What are Umeboshi Plums?
While umeboshi is usually translated into the English language as Japanese plums or pickled plums, they are not actually plums. Umeboshi are actually a pickled delicacy made from a fruit called ‘ume’. The fruit is something like a cross between an apricot and a plum. These delicacies are extremely popular in japan, not only for their taste but because of their many potential health benefits.
The ume fruit is pickled in the summer months when the fruit is ripe before being preserved for a month or so in a salt barrel. It is then dried beneath the hot summer sun for a number of day until its skin acquires a wrinkly texture like that of a sultana or a raisin.
How do Umeboshi Taste?
Unlike the sweet flavor of those more familiar dried fruits, umeboshi has a flavor combination that is difficult to describe. If something can have a sour saltiness, then it is umeboshi. It is certainly a bit of an acquired taste and I did not enjoy them the first time I tried eating them.
Because of their unique, salty flavor, umeboshi plums are often served up in Japan on a plain bed of boiled rice. A plain rice dish can help neutralize the strength of the flavor but the fruit also adds a unique tang to the food with which it is served. Because of this, umeboshi is commonly served up with a wide range of Japanese dishes.
Umeboshi are not only eaten so frequently because of their flavor, but they are well regarded by the Japanese for their health value and therapeutic qualities. They have been eaten in japan for centuries and even in modern day Japan, people feel so strongly about their value that many will not go a day without eating one or two of them.
Compared to many fruits, umeboshi can hardly lay claim to being a nutritional powerhouse. They are not an especially rich source of minerals and vitamins.
They do however contain small amounts of both iron and calcium which are two of the nutrients in which Americans are often deficient. A single fruit contains around 4 mgs of calcium and 0.24 mgs of iron. Calcium is especially important for bone strength and health though you would need to eat a huge amount of umeboshi to eat away at the recommended 1000 milligrams of calcium a day.
Iron is essential for transporting oxygen around the body and avoiding complications like anemia. An adult woman needs 18 milligrams of iron each day while a man needs around 8 milligrams. Iron deficiency is extremely common.
The bulk of the calories in pickled plums come from carbohydrates. Carbs have had a bad rap of late because of their link with weight gain but they should still provide you with around half of your daily calories in order to give you the energy you need. Some of the carbohydrates found in umeboshi come from fiber. Each plum contains around a gram of fiber. Fiber is known to aid digestion and reduce the risk of obesity and heart disease.
According to research, umebsohi has a number of medicinal properties that can help treat various health conditions and protect you from developing many others. These properties include the following:
- Antioxidant : helping you reverse the effects of free radicals and damage from oxidation
- Antibiotic : inhibiting the growth of harmful bacteria.
- Antiseptic : which helps cleanse and prevent infection.
- Anthelmintic : helping to expel intestinal parasites.
- Anti-fever : helping to fight fevers.
The Health Benefits of Umeboshi
1) For Heart Health
Umeboshi may contain substances that help prevent heart disease and improve your coronary health in general. Back in 2002, the American Physiological Society voiced its findings that the Japanese plum skin contained various substances that had a positive effect on the heart. (1)
These substances which the named collectively ‘baniku-ekisu’ helped to block certain processes that caused a hardening of the arteries. This hardening is known as atherosclerosis and is one of the major heart diseases in the world responsible for an untold number of deaths every year.
2) Antioxidant Value
Eating a healthy diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables can help provide you with abundant natural antioxidants known as phytochemicals. By now, scientists are certain that antioxidants are absolutely vital to our health. They protect us from the damage caused by free radicals, reduce the risk of disease and even help delay the aging process.
Research has managed to isolate over 20 different antioxidant compounds from umeboshi plums and they are believed to have excellent antioxidant value. A handful of these salty plums each day might go a long way towards keeping the doctor away. The Japanese have believed it for centuries and they have a longevity to be envied by the rest of the world.
3) Oral Health
Research has also demonstrated that umeboshi can help improve your oral health in a number of different ways.
According to research, umeboshi might help to maintain the health of your gums. Research published in 2011, tested various substances isolated from Japanese plums against common oral bacteria.
They found that umeboshi exerted powerful antimicrobial activities against all of the bacteria tested. It was especially effective against bacterium responsible for causing gum disease or gingivitis. Apart from being an uncomfortable condition in its own right, it is important to treat gingivitis early to keep periodontitis – a more serious dental complication at bay. (2)
4) Gastric Ulcers
Stomach ulcers can cause a great deal of pain and discomfort from anybody that suffers with them. They occur when the lining of your intestines or gut become swollen and inflamed. One common bacteria responsible for stomach ulcers is a bacteria called Helicobacter Pylori.
I have read links to research that demonstrated eating plenty of umeboshi may help protect a person from gastric ulcers. According to the articles, the fruit contains substances which can inhibit the H.pylori bacteria and therefore reduce intestinal inflammation. Unfortunately I have been unable to find the published research referred to.
5) Weight Control
Owing to their decent nutritional value and their low calorie count, umeboshi likely make a good choice for those of you that are watching your weight. A gram of umeboshi has fewer than 7 calories and they also contain plenty of dietary fiber.
Fiber rich foods can hep you feel fuller for longer and resist the temptation to snack throughput the day. They would certainly make for an effective snack especially if they are used to replace unhealthy calorie laden snacks that many people favor.
6) Digestive Health
Eating fiber rich fruit and veg like umeboshi may help improve the functions of your digestive system which can have a profound effect on your general health.
According to traditional use, umeboshi can help alleviate the symptoms of poor digestion including dyspepsia and bloating. The dietary fiber found in the fruit can also help add bulk to the stools which can alleviate bouts of constipation. According to traditional use, the fruits are also a great natural remedy for diarrhea.
7. Other Benefits
The Japanese believe that umeboshi can help the body detoxify. Many even use the fruit to get rid of a hangover from a heavy night of drinking. The fruit has also been eaten as a general health tonic and to give people a boost of energy.
Have you ever tried umeboshi? If you have, let us know what you thought of them and how you ate them.