Health conscious Brits, now feeling a prick of conscience following UK Action on Sugars recent call to cut sugar intake, may be relieved to know that there is an easy and natural solution in the shape of California’s plump prunes.
The fruit has now been proven to provide a healthy and natural replacement for some of the processed sugars in sweet dishes and can even be used to sweeten coffee.
Hailed in the States as “nature’s candy”, and in Italy as “sugar prune”, the wrinkled wonder fruits are an easy substitute for sugar and can be used in many different ways to add natural sweetness to recipes. When blended into a puree, prunes can be used to sweeten cakes, pastries and biscuits and used like a jam to sweeten yoghurt and porridge and even as a spread on bread or toast.
In recent testing by the California Prune Board’s nutrition team, the sugar content of seven recipes was reduced and replaced with prune puree, with significant results. Chocolate and Prune Fudge Cake, Orange and Prune Nut Bread and California Cheesecake recipes produced sugar reductions between 27% and 35%, with no compromise on texture and flavour. Substituting some of the sugar for prune puree, which is simply blended prunes, can be applied to a wide range of recipes – to reduce the sugar content.
Consultant Dietitian Jennette Higgs comments, “Sugar per se has never been the villain, it’s the total amount we now consume unknowingly in food and drinks. Too much added sugar in our diet is likely to be hindering our efforts to reduce calories, since much of this sugar is hidden.
“It is also worth highlighting that the sugar provided in whole fruits is not a problem as this is in a form that is much more filling and more slowly digested in the body. People should not be put off eating whole fruits either fresh or dried, in their quest to reduce sugar intake.”
Higgs also highlights that food manufacturers are not required by law to separate added sugars (such as table sugar and honey) from naturally occurring sugars on a nutrition label. “Action on Sugar will now target any foods with refined sugar added as an ingredient so it is good news for the British consumer and potentially the food manufacturing industry.”
The Board, which has been operating in the UK and Europe for the past 25 years supporting the 900 prune growers of California, undertakes research in nutrition and health, and was in June last year, successful in achieving an EFSA Health Claim which supports the use of prunes in maintaining digestive health.
“The great bonus with prunes is the fact that they tend to taste sweeter than their fresh counterparts and being convenient to carry around, offer a perfect alternative to processed snack foods that tend to be high in refined sugar, fat and salt,” says Esther Ritson-Elliott, California Prune Board’s European Marketing Director.
“The fact that prunes can now also be used as a puree to reduce the sugar content of many recipes, is a breakthrough in the fight against the sweet stuff.”
Simply plums with the water removed, prunes contain only natural sugars and the sophisticated California drying process means they retain all their nutrients and are naturally fat-free.
“Prunes are a high source of fibre and just three California prunes is one of your five-a-day – so they are a very easy and very portable way of increasing your fruit and fibre intake, as well as being a healthy part of a balanced diet,” says Higgs.