Plums: Can they help lower cholesterol?

07 Sep 2023

Plums have us hooked on their own, in savoury dishes and dried. And they are linked to improved health, beyond their digestive benefits.

In a Nutshell

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Research Digest


Eating plums may improve:

  • Cholesterols levels:   According to a systematic review, plums (juice or dried) reduced serum total cholesterol and LDL-c.
  • Bone health: In a trial of 235 postmenopausal women, 5 dried plums a day (50g) preserved bone mineral density, which could translate to fewer bone breaks.
  • Gut health : In a trial of 40 participants, 50g of dried plums twice a day with meals improved constipation symptoms, more efficiently than psyllium.

They add to our intake of:

  • Vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin C and potassium
  • Phenolic acids, particularly chlorogenic acid
  • Anthocyanins
  • Dietary fibres

Quick food science: Compounds in plums may cooperatively improve the gut environment and regulate pathways involved in lipid metabolism and inflammation.

Fresh or dried? Most studies looked at dried plums or prunes. They are suggested as easy means to meet daily recommendations for fruit intake. The drying process may increase nutrient density, shelf life, and antioxidant and fibre content.

What about sugars? Fresh and dried plums contain sugars naturally found in fruits. However, they cause a lower insulin response, especially compared to foods rich in refined carbohydrates. Researchers suggest that’s because a large portion of the sugar composition is sorbitol, which is slowly absorbed. Moreover, plums also contain fibre and polyphenols that can regulate glucose responses.

In daily life: One portion is 2 medium plums or 3 prunes. Adding plums to your meals and snacks is likely to provide some health-supporting benefits, so make the most of the warmer months!

Plant Tales

Colourful plums: Plums are stone fruits from trees or shrubs in the rose family (Rosaceae), together with peaches and cherries. They can be red, purple, yellow or green, each fruit containing one rough stone.

Another ancient fruit: They have been cultivated by humans for thousands of years, native to several regions worldwide - from China to the Middle East near the Caspian Sea. Cultivated plums were brought from Syria to Ancient Greece and later introduced to Europe by the Romans.

Today’s plums: Centuries of cultivation led to many different types of plums. Some are commonly eaten fresh, while others are dried because of their lower water content.

Buying: The fruits are ready to be harvested from late summer into autumn. Plums might be worth buying organic if you can. You can also try picking your own on a nearby farm.

Tasty Tips

Around the world

  • German plum dumplings Zwetschgenknödel, a buttery treat eaten as a light meal, snack or dessert.
  • Japanese pickled plum Umeboshi, known for its sour and salty taste and often served with steamed rice.
  • Moroccan tagine with dried plums, a delicious mix of sweet and savoury. 
  • French plum clafoutis, a classic batter pudding.

Ways to enjoy plums this season(not only in cakes and puddings)

  • Grilled or roasted: With chopped nuts, honey, thyme and a pinch of salt. Enjoy in green salad, as a side dish or as a dessert with Greek yoghurt.
  • In salads: Top on leafy greens, nuts and a vinaigrette.
  • Pickled: To preserve plums for the cooler months. Eat with sandwiches, salads, rice, meat, tofu bowls, vegetables or anything you like!
  • In stews: Add chopped dried plums to your lentil, vegetable or meat stews for an aromatic, slightly sweet touch.

2 recipes on the Doctor’s Kitchen app


Human studies: Askarpour et al. J Nutr Sci. 2023 - De Souza et al. Am J Clin Nutr. 2022 - Donahoe et al. Aliment Pharmacol Ther 2011

Compounds & history: Bahrin et al. Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy. 2022 Britannica - Woodland Trust



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