Stone fruits are both delicious and nutritious. But when it comes to choosing between plum vs nectarine, which one is better? As a registered dietitian, cancer survivor, and cancer health coach, I believe one has a distinct advantage over the other!
Keep reading to find out which one reigns supreme!
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What are Stone Fruits?
Stone fruits, including plums and nectarines, belong to the Prunus genus. They contain a single stone (seed or pit) surrounded by flesh. Stone fruits can be enjoyed fresh, cooked, or used in various culinary preparations.
Stone fruit varieties include sweet cherries, sour cherries, peaches, yellow peaches, white peaches, white nectarines, and donut peaches.
Why are Stone Fruits Essential for Health?
Stone fruits contain vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that support heart health, promote digestive health, and protect against cellular damage that can cause cancer. The high fiber content in these fruits helps regulate blood sugar levels and maintain healthy bowel movements.
Additionally, they are low in calories, making them a perfect snack option for those watching their weight. Consuming these fruits regularly as part of a balanced diet can contribute to good overall health and wellness.
Plum vs Nectarine: Taste, Texture, and Appearance
Nectarines have smooth, glossy skin, which can range in color from yellow to reddish-orange, often accompanied by a light red blush. This delicious fruit is typically round and slightly elongated towards the stem, comparable in size to a small apple.
A nectarine’s yellow or white flesh is firm and becomes juicy when ripe. Central to the fruit is an inedible stone, which is why it is called a stone fruit.
A nectarine looks a lot like a peach and tastes a lot like one too! The major difference is that nectarines have smooth skin (as opposed to peach’s fuzzy skin).
Plums, on the other hand, have smooth skin that appears slightly duller with colors spanning from a deep purple color to red, yellow, or even green. Their shape is generally round to oval, and they are usually about the size of a golf ball.
The soft, juicy flesh of plums can be yellow, green, or red. Their skin may also vary in color from yellow to pinkish to a deep purple. Like nectarines, plums also have a central inedible stone.
Plums have a sweet taste reminiscent of apricots, with a hint of tanginess. Their skin can often be tart, providing a pleasant sweet and sour effect.
How are Nectarines and Plums Grown?
Nectarines and plums both hail from the genus Prunus. These fruit trees grow best in well-drained soils and full sun exposure.
They both blossom in the spring, making them susceptible to late frost damage, so choosing a variety with a blooming time that suits the local climate is essential.
Nectarines are essentially smooth-skinned peaches and, while they thrive in warmer climates, newer varieties of these vigorous trees have been developed for cooler regions allowing for availability in the winter months.
Plums, on the other hand, come in European and Japanese varieties, with the latter favoring warmer climates and the former being more cold-hardy.
Regular dormant pruning ensures healthy growth for both trees and proper spacing allows for good air circulation, reducing disease risk. With proper care, these productive trees yield delicious, juicy fruits, making them favorites in orchards worldwide.
Nutritional Value of Nectarines and Plums
Nectarines and plums offer a range of nutritional benefits. These stone fruits are low in calories, packed with essential vitamins and minerals, and are rich in dietary fiber. Additionally, nectarines and plums provide antioxidants and, with their high water content, also contribute to hydration.
Essential Vitamins and Minerals in Nectarines and Plums
Nectarines are a rich source of vitamin A, a fat-soluble vitamin that supports healthy vision and immune function.
Plums, on the other hand, offer nearly twice as much vitamin C (ascorbic acid) as nectarines, which helps maintain healthy immune function and promote collagen production. They are rich in vitamin K, which plays a vital role in blood clotting and bone health.
Both fruits contain potassium, a mineral that helps to maintain healthy blood pressure levels. However, nectarine edges plum out in this arena, offering more than 50% greater potassium levels.
Furthermore, they both offer small amounts of calcium, which is crucial for supporting strong bones, though neither is especially plentiful in this mineral.
|Nectarine (average size)||Plum (average size)|
|Vitamin C||3.7 mg||6.27mg|
|Vitamin A||27.1 µg||11.2 µg|
|Vitamin K||2.58 µg||4.22 µg|
|Potassium||169 mg||104 mg|
|Lutein + Zeaxanthin||168 µg||48.2 µg|
|Folate||7.74 µg||3.3 µg|
|Calcium||2.58 mg||3.96 mg|
Calories, Carbs, Protein, and Fats in Nectarines vs Plums
Nectarines and plums are guilt-free snacks due to their low-calorie content. Both are naturally low in fat and protein. They primarily provide healthy carbohydrates, and thus are a good source of energy.
