We all know dairy builds bone health. But there’s a sweet alternative that helps, too

If asked what helps build strong bones, the most common answer would be calcium. Dairy and plant based milk substitutes would be the most common response to where to find calcium.

Yet I just attended a webinar on prunes and bone health. This educational session was sponsored by the California Prune Boar (But honestly, who else would talk about prunes for an hour?) The session was evidence-based. An important takeaway was that it is not only calcium that supports bone health. As the speaker and my friend Leslie Bonci, a registered dietitian nutritionist, said: “you want to be hailed not frail” as you go through life.

Studies going back a number of years have shown a bone benefit from prunes. Most recently, a 2022 study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that eating five to six prunes a day helped post menopausal women preserve bone in their hips. More bone lowers the risk of a break.

Some other benefits include:

Prunes contain calcium and a serving also has 20% of daily vitamin K requirement as well as potassium, magnesium, boron and B vitamins. All of these nutrients work together for bone strengthening.

Prunes also contain multiple polyphenols and 3 grams of fiber per serving.

They taste sweet, yet they have a low glycemic index of 29.

Prunes have historically been known to assist with digestion and elimination. They promote healthy gut bacteria.

So many benefits with no downside.

The bottom line is there is no one food or one nutrient for bones. A variety of foods is the path to strength and better health.

Prunes can be enjoyed as a snack or in trail mix, added to cereal or oatmeal, used in baked goods as a butter substitute, and in stews or sauces. Bone benefits are also available from a half cup of prune juice. I am a Star Trek fan. And as a registered dietitian nothing made me happier when the Klingon warrior Worf declared prune juice a warriors drink.

For recipes and more health information go to californiaprunes.org.

Sheah Rarback MS, RDN is a registered dietitian nutritionist in private practice in Miami.