In the late 18th century, the word ‘plum’ started being used to indicate ‘something desirable’ which makes total sense since plums are one ‘plum’ fruit! This fruit which comes in a range of colors inside and out, (with skin ranging from classic purple, to yellow, red, green, blue and almost black with flesh that may be green, red, or yellow), has very juicy, sweet, tart flesh with a waxy coating. Not only do plums taste great, but they actually contain higher concentrations of many health-promoting compounds as compared to many types of berries, though they aren’t nearly as widely-recognized for their phytonutrient content!
Plums are a diverse group of species in the Prunus genus of the Rosaceae or rose family, along with many other popular fruits including peaches, nectarines, cherries, and apricots – which are all considered stone fruits (also known as drupes) meaning they are fruits containing a single pit (or stone) surrounded by edible flesh. Interestingly, since it’s easy to cross stone fruits with other stone fruits, there are many hybrids which have come about from natural breeding (and not genetic modification). A few examples include hybrids of apricots and plums such as apriums (which are more apricot than plum and tend to have slightly fuzzy skin), pluots (these are more plum than apricot and have smooth skin) and plumcots (which are a fifty-fifty cross between the two) and these are just a few of the many hybrids out there!
Plums may have been one of the first fruits domesticated by humans; remains have been found in Neolithic age archaeological sites along with other fruits such as olives, grapes, and figs. Prior to cultivation, wild plum species were gathered for consumption. Today, only two plum species, the European plum (Prunus domestica) and the Japanese plum (Prunus salicina), are of worldwide commercial significance. Japanese plums are more common and dominate the fresh fruit market – they are large and juicy, mildly-sweet and slightly astringent, clingstone varieties with a long shelf-life. European plums are smaller and oval, with firmer flesh, and tend to be sweeter; they generally have freestone pits and are the variety used in baking, and in the preparation of jams, jellies or prunes. Prunes are dried plums, though not all plums can successfully be dried into prunes as they must not ferment during the drying process. Prunes have a dark, wrinkled appearance, and historically have been used as a remedy for constipation and other gastrointestinal symptoms. Because of this perceived “negative” association, plum growers in the United States, along with distributors, have recently started marketing them as ‘dried plums’ instead. A rose by any other name …
Nutrivore Score for Plum – 521
Plums have a Nutrivore Score of 521, making them a high nutrient-dense food! Plus, they are a low-calorie-density food.
Per serving, plums are a best source (>50% daily value) of polyphenols; and a good source (10-20% daily value) of copper and vitamin C.
Plum Nutrition Facts
One serving of plums is standardized to 1 cup, sliced or about 165 grams (5.8 ounces). For reference, one serving of plums is roughly equivalent to 3 small plums.
|Plums, raw||Nutrivore Score: 521||Nutrient Density: High|
|Serving Size: 1 cup, sliced or 3 small (165 grams)||Protein: 1.2 grams||Net Carbohydrates: 16.5 grams|
|Calories: 76||Total Fat: 0.5 grams||Dietary Fiber: 2.3 grams|
|Vitamin A||28.1 μg RAE||3% DV|
|Vitamin B1 (Thiamin)||46.2 μg||4% DV|
|Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)||42.9 μg||3% DV|
|Vitamin B3 (Niacin)||0.7 mg||4% DV|
|Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid)||0.2 mg||4% DV|
|Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)||47.9 μg||3% DV|
|Vitamin B7 (Biotin)||0.3 mg||1% DV|
|Vitamin B9 (Folate)||8.3 μg||2% DV|
|Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin)||0.0 μg||0% DV|
|Vitamin C||15.7 mg||17% DV|
|Vitamin D (D2 + D3)||0.0 μg||0% DV|
|Vitamin E||0.6 mg||4% DV|
|Vitamin K||10.6 μg||9% DV|
|Choline||3.1 mg||1% DV|
|Calcium||9.9 mg||1% DV|
|Copper||94.1 μg||10% DV|
|Iron||0.3 mg||2% DV|
|Magnesium||11.6 mg||3% DV|
|Manganese||85.8 μg||4% DV|
|Phosphorus||26.4 mg||2% DV|
|Potassium||259.1 mg||6% DV|
|Selenium||0.0 μg||0% DV|
|Sodium||0.0 mg||0% DV|
|Zinc||0.2 mg||2% DV|
|AMINO ACIDS & PEPTIDES|
Plum Nutrition Varies With Processing
The Nutrivore Score of plums varies depending on variety and processing – dried plums, aka prunes, are conveniently available year-round!
