Just as dried apricots are dehydrated fresh apricots, prunes are the result of drying fresh plums. These two fruits belong to the rose family and are botanically related to almonds, peaches, nectarines and other stone fruits. Fresh apricots and prunes are excellent sources of several important nutrients, including fiber, potassium and antioxidant carotenoids. Although the drying process degrades a fruit’s content of water-soluble and heat-sensitive vitamins such as vitamin C, other nutrients become more concentrated. Consequently, dried apricots and prunes provide higher levels of most nutrients, ounce for ounce, than their fresh counterparts.
Prunes and dried apricots are excellent sources of dietary fiber. They’re especially rich in soluble fiber, the type that dissolves into a gel-like substance and binds to fatty acids to encourage their excretion in waste. This is the quality that gives soluble fiber its ability to reduce high LDL and total cholesterol levels. Both dried fruits also provide appreciable amounts of soluble fiber, which promotes healthy bowels by adding bulk to stools and moving material through the digestive tract more quickly. A half-cup serving of dried apricots provides 19 percent of the daily value for fiber, while 1/2 cup of prunes contains almost 25 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
While fresh apricots and plums are rich in potassium, dried apricots and prunes contain even higher amounts. In conjunction with sodium, potassium regulates the balance of intracellular and extracellular water levels. Dietary potassium is also essential for maintaining healthy blood pressure, and the insufficient intake of potassium is associated with an increased risk of hypertension. The average American diet is low in potassium, according to Colorado State University Extension. As a result, most Americans would benefit by incorporating prunes or dried apricots into their diets. A half-cup serving of dried apricots supplies over 21 percent of the daily recommended intake for potassium, and 1/2 cup of prunes provides 18 percent.
Fresh plums and apricots provide small amounts of iron, but prunes and dried apricots are more significant sources. Like all iron-containing foods of plant origin, the type supplied by dried fruit is known as non-heme iron. This type of iron isn’t as easily absorbed as heme iron, the type found in animal flesh. You can increase the absorption rate of non-heme iron, however, by consuming it with a source of heme iron or vitamin C. A diet containing a wide variety of iron-rich foods helps prevent iron deficiency anemia, which is the most prevalent nutritional disorder in the world, according to the World Health Organization. A half-cup serving of prunes contains 4.5 percent of the daily for iron, while the same size serving of dried apricots supplies nearly 10 percent.
Prunes and dried apricots are also high in carotenoids and other potent antioxidant phytonutrients. Dried apricots’ beta-carotene content makes them especially rich in vitamin A, providing nearly 47 percent of the daily value in a half-cup serving, according to USDA data. Vitamin A functions as an antioxidant and is essential for cell growth, immune system function and eye health. Prunes contain fewer carotenes and as a result provide only 13.5 percent of the daily value for vitamin A per 1/2 cup. However, prunes rank at the top of the list of foods with the most antioxidant potential, according to the book “Wellness Foods A to Z.”