Q: What is it about prunes that make them, you know, ‘work’? Is it the fibre? Why can they readily be used in baking as a fat substitute? Do they act like an oil?
A: Nutritionist and HFG contributor/recipe writer Bronwen King responds:
Prunes are considered a natural remedy for constipation. There are a number of reasons for this. They are a source of dietary fibre with around 0.5g per prune. Fibre soaks up large amounts of water making stools bulkier and easier to pass. Also, prunes contain a natural sugar called sorbitol which also soaks up water and further assists in creating bulky stools. Prunes also contain a compound thought to assist the rapid transit of food through the system.
Sorbitol can cause digestive disturbances for some, and as prunes contain relatively high levels of sorbitol, they need to be taken with care by people with bowel or gut problems.
Prune purée is often used in baking as it is so good at absorbing water which helps keep baked goods moist. Fat provides a similar result but works by lubricating flour in baked goods providing a more tender and moister mouth feel. When prune purée is present in a product, less fat is needed for tenderising and moistening. Prunes should not be regarded as a fat substitute, however, as fat provides many other effects that prunes can’t mimic.