Move over blueberries. Plums may be the next super food.
Those are the findings of a team of Texas AgriLife researchers.
Plainly, “blueberries have some stiff competition,” says Luis Cisneros, a food scientist in College Station. "Stone fruits are super fruits with plums as emerging stars."
Far from fruit snobbery, the stone fruit is being ushered in after Cisneros and David Byrne, a plant breeder, judged more than 100 varieties of plums, peaches and nectarines. They and found them to match or exceed the much-touted blueberries in antioxidants and phytonutrients associated with disease prevention.
That's not to say that blueberries aren't a good nutritional choice.
But Byrne says their findings are plum good news, especially in tight economic times, because one relatively inexpensive plum contains about the same amount of antioxidants as a handful of the more expensive blueberries.
“People tend to eat just a few blueberries at a time--a few on the cereal or as an ingredient mixed with lots of sugar,” Cisneros says. “But people will eat a whole plum at once and get the full benefit.”
Discovery of the plum’s benefits--along with that of fellow stone fruits, the peach and the nectarine--came after the researchers measured at least five brands of blueberries on the market.
Against those numbers, the team measured the content of more than 100 different types of plums, nectarines and peaches.
The first comparison was for antioxidantschemicals that can reduce potentially heart-disease- and cancer-causing free radicals.
"If the radicals aren’t taken care of, they will cause the problems that lead to disease,” he says.
But the scientists didn’t stop there.
“Knowing that we had all these varieties with high levels of antioxidants, then the possibility of preventing these diseases would also be high with their consumption, so we went to the next stephow these compounds could actually inhibit chronic diseases,” Cisneros says.
The team examined the full content of plums and peaches, then tested the effect of the compounds they found on breast cancer cells and cholesterol in the lab.
“We screened the varieties again with the biological assays,” Cisneros says. “And that had never been done before, because it is expensive and a lot of work. But that investment is small in terms of the information we got, and how it can be used now for breeding efforts to produce even better fruit.”
One benefit the team found was that the phytonutrients in plums inhibited in-vitro breast cancer growth without adversely affecting normal cell growth.
Byrne says this type of research needs further study but is an indication that breeders ultimately will be able to produce new crop varieties with the best ratio of phytochemicals that will have an impact on disease prevention and inhibition. And these fruits will be available as fresh produce as well as in extracts for dietary supplements.