Plums are juicy and delicious fruits that belong to the genus Prunus of the Rosaceae family which also includes peaches, apricots, and nectarines. They exist in diverse colors and shapes with over 2000 different varieties. Within Albania, major production of plums happens in Fier-Lushnje- region, Berat, Korça, Pogradec, Shkodra and central Albania. Along with the hand-picked, fresh variety, plums can also be dried or canned.
Plums are small deciduous trees which grow to a height of about 10-15 m and bears fruit with different characteristics based on the type. It contains juicy pulp varying from creamy yellow to crimson red. The color of the outer skin may vary considerably from yellow or dark red to purple or black.
Plums contain an assortment of healthy components, vitamins and minerals. They are an excellent source of vitamins such as vitamin A, C (ascorbic acid), folate and vitamin K. They are also a good source of vitamin B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B-6 and vitamin E. The minerals present in plums include potassium, fluoride, phosphorous, magnesium, iron, calcium and zinc. They also supply dietary fiber and offer very low calories without any harmful fats.
Health Benefits of Plums
Plums are packed with an immense range of phenols and flavonoids, which offer an impressive range of health benefits.
Antioxidants: Plums contains vitamin C and phytonutrients. These components possess effective antioxidant qualities which help in preventing the damage caused by oxygen radicals called superoxide anion radicals. The phenols present in plums also extend their protective effect on the essential fats in the neurons and cell membranes against any injuries caused by oxidative stress.
Diabetes: Plums exert anti-hyperglycemic effects and help in combating diabetes. Studies have shown that the consumption of plum extracts aids in the reduction of blood glucose and levels of triglyceride in the body. The flavonoids present in plums exert protective effects against insulin resistance and help to enhance insulin sensitivity in the body.
Osteoporosis: Consumption of dried plums exerts anabolic and anti-resorptive actions, which aid in maintaining healthy bones. Flavonoids such as caffeic acid and rutin that are both present in plums help in inhibiting the deterioration of bone tissues and prevent diseases such as osteoporosis in post-menopausal women. Polyphenols, along with the potassium content present in dried plums, encourage the formation of bones, enhances bone density and prevents bone loss caused by ovarian hormone deficiency. Research has demonstrated that regular consumption of dried plums helps in the restoration of bone density that has already been lost due to aging.
Digestion: Plums are a good source of dietary fiber, along with the components sorbitol and isatin, which help in regulating the digestive system. According to research studies, dried plums or prunes are more effective in treating digestive disorders such as constipation as compared to other remedies such as psylliumhusk.
Cognitive Health: Studies have shown that the flavonoids present in plum juice are effective in providing protection against age-related cognitive impairment. The beneficial phytonutrients present in plums help in reducing the inflammation in the neurological areas to improve learning and memory functions. Regular consumption of plums also helps in preventing age-related neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.
Nervous System: Plums contain vitamin B-6, which helps in the transmission of nerve signals and aids in the smooth functioning of the nervous system. They also help in the normal growth of the brain and assist in the formation of mood influencing hormones. Tryptophan, an amino acid present in them, helps in the production of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which plays an important role in the sleep, appetite and concentration.
Cardiovascular Health: The consumption of plums helps to maintain cardiovascular health. Research has provided supporting evidence regarding the fact that the regular intake of dried plums helps in promoting fluidity of blood in the arteries. This protective effect aids in the prevention of various cardiac disorders, including the development of atherosclerosis and the reduction in chances for heart attacks and strokes.
Immune System: Plums are beneficial in strengthening the immune defense of the body due to the presence of high vitamin C content. It promotes the body’s resistance against various infections and inflammations. Research has shown that oriental plums have immune-stimulatory constituents that encourage the production of nitric oxide in the body, impede the metastasis of tumor cells, and are valuable in preventing various diseases.
Healthy Cholesterol Levels: Dried plums or prunes help in preventing hypercholesterolemia and hyperlipidemia. A comparative study has proven the efficacy of prunes over grape-juice in maintaining healthy levels of plasma and liver cholesterol. The fiber content present in plums also adds to the protective effect of the heart by reducing LDL cholesterol and helping to elevate the levels of HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol).
Cellular Health: Plums contains essential iron and copper which assists in the formation of red blood cells and facilitates blood purification and healthy circulation. The copper in plums acts as an antioxidant and is essential for nerve health and aids in the formation of collagen. Consumption of copper-rich plums also helps in the absorption of iron and prevents various diseases such as anemia and osteoarthritis.
Anxiety: Regular consumption of plums help in reducing anxiety. Studies have provided supporting evidence regarding the anxiolytic effects and antioxidant properties of chlorogenic acids present in plums, which help in curing anxiety-related behaviors and damage caused by oxidative stress./AgroWeb.org