The Peculiar Bone-Healthy Fruit - Save Our Bones

“Eat your prunes!” has been the refrain of caring grandmas through the ages. Grandma was probably thinking of your digestive health, but recently prunes have been in the news for a different reason. A Florida State University study led by Shirin Hooshmand and Bahram H. Arjmandi claims that prunes are “the most effective fruit in both preventing and reversing bone loss.”1

What’s so Peculiar About Bone-Healthy Prunes?

While it’s true that studies have shown prunes to be more effective at increasing bone density when tested against figs, dates, strawberries and raisins, it’s important to look at why this is so, and whether there something in prunes that can’t be found in other fruits. And the answer is: NO.

Ironically, plums – and by extension prunes – are one of the few fruits that contain small amounts of oxalates, a substance that can bind to calcium, thus making it less bioavailable. Blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, currants, kiwifruit, concord (purple) grapes, figs, and tangerines also contain oxalates in small quantities – small enough to ignore as it relates to calcium absorption.

As I wrote in Vivian Answers Day #5, prunes were found to decrease bone loss in animals due to their high concentration of polyphenols (a class of antioxidants). In the Osteoporosis Reversal Program, I discuss the importance of polyphenols to bone health and the fact that these plant pigments have been shown to increase the production of osteoblasts.

The Story Behind the Story

Are prunes a miracle food for bone health? When we look a little closer, it’s actually rather amusing that the one fruit used to study the effect of polyphenols on bone health happens to be acidifying. Especially when there are so many alkalizing fruits and vegetables that are rich in polyphenol content.

Unfortunately, mainstream science all too often takes a reductionist view and seems unable to see the forest for the trees (or the fruit salad for the pitted prunes). They focus on objects in isolation without looking at the larger picture.

In this instance, well-meaning scientists took components of one fruit and studied its effect on bone density, ignoring that prunes are not unique in their micronutrient composition, but are unique in that there are only a handful of fruits that are acidifying. So it’s important to dig a little deeper, find the ‘active’ substance in prunes, and then search for that very same beneficial ingredient in a broad range of foods.

What’s the ‘Take-Away'?

The bottom line is that polyphenols are definitely an important component of bone health, and the studies on prunes served to highlight this.

But you would be much better served by choosing one of the many alkalizing fruits or vegetables that contain the same beneficial polyphenols found in prunes. Of course, if you really love prunes, you can continue to have some – as long as you pay attention to the acid-alkaline balance, nothing is off limits on the Osteoporosis Reversal Program.

Best Sources of Polyphenols

The highest levels of polyphenols are found in green tea. Unfortunately, green tea (and all leaf teas, especially decaffeinated) is high in fluoride, and thus can end up doing more harm than good. If you’d like to get the health benefits of green tea without the fluoride, check out Vivian Answers Day #12, where I talk about an organic green tea extract that’s free of toxic pesticides and fluoride.

Fortunately, polyphenols are also present in a wide variety of fruits and vegetables.

  • Although alcohol and chocolate are acidifying, I’m sure you’ll be happy to know that red wine (thanks to its high concentration in the skin of red grapes) and chocolate contain polyphenols.
  • Alkalizing pomegranate juice, typically available in most supermarkets, is a refreshing drink that’s rich in polyphenols and other antioxidants.
  • Among fruits, apples, blackberries, cantaloupe, cherries, grapes, pears, pomegranates, raspberries, and strawberries are polyphenol superstars.
  • In the vegetable category, broccoli, cabbage, celery, onions, and parsley take the lead.

Organic is always preferable. By eating organic produce as much as possible you will of course minimize your exposure to toxic, acidifying pesticides. But in addition to that, as a general rule, organically grown crops have significantly higher levels of polyphenols, as well as magnesium, iron, and vitamin C.

Variety is Not Only the Spice of Life…

It’s also critical to your bone health! Another element that tends to get lost when one food is proclaimed as “the answer” is the importance of variety. If you think you must eat prunes every day, for example, you miss out on the wide variety of nutrients you get be eating a more varied diet.

Hundreds of polyphenols have been found in fruits and vegetables. The best way to cover your bases and get a full range of polyphenols and other nutrients is to eat a varied diet.

So instead of telling kids and grandkids to eat their prunes, let’s start saying, “Eat your apples, and broccoli, and cantaloupe, and pomegranates, and …” It’s a bit of more of a mouthful, but a very tasty one!


1 Shirin Hooshmand, Bahram H. Arjmandi. “Viewpoint: Dried plum, an emerging functional food that may effectively improve bone health”. Ageing Research Reviews 8(2009) 122-127

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Comments on this article are closed.

