Dates are delicious fruits that are full of nutrients that improve health in various ways.
Date palms grow in countries around the Mediterranean, North Africa, and Asia, and in the Western countries, they are usually sold dried, with Medjool dates being the most popular.
Dried dates are higher in sugar and phenolic compounds than the fresh ones.
These small cylindrical-oval fruits grow in clusters on the date palm tree (Phoenix dactylifera), and their color can range, from light brown to black. Annually, one palm can produce between 400 and 600 kg of dates.
According to the journal Frontiers in Plant Science, date fruits are actually berries and are high in antioxidants and nutrients that provide potent therapeutic properties.
Dates are abundant in vitamins, antioxidants, easily digestible sugars, and micronutrients.
Antioxidants prevent damage due to free radicals, which are unstable molecules that may have negative effects on the body and lead to disease. Compared to similar types of fruit, like figs and dried plums, dates have the highest antioxidant content.
These are three most potent antioxidants in dates:
Flavonoids: These powerful antioxidants reduce inflammation and lower the risk of diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and certain types of cancer
Phenolic acid: It has strong anti-inflammatory properties, and lowers the risk of cancer and heart disease.
Carotenoids: They promote heart health and lower the risk of eye-related disorders, like macular degeneration
The United States Department of Agriculture says that a Medjool date without the pips has about 66 calories (24 g), and a portion of dates provides 30% of your daily fiber needs. A 1-oz (28 g) serving of dates contains 21 g of carbs or about 7% of your recommended daily intake (RDI).
As the date ripens, its sugar levels increase. The pulp contains about 70% sugar, so 1 oz. (28g) of dates has 18.6 g of sugar, which is mainly glucose, fructose, and sucrose.
Dates are rich in vitamins B, A and K, copper, manganese, magnesium, and potassium. Their regular consumption strengthens the immune system, improves dental health, and prevents cancer, due to the high amounts of selenium.
Dates are loaded with protein, contain 23 different amino acids, and are high in fiber, which helps digestion and increases satiety.
They are excellent for diabetics, as they have a low glycemic index, and do not cause rapid and large fluctuations in blood glucose levels. Studies have also shown that dates are rich in polyphenols.
The impressive nutritional value of dates proves that these fruits offer a myriad of health benefits, as follows:
Chronic inflammation in the body has been found to be the main cause of various diseases like cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. However, studies have shown that flavonoids in dates successfully fight inflammation.
Dates are rich in fiber, so they improve digestion. 100 grams of dates can contain between 3.5 and 11 grams of fiber, which is mainly insoluble. Moreover, dates act as probiotics, and boost the number of healthy bacteria in your gut, and thus improve colon and bowel health.
Medjool dates are an excellent pre-workout snack and a healthy post-workout option, since they are higher in sugar than many other fruits, but it is natural sugar, including fructose, glucose, and sucrose. These sugars are easily processed and utilized by the body for energy.
Lower Cholesterol and Triglycerides
Medjool dates are loaded with phenolic compounds that lower cholesterol and triglycerides levels, and the sugar content has been found to not increase blood glucose levels.
Dates are a rich source of potassium, magnesium, and antioxidants which improve heart health. Namely, 100 grams of dates contain 700 mg of potassium or 20% of your daily potassium needs, and The National Institutes of Health claims that a higher intake of potassium reduces the risk of various cardiovascular heart diseases.
A study published in the journal Phytomedicine showed that antioxidants in Ajwa dates fight inflammation, lower blood fat, and prevent cardio cell death. Also, extracts from date palm fruit effectively repair heart tissue after a heart attack.
Dates are rich in calcium and phosphorus, which work closely together to build strong bones and teeth. Our bones and teeth contain 85 percent of the body’s phosphorus, and it is needed for the growth, maintenance, and repair of all tissues and cells, and for the production of the genetic building blocks, DNA and RNA. It also maintains the balance of other vitamins and minerals, like magnesium, vitamin D, iodine, zinc.
Calcium is vital for the development and maintenance of strong teeth and bones as well, so a diet high in both calcium and phosphorus prevents bone degradation.
The antioxidants in dates protect the liver, repair liver damage due to toxins and inhibit hepatocellular carcinoma.
Improved Memory and Alzheimer’s Disease Prevention
The high antioxidant levels in dates improve brain health and protect brain cells from damage, as they fight inflammation and reduce oxidative stress. Therefore, these fruits prevent Alzheimer’s disease and reduce memory impairment.
Dates are very sweet and rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Therefore, they can be used as a healthy alternative to sugar, as 100 grams of dates contain about 77 calories. When baking, use a paste of 24 dates blended with a ¾ cup of water, instead of sugar. One cup of date paste is the equivalent to one cup of sugar.
The high fiber and healthy sugar content of dates helps the process of weight loss. Researchers from Harvard Medical School claim that the high intake of fiber is one of the best ways to lose weight. However, consider the fact that 1 pitted date contains 66 calories so do not eat too many dates daily.
Dates are excellent during pregnancy and even ease labor. Especially when consumed in the last trimester, dates have a positive effect on childbirth. Their daily consumption reduces the length of labor, and in many cases, it avoids the need for oxytocin to start labor.
Dates are also an excellent way to prevent nerve damage in diabetics (diabetic neuropathy). This is a complication of diabetes which leads to damage to the peripheral nerves, and symptom like pain and numbness or weakness in the hands, feet, and the extremities.
In order to preserve their taste, you need to store dates in a glass container with a sealable lid, or a resealable plastic bag, that will retain their moisture. You can keep them in the freezer or refrigerator to extend their shelf life.
Since they are rich in sugar, you should consume them in moderation. They vary in size, but the general recommendation is to consume 2-3 larger dates, or up to 4 smaller dates daily.
You can add pitted dates to your salads, desserts, oatmeal, muffins, cakes, and cookies, or eat them dried as a snack. You can soak them in how water for 10 minutes and add them to sweeten your smoothies. You can also make date paste and use it instead of refined sugar.
Enjoy the inviting taste of dates and boost your health in countless ways!