Dates, the delectable fruits of the date palm tree, have been cherished in the Middle East for ages. Beyond their cultural significance during Ramadan, these fruits are nutritional powerhouses, packed with natural sugars, fiber, and essential minerals like iron. Their myriad health benefits range from boosting brain health, and aiding digestion, to promoting natural labor in expectant mothers. Globally, they’ve found their way into diverse dishes, from smoothies to baked goods. Whether you’re savoring the rich Medjool or the exquisite Ajwa variety, dates offer both flavor and health. Dive into this blog to explore the sweet and nutritious world of dates!
What are Dates?
Dates are the sweet, chewy fruit of the date palm tree (Phoenix dactylifera). Dates have been the staple food of the Middle East for thousands of years. Muslims consider date palms and dates sacred, and throughout the religious fasting period of Ramadan, these dried fruits are a common ingredient in the diet. Each date can be about 60 to 70 percent sugar and a high amount of fiber, depending on the variety, which makes it ideal as a healthy energy booster. It is also high in iron and may help in fighting anemia.
Dates are now popular all over the world and are used as a natural sweetener in smoothies, juices, nutrition bars, and baked products like cakes and muffins. You can buy also premium varieties that are stuffed with almonds or peanut butter and specialty products like date molasses, a sweet sticky syrup that can be drizzled on pancakes or porridge.
Watch Video: 9 Surprising Benefits Of Dates
|Serving Size :|
|Total lipid (fat) [g]||0.15|
|Carbohydrate, by difference [g]||74.97|
|Fiber, total dietary [g]||6.7|
|Sugars, total including NLEA [g]||66.47|
|Glucose (dextrose) [g]||33.68|
|Calcium, Ca [mg]||64|
|Iron, Fe [mg]||0.9|
|Magnesium, Mg [mg]||54|
|Phosphorus, P [mg]||62|
|Potassium, K [mg]||696|
|Sodium, Na [mg]||1|
|Zinc, Zn [mg]||0.44|
|Copper, Cu [mg]||0.36|
|Manganese, Mn [mg]||0.3|
|Pantothenic acid [mg]||0.81|
|Vitamin B-6 [mg]||0.25|
|Folate, total [µg]||15|
|Folate, food [µg]||15|
|Folate, DFE [µg]||15|
|Choline, total [mg]||9.9|
|Vitamin A, RAE [µg]||7|
|Carotene, beta [µg]||89|
|Vitamin A, IU [IU]||149|
|Lutein + zeaxanthin [µg]||23|
|Vitamin K (phylloquinone) [µg]||2.7|
|Aspartic acid [g]||0.22|
|Glutamic acid [g]||0.27|
|Sources include : USDA|
According to USDA FoodData Central, dates are a good source of energy, fiber, sugar, and various vitamins and minerals. Essential minerals such as calcium, iron, phosphorus, sodium, potassium, magnesium, sulfur, and zinc can be found in them. Apart from the above-mentioned nutrients, they may also contain important vitamins such as thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, folate, vitamin A, and vitamin K.
A 2008 review published in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition journal by Cornell researchers Chang Yong Lee and Mohamed Ali Al-Farsi suggests that over 15% of the daily requirement of essential minerals such as copper, potassium, magnesium, and selenium can be fulfilled by consuming 100 grams, or about 4 pitted dates per day.
Let us look at some of the key health benefits of dates in detail below.
Can Be a Good Source of Energy
Dates are high in natural sugars like glucose, fructose, and sucrose. The high energy present in them can be attributed to this high sugar content. Many people around the world are estimated to eat natural low-fat dates for a quick afternoon snack when they are feeling lethargic or sluggish to help bump up energy levels fast.
Often when you exercise in a gym, outside, or even on a stretching machine at home, you feel exhausted. A study published in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition suggests that dates rich in essential nutrients may help you regain your energy immediately.
People who follow Islam and observe fasting break their fast by eating them along with water. This also helps avoid overeating food once the fast is over.
May Boost Brain Health
Research spearheaded by Musthafa Mohamed Essa, Ph.D. and their team indicates that dates can defend against oxidative stress and inflammation in the brain.
Another study highlighted that middle-aged women experienced enhanced brain function due to the antioxidant properties of dates, which combat inflammation, including in the brain.
However, further human studies are essential to solidify dates’ impact on brain health.
Can Potentially Relieve Constipation
A 2005 study emphasized the high levels of dietary fiber in these dried fruits, particularly the insoluble type.
