Researchers think the fruit could help prevent bone loss in space.

By James Oliver Cury
Updated May 24, 2017
Credit: © Cultura Creative (RF) / Alamy Stock Photo

Mention the concept of astronaut food and people think of freeze-dried ice cream, toothpaste-like tube containers and shrink-wrapped snacks. But recent findings in Scientific Reports suggest that a portable, nutrient-rich solution is easier to come by. For certain medical purposes, in fact, dried plums—the fruits formerly known as prunes—may be a game-changer.

Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco and Veterans Affairs, University of California, Irvine and Texas A&M University were looking for ways to prevent bone loss in people coming into contact with radiation—whether that means cancer patients, victims of nuclear accidents or space travelers. In one study using mice, dried plum powder proved more effective at reducing bone loss than all other treatments, including antioxidant cocktails, dihydrolipoic acid (another antioxidant) and ibuprofen (an anti-inflammatory).

Prunes have long been hailed as a terrific snack for people worried about bone loss, because they have vitamins and minerals such as potassium, copper, boron and vitamin K. Results from previous studies published in the British Journal of Nutrition demonstrated that eating slightly more than one serving (five or six dried plums) may prevent bone loss in post-menopausal women. Other research, presented as an abstract at the Ninth International Symposium on Nutritional Aspects of Osteoporosis, found that dried plums can also help the body achieve peak bone mass during growth, something that would aid people of all ages. One final reason to like the fruit: It doesn't require refrigeration.