ESB Professional/ShutterstockMove over, milk and cheese. Prunes may get a bad rap for their role as natural laxatives, but they have an unknown superpower, too. According to a recent study, these dried plums can also give your bones a big boost. (Learn more about the surprising bone issues that are affecting your health.)
The paper, published in the journal Scientific Reports, found that consuming prunes could protect bones against damage from radiation. Researchers at Texas A&M gave mice one of four treatments: a mixture of antioxidants, dihydrolipoic acid (an acid that has antioxidant properties), ibuprofen, or a powder made from prunes. Then, they exposed the mice to ionizing radiation and compared the results.
Of the five treatments, the prunes were the most effective at preventing radiation-induced bone loss in mice. Even mice that weren’t exposed to radiation (yet consumed prunes) showed stronger bones—a nearly 20 percent increase, the researchers said. Though no one is quite sure why the link exists, researchers speculate it’s due to the fruit’s mix of polyphenols, which have high levels of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
These findings could be particularly beneficial for those constantly exposed to radiation, such as astronauts. Still, it can’t hurt to add prunes to everyone’s daily diet, according to Nancy Turner, the study’s lead researcher. Not a prune proponent, either? Try these surprising, non-dairy sources of calcium.
“A lot of people have this negative connotation of prunes,” Turner said. “They don’t realize that they’re not only a tasty, delicious fruit, they also have a whole host of health benefits.”
As for the optimal number of prunes for bone strength? Turner recommends sticking to a single serving size (about four or five prunes) eaten in intervals throughout the day. Here are 30 more simple things you can do daily to boost your bones.