In a separate study, individuals who ate 7 dates daily for three weeks saw notable improvements in stool frequency and increased bowel movements compared to periods without date consumption.
This insoluble fiber in dates not only bulks up the stool but might also alleviate constipation symptoms.
Might Offer Relief from Intestinal Disorders
Research suggests dates contain insoluble and soluble fibers, as well as many beneficial amino acids that may stimulate the digestion of food and ensure quick passage through the gastrointestinal tract.
May Help Prevent Heart Diseases
Research by Waseem Rock and colleagues in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that date consumption effectively lowers triglyceride levels and combats oxidative stress, both significant risk factors for heart disease and the accumulation of fatty plaque in arteries, known as atherogenesis.
A 2021 study highlighted that dates are abundant in polyphenols, especially flavonoids, certain micronutrients, and dietary fiber. These components positively influence vascular health and may help reduce vascular disease in humans.
Supporting this, another study emphasized that ripe date fruits are rich in phenolic content, which largely contributes to their antioxidant capabilities
Can Potentially Treat Sexual Dysfunction and Infertility
Dates contain compounds like alkaloids, saponins, and flavonoids that may enhance sexual desire and activity in both genders by influencing the central nervous system and boosting dopamine secretion.
While traditional African medicine has long championed dates for male infertility, scientific research on their effectiveness in this area remains limited.
Can Aid Bone Health Improvement
A publication by Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., L.R.D., et al., and colleagues at North Dakota State University suggests that dates contain boron which is among the nutrients that promote healthy bones.
A study published in the Journal of Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition suggests that significant amounts of minerals such as phosphorus, potassium, calcium, and magnesium found in dried fruits may make them a superfood for strengthening bones and fighting off painful and debilitating diseases like osteoporosis.
Organic pitted dates may contain selenium, manganese, copper, and magnesium, all of which may aid in managing bone health, particularly among older adults.
May Promote Healthy Weight Gain
According to USDA, these dried fruits are rich in sugar, proteins, and many other essential vitamins and minerals. They are also high in fiber, which can aid in weight management. Medjool dates are easily available in grocery markets and make for a healthy and delicious snack!
An animal study done in 2016 indicated no such increase in weight. Given the conflicting reports, more research is needed to support this benefit.
Can Potentially Aid in Relieving SAR Symptoms
According to a study conducted in 2012, dates may have a positive impact on SAR (Seasonal Allergic Rhinitis), a condition that affects approximately 30 million people in the United States alone.
The study published in Inflammatory Research found that date palm immunotherapy was effective at decreasing several markers of inflammation in patients with allergic rhinitis.
May Promote Natural Labor
Dates might be a natural way to encourage labor in pregnant women. A 2017 study in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology revealed that among 154 pregnant women who consumed dates, there was no need for labor induction using prostaglandin and oxytocin, and no negative effects were observed on either the mother or child.
Another study highlighted that consuming 6 dates daily for the last 4 weeks of pregnancy considerably lessened the need for labor induction.
Furthermore, in another study pregnant women who ate 70–76 grams of dates daily from their 37th week experienced, on average, 4 fewer hours in active labor compared to those who abstained from dates.
Where to Buy?
Dates are easily available in supermarkets, grocery stores, and online. Make sure you select the type that provides all the benefits you are looking for. Some of the popular varieties include:
- Organic Medjool dates
- Noor dates
- Ajwa dates
How to Eat?
Apart from eating them as is, people consume them in several ways.
- Mix the paste of the dates with milk and yogurt.
- Use the date paste as a bread spread as part of a delicious and healthy breakfast.
- Add date crumbles to your cereal and porridge.
- Use date sugar, which is the dried variety ground into tiny pieces.
You can also try our delicious recipes with dates:
- Date Cake, A Festival Treat
- Classic British Sticky Toffee Pudding: A Holiday Favorite
- How To Make Sheer Khurma (Milk With Dates)
- Delicious Bacon-Wrapped Dates Recipe
Word of Caution: Although these dried fruits carry tremendous nutritional value, great care should be taken in their selection because their surface is very sticky, which may attract various impurities.
Finally, keep in mind that dried dates are relatively high in sugar and calories, which may contribute to weight gain and other health issues if consumed in excess. Therefore, it’s best to keep intake in moderation and enjoy it as part of a healthy, balanced diet to maximize the potential health benefits.