March is nutrition month and the theme this year is unlocking the potential of food. Food has the power to heal, prevent, fuel, discover and bring us together.
When you think of foods that fit into this years nutrition theme, we can definitely turn to dried plums to discover their amazing health benefits. Dried plums may not be the first thing to come to mind when you think about unlocking the potential of food, but they should definitely be on your radar.
Specifically for those suffering from celiac disease, dried plums can help close the nutritional gap in many ways, including:
- Improving bone health
- Improving digestive health
- Improving energy levels by managing blood sugar levels
Improving Bone Health:
Those with celiac disease are at a higher risk for developing osteoporosis and/or osteopenia due to the malabsorption of bone health nutrients prior to diagnosis. Osteoporosis is a disease characterized by low bone mass and deterioration of bone tissue. Osteopenia is decreased bone density but not to the extent of osteoporosis.
We all know that calcium and Vitamin D play a role in bone health. But, did you know that Vitamin K and magnesium work with calcium and Vitamin D to promote healthy bones? Vitamin K promotes bone mineralization and magnesium promotes strong bones. In fact, a deficiency in either Vitamin K or magnesium may negatively alter calcium and/or Vitamin D status. So, it’s important to consider these other nutrients when looking at overall bone health.
California dried plums are a source of Vitamin K and rich in bone health vitamins and minerals, including magnesium, which may have bone protective effects.
Additionally, some of the latest research published in Osteoporosis International examined the effect of eating ~50 g (~5-6 dried plums) of dried plum daily for 6 months in older, osteopenic postmenopausal women. Results confirmed the ability of dried plums to prevent bone loss in this population, which may be due, in part, to the ability of dried plums to inhibit bone resorption.
Improving Digestive Health:
California dried plums help support digestive health as they are a source of fiber. It is very typical that fiber levels drop once a gluten free diet is initiated and this can result in ongoing digestive discomfort, such as constipation, bloating and/or cramping.
Fiber plays a large role in keeping our digestive system healthy and plays a tremendous role in healing the digestive system after diagnosis. There are two types of fiber, soluble and insoluble, and dried plums contain almost equal parts of both types of fiber. Soluble fiber is a very gentle type of fiber (it is like a gel) and can be a good type of fiber to introduce and/or increase, especially if an individual is experiencing a significant amount of digestive pain as it is very easy to digest. Soluble fiber is also known to help reduce cholesterol levels in the body, which is another health problem that can coincide with celiac disease. Insoluble fiber is more roughage and provides bulk for stools so it is quite beneficial for constipation prone individuals.
Improving Energy Levels by Managing Blood Sugar Levels
Because fiber takes a long time for the body to break down, it leads to a nice, slow and steady increase in blood sugar without any significant increase or decrease, which, ultimately, leads to steady energy levels throughout the day. Foods that contain little to no fiber (such as many gluten free breads, cereals, and baked goods) are processed very quickly in the body leading to a sudden rise in blood sugar, followed by a sudden decrease in blood sugar. This results in peaks and valleys of blood sugar and energy drops throughout the day.
- More fiber in the diet = better blood sugar balance = better energy
- Less fiber in the diet = poor blood sugar balance = poor energy
Therefore, a high fiber diet is your first line of defense when combatting poor energy. Daily fiber goals range from 25-38g of fiber per day. Consuming just a small handful of California dried plums (~5-6) has about ~4g of fiber, meeting about ~15% of a women’s daily fiber need.
These amazing benefits of dried plums are why I have partnered with the California Dried Plum Board to bring you this blog post and provide ideas to get your daily dose of dried plums. All views are my own.
Simple Ideas to Eat California Dried Plums (Prunes):
- Instead of adding dried cranberries to salads, add diced prunes
- Top yogurt with chopped prunes, unsweetened coconut shreds and walnuts
- Make a trail mix with prunes, dark chocolate and pecans
- Add diced prunes to overnight oats or oatmeal
- Add into baked goods such as muffins, scones, or granola bars (see a recipe below)
Gluten Free Dark Chocolate and Dried Plum Energy Bars
- ⅔ cup dried plums (prunes)
- 1½ cups water
- ¾ cup coconut
- ¾ cup gluten free flour
- 1 cup gluten free large flake oats
- ½ cup dried cranberries
- ½ cup dark chocolate, cut into slivers (or chocolate chips)
- ½ cup pumpkin seeds, toasted
- ¼ cup hemp hearts
- 1 banana, mashed
- 3 TBP maple syrup
- Preheat oven to 350. Grease a jelly roll pan (or cookie pan).
- Put water and prunes in pot, over med-high heat. Bring to a boil. Take off and set aside for 10 minutes.
- Put the coconut in a dry pan over medium heat. Stir occasionally until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Set aside.
- Put the coconut, gluten free flour, gluten free oats, cranberries, chocolate, pumpkin seeds, hemp hearts in bowl. Stir. Stir in the mashed banana and maple syrup.
- Add the prunes and water to a food processor or magic bullet. Puree until smooth. This should make about ¾ cup prune paste. Add to the wet/dry mixture.
- Pour onto the pan and press down to pack. It should be about ¾ inch thick. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Take out and cut into 20 squares. Let cool completely before removing.