than 90,000acres of orchards over the next 35 years.

The Facts: In case you?reconfused, prunes are and have always been dried plums, though only a varietyknown as the prune-plum can be successfully dried. Nearly two years ago, theFood and Drug Administration granted the California Prune Board permission tocall prunes “dried plums,” which is, after all, what they really are.For the past two years, FDA has required both names to appear on packages; soon,dried plums is expected to become the accepted term.

The re-named California Dried Plum Board now hopes topromote the health rewards from eating dried plums beyond prunes? well-knownlaxative benefits. Let’s face it, dried plums do sound more appetizing.Obviously, shoppers think so; sales rose more than 5% in the year following thename change.

Dried plums are a good source of fiber?both soluble andinsoluble?about three grams in a five-plum serving. Dried plums also supplyboron, copper, iron, magnesium and potassium.

What about that famous laxative effect? It can be creditedmostly to plums? natural supply of sorbitol, a sugar alcohol. Antioxidantphenols in plums, such as neochlorogenic acid, may aid the laxative effect, aswell as delay glucose absorption. These same phenols may also inhibit oxidationof low-density lipoproteins (LDL’s, the “bad” cholesterol), a boonfor heart health.

The Findings: One studyfound that, ounce for ounce, dried plums ranked twice as high in antioxidantactivity as other high-scoring fruits, like berries.

A recent study from Oklahoma State University ofpostmenopausal women not on hormone replacement therapy found that five driedplums daily may boost bone health by increasing insulin-like growth factor-1 andbone-specific alkaline phosphatase activity?both indicators of bone building.Phenols, boron and even sorbitol may be credited, say the researchers.

The Finer Points: Dried plumpuree can reduce the fat in baked goods by 50% to 90%. How? Simply substitutedried plum puree for all or part of the butter, margarine or oil in a recipe,using half the measure called for (e.g. if the recipe calls for one cup of oil,use ? cup dried plum puree instead). This works best in soft, moist and chewyfoods, like cookies, cakes, brownies and quick breads. To make your own pureeand for recipes, visit www.californiadriedplums.org (search”all” recipes alphabetically for dried plum puree) or call (800)729-5992.

Moroccan Couscous Salad

1 1/2cups chicken broth
1 cup (6 oz) coarsely chopped dried plums
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 cup (6 oz) dry couscous
1/2 cup chopped scallions
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt (optional)
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 1/2 cups cubed cooked chicken breast
2/3 cup chopped fresh tomato
1/2 cup sliced toasted almonds (optional)

1. 

In medium saucepan, bring broth, plums and curry powder toa boil.

2. 

Remove from heat; stir in couscous and scallions.

3. 

Let stand, covered, five minutes. Fluff with fork; allowto cool.

4. 

Meanwhile, in small bowl, whisk together oil, vinegar,salt and pepper. Add to couscous, tossing to coat.

5. 

Stir in chicken and tomato.

6. 

Just before serving, stir in almonds.

Makes six 1-cup servings.

Nutrition Information Per Serving:

Calories: 340; Fiber: 4 grams; Fat: 11 grams; Protein: 17grams; Sodium: 380 milligrams

oz = ounces

Recipe courtesy of the California Dried Plum Board.
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