What's the Main Difference Between Dates and Prunes?
Although they are somewhat similar looking, dates and prunes are actually completely different fruits. They come from completely different plants, have different flavor profiles, and slightly different nutritional properties.
Dates are their own species of dried fruit that grow on trees, while prunes are actually plums that have been dried.
Despite their differences, some similarities can be found in their culinary applications. Because they are both dried fruits that are super sweet, we've found that they can be used almost interchangeably as replacements to processed sugar in baking, plant-based ice creams, sauces, and raw cheesecakes.
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Want to learn more? Check out our full write-up on dates vs prunes below!
What Are Dates?
Dates are an entirely separate species of fruit which grow on trees. They are consumed dried and have a similar texture to prunes. Unlike prunes though, they are rarely, if ever, served in their non-dried form.
If left on the tree, dates would become dried as part of their natural "ripening" process. However, dates are often picked from the tree beforehand so that the process can be controlled. Because they taste best when they are still somewhat hydrated, it's recommended to store them in the refrigerator in an airtight container to keep them fresh. A completely dried out date is generally considered to be less appealing than one that is dried just right.
Different Varieties of Dates
Unlike commercial prunes, varying species of dates are available in wide variety. The two most common dates are Medjool Dates and Deglet Noor Dates. You're likely to find both or one of these at your local supermarket. Deglet Noors are a bit harder, smaller, and less sweet than the Medjool dates. Medjool dates have a soft texture with a caramel-like flavor and tend to be the favorite of most date fans.
Other varieties of dates that you may have to look around for are:
You'll have best of luck finding these dates in your local Middle-Eastern store or on date-specialty websites such as 7HotDates. We've had their sample pack before and it is awesome!
Alternatively, you can also order the commonly found dates on Amazon.
What Are Prunes?
Much like how a raisin is a dried grape, prunes are actually plums that have been dried out. This makes the flavors sweeter and more concentrated than a regular plum. Once the water content is removed, the texture becomes chewier and all of the flavors become less diluted.
As you'll see in our recipe section, prunes can be used in a wide variety of dishes. They can even be re-hydrated with different marinades to create all sorts of fun and unique flavor profiles.
Both being relatively sweet dried fruits, it's no surprise that dates and prunes are nutritionally quite similar. Below we will explore the macronutrient and micronutrient profile as well as talk about some studies that have been done on either of these two fruits.
All of these numbers are based on 50g of fruit and calculated from Cronometer. We highly recommend them for doing your own nutritional calculations!
Depending on the size of the fruit itself, 50g would equate to around 2-5 pieces.
Because they are dried, both dates and prunes have high calorie counts per gram. This doesn't necessarily mean that they are unhealthy, but you may want to hold off on them if you're trying to rapidly lose weight. If weight loss is your goal, you're best bet is sticking with fruits with higher water content as they will keep you more satiated. Fruits such as cantaloupes, fresh berries, or actual plums are a great example.
However, if you are trying to maintain your weight or looking for high-quality foods to fuel your athletic activities - either of them are a great pick as they have a high amount of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. This will become more clear in the next section.
As detailed by the chart below, both dates and prunes contain a high amounts of vitamins and minerals. While the percentages may look slightly low, remember that this is for a relatively small serving.
Judging by the chart, you'll also note that prunes seem to have overall more nutrients per 50 grams than dates do with a smaller amount of calories. This is especially true when it comes to Vitamin B2, Vitamin A, and Vitamin K.
21.5 mg (2%)
1.5 µg (3%)
0.2 µg (8%)
1.0 mg (0%)
0.1 mg (1%)
0.0 mg (2%)
0.0 mg (3%)
0.6 mg (4%)
B5 (Pantothenic Acid)
0.3 mg (6%)
0.1 mg (6%)
0.1 mg (8%)
0.0 µg (0%)
0.0 µg (0%)
9.5 µg (2%)
2.0 µg (1%)
5.0 IU (0%)
390.5 IU (13%)
0.2 mg (0%)
0.3 mg (0%)
0.0 IU (0%)
0 IU (0%)
0.0 mg (0%)
0.2 mg (1%)
1.4 µg (1%)
29.8 µg (25%)
Other Studied Health Effects
Although it's not commonly discussed, the health promoting properties of foods are more than macro and micronutrients. Plant foods are especially rich in antioxidants and phytochemicals both of which play key roles in our health and longevity. In this section below, we go beyond the standard nutrients and look at some of the more subtle effects of prunes and dates.
Antioxidants are extremely important, yet often overlooked when discussing the healthfulness of certain foods. They help protect our bodies against "oxidation" or "oxidative stress".
Oxidative stress is one of the major mechanisms associated with cellular damage, aging, and certain diseases. Part of a healthy lifestyle means consuming as many antioxidant rich foods as possible.
Dates and prunes are both rich sources of antioxidants. Although they may be somewhat calorie dense (when compared to non-dried fruits), both of these fruits are extremely healthy so long as they don't cause you to go completely overboard on your daily caloric needs.
Prunes and Bone Loss
Prunes aren't the usual suspect when it comes to bone health, but there was actually a study done that showed that consuming prunes for three months increased one of the most responsive markers in the blood for bone formation.
A more in-depth study done later on, showed that the results went beyond blood markers. Prunes actually had bone protection effects in the spine, bone, and arm.
To learn more about these studies, check out the video above and this link from Dr Michael Greger at NutritionFacts.org.
What If You Ate Dates Daily?
If you've ever eaten dates then this thought is likely to have crossed your mind:
"Oh man, something this sweet and this delicious can't actually be good for me!"
A perfectly ripe date is so sweet and so decadent that you sometimes literally think you're eating junk food. But does eating dates have the same health implications of eating processed candy?
This study showed that it does not. Participants ate 100g of dates for a month and despite this being a whopping 63g of daily sugar, didn't show any adverse effects. In fact, participants saw improvements in their antioxidant stress levels and triglycerides. The greatest benefits were realized from those participants eating Hallawi dates.
"It is concluded that date consumption (and mainly the Hallawi variety) by healthy subjects, despite their high sugar content, demonstrates beneficial effects on serum triacylglycerol and oxidative stress and does not worsen serum glucose and lipid/lipoprotein patterns, and thus can be considered an antiatherogenic nutrient ."
Now, while we think this study was a bit limited in scope, it goes to show even super sweet and delicious whole fruits such as dates come with positive health benefits.
This plays further to our main position that you want to pick your foods based on more than just calories and nutrient content. You want to eat whole plant foods as much as possible!
Unique Recipes and Culinary Applications
Because of their texture and sweetness, dates and prunes have several culinary applications that you might not expect. Rather than using processed sugar to sweeten baked goods, using dates or prunes is a great way to sweeten up baked goods and sauces while adding fiber, vitamins, minerals, and all the other benefits associated with eating whole foods.
Here are a bunch of great recipes to dry where dates or prunes are used as the primary sweetener rather than processed sugar. If you're new to these two fruits, we think you'll be amazed at what you can make!
Baked Goods or Pastries
Black Bean Brownies with Vanilla Nice Cream by Thrive Cuisine
Raw Fudge Date and Prune Brownies by This Rawsome Vegan Life
Vegan Chocolate and Prune Slice by My Goodness Kitchen
Prune Power Balls by Kim's Cravings
Date-Sweetened BBQ Sauce by Glue and Glitter
Asian Alfredo Noodle Sauce by Vegan Petite
Blueberry Raw Cheesecake by The Awesome Green