When comparing macronutrients – calories, carbs, protein, and fats- both nectarines and plums offer a nutritious choice. Whether you prefer the sweetness of nectarines or the tanginess of plums, both fruits contribute to a healthy lifestyle.
The carbs in nectarine are made of 82% sugar, 18% dietary fiber, and 1% starch, whereas the carbs in plums comprise of 88% sugar and 12% dietary fiber.
But don’t let the word “sugar” scare you! The sugars in fruit come packaged with fiber, vitamins, and essential nutrients that benefit our health, whereas refined sugars lack these beneficial components and can cause rapid spikes in blood sugar and other negative health effects.
Antioxidants and Phytonutrients
Antioxidants and phytonutrients are abundant in both nectarines and plums. These beneficial compounds play a crucial role in protecting against cellular damage and promoting overall health and well-being.
Nectarines and plums both contain antioxidants that help fight against free radicals, which can contribute to various diseases including cancer and heart disease. The phytonutrients in these fruits possess powerful anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.
Polyphenols and Flavonoids
The four major polyphenols and flavonoids found in nectarines and plums are catechins, anthocyanins, chlorogenic acids, and quercetins.
Generally, plums, especially the deeper-colored varieties, have a higher concentration of anthocyanins, quercetin, and catechins compared to nectarines. This is evident in the deep hues and sometimes astringent taste associated with certain plum varieties.
Predominantly found in plums, especially the purple and red varieties, anthocyanins are known for their antioxidant properties, which help neutralize harmful free radicals in the body.
Nectarines, especially the ones with reddish skin, also contain anthocyanins, but typically in lesser amounts than deeply colored plums
Studies suggest anthocyanins support heart health, reduce inflammation, and offer protection against certain cancers (3). There is also evidence that anthocyanins may help in boosting memory and cognitive function (4).
Both nectarines and plums contain quercetin, but plums usually have a higher concentration. The skin of these fruits is particularly rich in this compound.
Quercetin helps combat inflammation and oxidative stress. It has been shown to reduce the risk of cancer, diabetes, and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease (5, 6, 7). It can also improve heart health by reducing blood pressure and protecting against arterial damage.
Do you suffer from allergies? Quercetin also helps reduce allergic reactions and symptoms of allergies (8).
Both fruits contain catechins, but plums have a slightly higher concentration.
Catechins help neutralize free radicals, thus reducing the risk of chronic disease. They also help improve blood circulation and reduce cholesterol levels (9).
Recent studies indicate that catechins inhibit tumor growth and can reduce the risk of certain cancers (10). Catechins also protect against neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and multiple sclerosis (11).
Plums, especially the European variety (Prunus domestica), are rich sources of chlorogenic acid. The concentration can vary based on the plum variety, with some having more than others.
Nectarines also contain chlorogenic acid, though usually in lesser amounts when compared to plums. As with other phytonutrients, the skin of the fruit tends to be particularly rich in this compound.
Chlorogenic acid has been linked to several cancer-fighting benefits. Studies show that chlorogenic acid helps cut off the blood supply to tumors, promotes a healthy microbiome (your “good” gut bacteria), and protects stem cells (12, 13).
Chlorogenic acid also helps regulate blood sugar levels. This is especially helpful for those with or at risk for type 2 diabetes. Furthermore, research suggests it supports a healthy weight by influencing glucose and fat metabolism (14, 15).
And as if that’s not enough, its anti-inflammatory qualities can help prevent and manage inflammation-related conditions. Preliminary studies indicate its potential neuroprotective effects against degenerative neurological conditions (16).
This class of phytonutrients is responsible for the yellow, orange, and red pigments in fruit. Both plums and nectarines are rich in carotenoids, especially beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin.