  1. LouiseN

    If, as you say, prunes are acidifying, and yet at the same time they are shown to build bone density, then obviously pH is not an issue in the building of bone. Seems to me that the acid/alkaline issue is a red herring.

  2. Alison Herbert

    Prunes and plums are on your list of acidifying foods to eat only at 20% maximum. Which is correct then? That statement or the one above?

  3. Zee

    Dried plums have been shown to increase bone density. Strawberries etc. have not. Suggesting a switch from prunes to ‘alternatives’ is absurd and misleading.

  4. Christine

    Could it not be the fact that prunes are high in vitamin K and boron? The latest study says that 50g of prunes (about 5 or 6) are sufficient.

  5. Faye

    Hi Faye, I lost my faith also in doctors,please give me Moore info. About Himalayan salt how often to use and just drinker with water? Please advise
    Thank you Eva

    • Faye

      Eva ,
      Sorry took me so long to answer …
      I take 1/16 tsp of Himalayan sea salt dissolve on tongue and drink 10 oz of water . I do this 1/2 hr before eating and 2 hrs after eating . I do this 6 times a day because you are suppose to take half of your body weight in water . I weigh 120 lbs .
      I no longer have fibromyalgia. I told 1 lady about it and she could hardly walk used a cane , she is doing so good now . Had the best Xmas ever , she is so happy .
      Hope this helps . Google Himalayan sea salt and see all its good benefits . Blood pressure is fabulous now , sleep better . I never use table salt .

  6. Marilee

  7. Tracy

  8. Snowy

  9. Govinda

    I’ll have to try this one after my next trip to the organic maekrt, which isn’t super close to my house. Is it possible to make this smoothie at night and freeze it for breakfast the next day, or would it completly mess up the smooth texture like freezing a fast-food smoothie?

  10. Anna Badar

    Dear Vivian
    Firstly thank you so much for all the information you put onto your wonderful website. I was reading some of your questions and answers pages this morning about calcium from Red Algae which sent alarm bells ringing. I took Osteocare tablets daily for many years – but concerned about inorganic calcium carbonate I fairly recently switched to Lithothamnium calcareum sea vegetable powder – thinking it was organic calcium. However after reading your comments about Red Algae I suspect this isn’t the case! I would be grateful if you could advise. The produce I am using is Lifestream Natural Calcium powder.
    many thanks

  11. Alison

    Interestingly, in David Shenk’s book about Alzheimer’s, The Forgetting: Alzheimer’s: Portrait of an Epidemic – prunes are recommended to support the brain to protect it against Alzheimer’s, as well.

    • Gerald

      Hi Lyra, I am here via the gf tea time round-up.these look amazing. I didn’t know about the Teff 5-minute pie crust. I have only been doing a grhaam cracker crust for pies and am excited to try something new.-steph

    • Karen

      Love my prunes and they keep my sluggish digestive system healthy. So happy to learn that they are good for me in many ways.

  12. Carmen

    Thank You very very much Vivian

    for the wonderful sugestion about making differant receipe meals I love prunes but like most of the request I dont know how much a day to have or how many days apart or if its so many per day May God bless You dear Vivian in the good work that you do to help us you are always there for us


  13. Leonard Green

    Hi Vivian,
    Thank you for additional information to your book.
    There are collagen calcium chelate pills (Life Extention Institute). Does make sense to use them? Could you please explain?
    I’ve read that Ca is not good to be chelated but maybe collagen helps? What about taking collagen pills? The questions are important for everybody.
    Thanks Leonard

  14. Brenda

    I have an older edition of your “Save Our Bones” book (about 4 years old I think). In it you list vinegar as an alkalizing ‘food’. On another website about the alkaline diet (Energize For Life), they say vinegar is acidic and continues to be acidic once digested in the body. They do agree with you about lemons/limes being initially acidic but having an alkalizing effect in the body. Can you give me your most recent opinion about vinegar?


  15. Denise Sanders

    Dear Vivian, I have just started eating prunes and I love them! They have helped me with my digestion already. Have you heard of reservitrol or lingonberries? Are they good for osteoporosis and were do you find them? Thank you Vivian. Blessings, Denise

  16. Anne

    I doing best to follow the diet eating the right things since I bought the book last year. I have found that my joints seem a lot better and I am not so tired in gerneral. I am so glad I have found this way of life.

