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Can Prunes Reverse Bone Loss?

Several studies suggest that eating prunes every day could help prevent or even reverse bone loss and osteoporosis. Here's what you need to know about prunes and bone health.

By
Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS
4-minute read
Episode #409

What’s in Prunes that Helps Bones?

Prunes contain several nutrients known to have a positive influence on bone health, including vitamin K, boron, potassium, and various antioxidants. You can get all of these nutrients from other sources, of course.  For example, 1/4 cup of broccoli gives you as much vitamin K as you’d get from the same amount of prunes.  A quarter of an avocado or six dried apricots has the same amount of boron as a 3-4 prunes. And an ounce of almonds or a half cup of kidney beans will give you at least as much potassium as a serving of prunes.

That said, prunes do have at least one unique benefit: they can be a very effective treatment for constipation.  If you appreciate that benefit—or you just enjoy prunes (I think they are delicious!), there’s no reason not to include them in your diet. But I think it's still too soon to conclude that prunes offer a unique and/or significant advantage in terms of preventing or reversing bone loss. At this point, the evidence remains limited and preliminary.

How to Maintain Healthy Bones

Whether or not you decide to make prunes a daily habit, here are my other best tips for maintaining strong bones:

  • Be sure you are also eating a good variety or vegetables, nuts, and legumes, all of which provide the same sorts of bone-building nutrients as you get from prunes.
  • Don’t skimp on protein. Your body needs protein in order to build and maintain strong, healthy bones.
  • Consider taking a vitamin D supplement . Vitamin D is critical for both calcium absorption and bone formation and it is very difficult to get enough vitamin D from diet alone.
  • Calcium supplements are needed only if you cannot get enough calcium from diet, and then I suggest taking only as much as you need to fill the gap between your diet and the recommendations. In most cases, this will be 250 to 500 mg per day.
  • Exercise regularly and as vigorously as you safely can. Low-to-moderate impact, weight-bearing exercises such as walking, running, jumping rope, dancing, and tennis help build strong bones. Weight training or other resistance exercises such as elastic bands or tubes is also important. Finally, activities that increase balance and flexibility—such as yoga or pilates—are especially important as you get older.

Is there a study or trend that you’d like me to look into? Feel free to send me an email or post it on the Nutrition Diva Facebook page. You can also check the archives to see if I’ve already written about it. Just type your query into the box at the top of the page.

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About the Author

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS

Monica Reinagel is a board-certified licensed nutritionist, author, and the creator of one of iTunes' most highly ranked health and fitness podcasts. Her advice is regularly featured on the TODAY show, Dr. Oz, NPR, and in the nation's leading newspapers, magazines, and websites. Do you have a nutrition question? Call the Nutrition Diva listener line at 443-961-6206. Your question could be featured on the show.