Health Benefits of Plum Nutrients
Let’s take a closer look at all of the best and excellent source of nutrients found in a 1-cup serving of plums and see how they benefit our health.
Plums Provide 2310.0 mg of Polyphenols
Plums are a fantastic source of polyphenols, including hydroxycinnamic acids, anthocyanins, procyanidins, catechin, epicatechin, and quercetin derivatives. A 1-cup serving of plums provides an impressive 2310.0 mg of polyphenols!
Polyphenols play a huge role in protecting against cancer, heart disease, diabetes, asthma, osteoporosis, neurodegenerative diseases, and other conditions associated with oxidative stress. In fact, a major reason foods like red wine and olive oil (as well as diets rich in both, such as the Mediterranean diet) show up as so beneficial may be due to their high polyphenol content! Along with chronic diseases, supplementing with polyphenols has been shown to protect against infections and reduce the signs of aging. Polyphenols exert their most potent effects by acting as antioxidants—preventing cellular damage by neutralizing hazardous oxygen radicals and improving cellular health as a result (which, in turn, benefits virtually every system in the body). As a result of their antioxidant properties, polyphenols also boost the immune system and protect against both chronic and acute diseases. In addition, polyphenols can help regulate enzyme function, stimulate cell receptors, modulate the functions of inflammatory cells (including T and B lymphocytes, macrophages, platelets, and natural killer cells), alter adhesion molecule expression, affect nerve cells and cardiac muscle cells, and exert antiviral effects. Learn more about polyphenols here.
How Much Plum Should We Eat Per Day?
Believe it or not, plums contain higher concentrations of polyphenols than many type of berries, which are arguably way more famous for these nutrients!
Consuming 800 grams of vegetables and fruits daily reduces all-cause mortality by 31% compared to eating less than 40 grams daily. A 2017 systemic review and meta-analysis looked at how all-cause mortality was impacted by varying intakes of 12 different food groups: whole grains and cereals, refined grains and cereals, vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, eggs, dairy products, fish, red meat, processed meat, and sugar-sweetened beverages. This analysis revealed non-linear relationships between how much of a particular food group we eat and how it impacts our health. While the results revealed no upper limit to the benefits of vegetable intake, the sweet spot for fruit intake was 300 grams daily. Intakes of fruit over 400 grams per day were not as beneficial as 300 grams, but the good news is that even intakes of 600 grams of fruits per day was superior to no fruit at all! This sweet spot for fruit intake translates to 2 to 3 servings of fruit daily.
Thus, a good rule of thumb is to aim for at least 500 to 600 grams of vegetables (5 to 8 servings, depending on the vegetable, and as much as you want above that) and about 300 grams of fruit (2 to 3 servings, depending on the fruit) per day. Fruit makes a convenient snack, a healthy dessert, a whimsical addition to salads, and a sophisticated flavoring agent in the form of salsas, jams, and chutneys. A serving is standardized to 1 cup chopped for raw vegetables and fruits (typically translates to 1/2 cup to 2/3 cup once cooked). Learn more in Importance of Vegetables and Fruit
In animal studies, consumption of plum or plum juice appears to improve working memory, learning speed, and anxiety, plus plums have been shown to contain compounds that act against cancer cells in vitro! It’s always best to mix up the fruits and veggies you eat day to day (aiming for a wide variety of different vegetables and fruits throughout the week), and plums definitely have a place at the table.
Expand to see all scientific references for this article.
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Phenol-Explorer: Plum, fresh
Piironen V, Toivo J, Puupponen-Pimia R, Lamp AM. Plant sterols in vegetables, fruits and berries. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture. 2003. Vol 83(4):330-337. doi:10.1002/jsfa.1316
USDA Food Central Database: Plums, raw
Watanabe T, Kioka M, Fukushima A, Morimoto M, Sawamura H. Biotin content table of select foods and biotin intake in Japanese. Int J Anal Bio-Sci. 2014. Vol 2(4):109-125.