Prunes, or dried plums, are full of healthy surprises. Once mainly known as a laxative in a box, the wrinkly fruit recently rose to diet stardom thanks to evidence that it boosts fat loss and heart health.

Now it turns out that, in the world of fruits and vegetables, prunes are all-stars at building bone density.

This became evident when a team of state university researchers from Florida and Oklahoma gave one group of postmenopausal women 10 dried plums every day for a year, while a second group ate 3.5 ounces of dried apples. All the women in both groups took daily doses of calcium (500 mg) and vitamin D (400 IU).

The prune eaters wound up with significantly denser bones in their forearms and spines than the apple eaters. Why? The prunes slowed the rate of bone breakdown.

Bone breakdown starts outpacing the rate of new bone growth as you age, but, when women reach menopause and their estrogen level drops, the bone breakdown happens even more rapidly.

A related lab study on animals found that eating dried plums could restore bone mass after the loss had already occurred. Yes, as in menopause. Way to go, prunes!

Just how impressive are prunes? “I have tested numerous fruits, including figs, dates, strawberries, and raisins,” one of the researchers noted. “None have come anywhere close to producing the effect on bones that prunes do.”

The purple fruit’s significant effect on bone density earns it a top spot on the list of bone-strengthening foods along with other nutrient-rich power players like low-fat yogurt, salmon, spinach and bananas.

For more information on bone density prevention and bone mineral testing, visit our Health Library.

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