  17. Kathy D

    Vivian how many prunes should you eat a day I have Oteoporis Kathy D

    • Denise Sanders

      Dear Vivian, Prunes have helped me. Have you heard of reservitrol or lingonberries? Are they good for osteoporosis? How much do you recommend and where are they available? Thank you, Denise Sanders

      • Damiri

        Actually before 2.5 bone grpous were also creating seperate channels in the action editor.which made life easier for animating complex rigs.It was actually the main reason for me to use bone grpous.but it seems that channel grpous have been removed from 2.5 or not implemented yet.Hope It’s gonna go back into 2.5, otherwise it has not much use of them (bone layers are good enough to organise your bones in the viewport)

  18. Michael

    Hi Vivian,
    Your book helps to fight osteoporosis. Do you have any advice how to deal with osteochondrosis?

    Thank you very much,

  19. Olga Songrady

    I know you talked about a cookbbook, so when can we expect one and hope it will not be e-book. olga

  20. Dorothy

    For the last 7 years having a real problem with renal calculi, complicating the issue is a ureter narrowed (scar tissue) from radiation therapy…….as my stones have been calcium oxalate, I’ve been told to eat a low oxalate diet. Difficult to avoid those oxalates. Want to maintain bone health.

  21. Rita Davis

    Thanks for all th information that comes my way.

  22. Daljeet Chana

    Have you tried Solgar’s Whey to go? Witin days there was a dramatic change in the way I walked and felt.Also take prunes in my cereal with almond milk.
    Well done Vivian for giving hope to many! Keep up the good work.

  23. Kelsey Fickling

    Thanks Vivian, I’ve been away and I’m pleased that I read about the prunes – I am looking forward to having a bone density scan in March 2012. Besides taking LIFESTREAM calcium I have been taking LIFESTREAM Ultimate Greens – powder – Spiralina,Chorela and Barley Grass – now I have just purchased LIFESTREAM Ultimate Veggies, Broccali, Spinach. Carrots, Beetroot, Cabbage and Parsley (capsules) I will start the Veggies when I’ve finished the ultimate Greens. My doctor told me that although I’m eating a good vegetable diet – at my age (80 years old 30th November) I would not be using all the nutrients – supplements are the best way at my age.

  24. Myrtle MacKenzie

    I am considering trying Aclasta.
    I have severe kyphosis and keep losing height.
    Do you redommend this, what are the side effedcts>

  25. Dory christensen

    Have you written anything about what to do when certain medications’ side effects cause bone loss? I am specifically thinking of thyroid and acid reflux medications. I think my diet is very healthy full of fresh organic fruits and vegetables, and i exercise regularly, but i am still slowly experiencing bone loss.

    • Velma Sturm

      Recently I read an article of a male whom was suffering with acid reflux for years. He was eating a Macintosh apple just before bed.mmThe next morning, he had no pain. To test this remarkable theory, He ingested another red Macintosh just before bed no pain. A miracle? Eating an apple a day, this fellow was able to do things with his teenage son! And no pills!

  26. Annamay Brown

    Thank you, Vivian, I will add prunes to my diet. With present day Medicine, the Doctors seem to be nothing but PILL Salesmen for the Pharmaceudecal Companies, which absolutely discuses me,They are making Billions while they kill us off with their unresearched medicines. For example: I suffered four months last year with the H1N1 Virus and took 3 different antibiotics to help me; the first one gave me a hearing loss in my left ear, the second one caused a yeast infection and the third one caused “Gulain Bare'” syndrome where I could not use my legs or hands for 24 hours,and they called that a cure? I have lost my faith in Doctors altogether.

  27. gloria

    I love prunes but have’nt eaten them in a long time. Thank’s for the reminder! I’ve been eating strawberries and ruby red grapefruit

  28. Bettie

    I heard that you should eat 12 prunes a day for bone health. Not sure if this is correct, but I think I read it in a health magazine. I do eat prunes. Would like to say I am still battling my gyno about takiing osteo drugs. That’s all he talks about when I go and I can’t get a word in edge wise. It’s like he has this speech programmed in his mind. May think about changing gynos since he is so closed mind on the Save Our Bones program. He vows and declares nothing can reverse bone loss.

  29. Kathy D

    How many prunes should you eat everyday for bone density thanks Kathy D

  30. Kathryn McIntee

    Thnaks I do include prunes in my diet, I have fractured my vertibray, and it is taking a long time to heal, also how do I no when to go out and walk, and make my life better .

    • April

      A good product to use on your fracture is Comfry cream. Apply it 2-3 times a day. It actually heals bone quite quickly and makes it strong. Don’t ingest it as in a tea or anything like that. You can make a cold compress with the leaves or go to a Homeopathic shop and get a cream that you can apply. It has helped me a lot as I had broken the metatarsals of my right foot which was taking a long time to heal. It also helps to clear up scar tissue.

  31. Feona

    Hi Vivian – once again you’ve given us the whole picture, instead of taking a small point out of context, as so many news stories and reports tend to do. Thank you!

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