Carotenoids are precursors to vitamin A that have powerful antioxidant properties. They help protect cells from damage caused by harmful free radicals.
Perhaps the most recognized carotenoid, beta-carotene is renowned for its vibrant orange and yellow pigments found in many fruits and vegetables.
In addition to its role as a precursor of vitamin A, beta-carotene boasts potent antioxidant properties that neutralize harmful free radicals in the body. It offers protection to the skin from UV damage and bolsters the immune system.
When comparing plums and nectarines, the latter, especially those with deep orange or yellow flesh, typically have a richer beta-carotene content than most plum varieties.
Lutein and Zeaxanthin
These carotenoids are indispensable for maintaining optimal eye health (17). Primarily found in green leafy veggies, they’re also present in fruits like nectarines and play a protective role against age-related macular degeneration and cataracts.
Between plums and nectarines, nectarines stand out as a richer source of both lutein and zeaxanthin, although plums do offer a small amount.
Like beta-carotene, cryptoxanthin acts as a precursor to vitamin A and combats oxidative stress.
Both plums and nectarines provide cryptoxanthin, with its concentration in each fruit varying based on variety and ripeness.
Health Benefits of Nectarines and Plums
Heart Health. The potassium in these stone fruits helps regulate blood pressure levels. High levels of dietary fiber help lower cholesterol levels. And their potent antioxidants offer additional protection against heart disease by quenching harmful free radicals.
Diabetes. Both fruits are rich in fiber and have a low glycemic index, which means they don’t cause rapid increases in blood sugar levels. The natural sweetness of nectarines and plums can help satisfy cravings without causing a sudden rise in blood sugar.
Cancer Prevention. Nectarines and plums contain antioxidants that help combat free radicals, which can lead to the development of cancer cells. Additionally, they contain phytonutrients (see above) that help inhibit or slow the growth of cancer cells.
Apart from this, nectarines and plums contain various vitamins and minerals that support a healthy immune system. A robust immune system is crucial for preventing diseases like cancer.
Choosing Good Quality Nectarines and Plums at the Grocery Store
It’s important to choose high-quality fruit that is in season for the freshest and most flavorful options.
The Best Time to Buy Nectarines and Plums
Plums are typically in season from May to October. Nectarines, on the other hand, are at their peak from early June to September, providing a delicious summer fruit option.
Thanks to global supply chains, stone fruit season has been extended throughout the year in the United States. However, it’s always best to enjoy the abundance of fresh plums and nectarines during their respective growing seasons.
How is Nectarine Better than Plum?
Nectarines typically have a slightly higher vitamin C content than plums, aiding in immune function and skin health. They also contain more lutein and zeaxanthin, carotenoids crucial for eye health.
Additionally, nectarines often offer a slightly higher fiber content, supporting digestive health, blood sugar levels, and weight management.
How is Plum Better than Nectarine?
Plums are notably rich in polyphenols, particularly anthocyanins, which are responsible for their deep purple hue. Anthocyanins are powerful antioxidants, combating oxidative stress associated with chronic disease.
Moreover, the polyphenols in plums promote heart health, are anti-inflammatory, help control blood sugar, and may improve cognitive function. They also help protect against cancer and promote a healthy microbiome.
While nectarines also contain beneficial polyphenols, the diverse range and concentration found in plums give them an edge in terms of antioxidant capacity and associated health benefits.
Which is Better for You: Nectarine vs Plum?
Both nectarines and plums are excellent choices that offer various health benefits.
Nectarines are slightly lower in calories and carbohydrates compared to plums, making them a good choice for those watching their weight or managing diabetes.
On the other hand, plums contain higher levels of certain vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin K and potassium. Most notably, plums contain high levels of polyphenols that help prevent chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.
Which one do I choose as a Registered Dietitian? Well, if I had to choose one over the other, I would have to go with plums for their rich polyphenol content. Luckily, I don’t have to choose…I eat and enjoy them both!
Pam is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist with a Master’s of Public Health and a Certificate in Integrative and Functional Nutrition. Passionate about the science of health and nutrition, she loves to share her knowledge to help others live healthy, vibrant lives. When not working, Pam can be found hiking, traveling, and enjoying great-tasting, nutritious food.