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The Health Benefits of Pickled Umeboshi Plums

By Barbara Froek

Umeboshi is found at specialty stores and Asian markets throughout the United States. The name umeboshi translates to "Japanese salt plum," and the fruit comes from the Japanese ume tree. Traditionally, umeboshi is eaten with rice as a side dish. The pickling process gives this small fruit an intensely sour and salty taste, and scientists have found that it may have benefits for your health.

Contains Ulcer-Preventing Substances

If you've ever had an ulcer, you're familiar with the abdominal pain and discomfort it causes, especially after you eat. An ulcer occurs when the lining of your stomach or intestines becomes inflamed. A common bacteria called Helicobacter pylori causes most cases of ulcers. Eating umeboshi plums may protect against ulcers. Scientists have found that Japanese plums contain substances that suppress H. pylori and reduce gastrointestinal inflammation. The authors of a study published in the July 2010 edition of the European Journal of Nutrition concluded that Japanese plums -- also called Japanese apricots -- have a strong preventative effect against H. pylori infection.

Contains Heart-Protective Substances

The American Physiological Society presented findings at its 2002 annual conference showing the skin of the Japanese plum contains substances that may protect heart health. Researchers hypothesized that the substances, collectively called bainiku-ekisu, block processes that promote hardening of the arteries, which may prevent the onset of heart disease. They tested the theory using a juice concentrate from the Japanese plum, which confirmed their hypothesis.

Provides Antioxidants

A healthy, plant-based diet is abundant in antioxidant compounds called phytochemicals, which scientists believe play a role in protecting against chronic diseases. Researchers have isolated more than 20 phytochemicals from Japanese plum found to have potent antioxidant activity. Antioxidants are substances that neutralize molecules called free radicals, helping prevent cellular and DNA damage. Fruits and vegetables are rich sources of antioxidant compounds, so it's important to eat a varied diet with plenty of plant-based foods.

Protects Against Oral Pathogens

Eating umeboshi plums may help keep your gums healthy, reports a study appearing in the July 2011 edition of the Journal of Pediatric Dentistry. The authors tested substances from Japanese plums against various pathogenic bacteria that commonly live in the mouth. Japanese plums exerted antimicrobial activity against all bacteria tested and was most effective against the bacteria responsible for gingivitis called P. gingivalis, write the authors. Infection with P. gingivalis causes gum inflammation that, if untreated, can progress to a more serious infection called periodontitis.

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