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
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
According to research, umeboshi fruit has natural laxative effects that could help treat constipation naturally. A study published in 2013 found that rats fed with ume fruit experienced better gastric motility. Basically this means the food moves better through your digestive tract which in turn helps treat constipation. (3)
Studies have also showed that umeboshi plums can help relieve other symptoms linked to digestive complaints. One study published in 2015 looked at the effects of eating the fruit on 392 volunteers. The researchers found that eating ume daily helped improve gastric motility. It also cause a significant reduction in acid reflux and its symptoms. (4)
Umbeoshi fruit contains potent natural compounds and properties which may help protect the liver’s health. Our liver is a very hardworking organ, its many critical roles include fat metabolism, detoxification and producing the proteins necessary for effective blood clotting. There are many reasons for liver damage and poor liver health including infection, obesity and alcoholism.
There is some evidence to suggest that consuming umeboshi regularly could help preserve liver function and protect it from disease. A study published in 2012 looked at the effects of the fruit in 58 patients suffering from liver disease. The researchers found that an extract of umeboshi taken daily not only protected the liver but may also reduce damage to the organ. (5)
The findings suggest that umeboshi may have a role to play in the treatment of people with liver conditions including hepatitis, cirrhosis and fatty liver disease.
Umeboshi plums contain various potent compounds which may be effective in the treatment and prevention of cancer. A study published in 2007 looked at the effects of umeboshi extract on cancerous liver cells. The researchers found that the fruit extracts were able to inhibit the growth of the cancer cells. (6)
In another study, pancreatic cancer cells were treated with umeboshi fruit extract. The researchers found that the extract was able to inhibit the growth of these cells by apoptosis while leaving healthy cells untouched. (7)
Other studies have found that umeboshi extract could be effective against various other forms of cancer including skin cancer and breast cancer. (8) (9)
Bone Health and Strength
According to research, umeboshi may also benefit your bone health thanks largely to their high polyphenol content. Polyphenols are powerful, natural antioxidants which can neutralize the effect of the free radicals that contribute to disease.
Osteoporosis is a common condition that usually effects older people-women in particular. The condition leads to a loss of bone density making them more fragile and prone to fracture. One study published in 2014 found that the specific poyphenols present in umeboshi exhibited effects against osteoporosis.
According to the study, the polyphenols contained in umeboshi helped increase collagen production. Collagen is the protein responsible for the strength and structure of your bones. As well as improving collagen production, the researchers found that umeboshi enhanced the function of cells called osteoblasts responible for the synthesis of bones. (10)
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.
Frequently Asked Questions
What do umeboshi plums taste like?
The taste of umeboshi is not easy to nail down because it depends largely in the variety of plum used and the pickling methods. One thing we can say for sure is that umeboshi is sour. You should try a variety of umeboshi plums and find out which ones you like the best. Some may be slightly too sour for you but other may hit just the right balance between sour and sweet.
Is umeboshi fermented?
Is Umeboshi good for you?
There is plenty of evidence that umeboshi is good for your health. They are full of important nutrients and fiber with powerful antioxidant and antibacterial properties. Multiple studies have demonstrated that it is good for a variety of conditions. These include digestive health, liver health, bone strength and oral health. There is also some preliminary evidence to suggest they can help prevent the growth of cancer.
Umeboshi are a tiny fruit with an impressive range of proven health benefits. They are packed with nutrition and come with a long list of medicinal properties including antioxidant, antibiotic and antiseptic actions. They can be used for a wide range of health benefits ranging from liver protection and digestive health to oral conditions like gingivitis.
Try adding these wonderful fruits to your diet. Consuming them as a snack a few times a week might make a significant difference to your health in the long run.
Have you ever tried umeboshi? If you have, let us know what you thought of them and how you ate them.