Dates are tropical fruit grown on a date palm tree in small clusters. Scientifically it is known as Phoenix dactylifera is a tasty and highly nutritious fruit. It has dark brown skin, soft flesh and is uniquely sweet.
Dates may have some really powerful health benefits like boosting energy, increasing iron in the body, and aiding digestion. Rich in various nutrients, fiber, and antioxidants, dates are popular throughout the world. These dried fruits may prove to be beneficial in treating various conditions due to their anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-tumor properties.
Dates have been the staple food of the Middle East for thousands of years. Recently, a 2000 years old date seed has been germinated in Israel. The seed was found in the archaeological excavations. This type of date had unique qualities, but it disappeared 500 years ago.
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.
Whenever you’re craving something sweet, instead of going for candy or sugar, opt for dates instead. They’re just as sweet and way better for you.
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.
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.
Here are some of the key health benefits of dates in detail below.
Can Be 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.
May Boost Brain Health
Dates may protect against oxidative stress and inflammation in the brain. According to research, “date palm fruits are a good source of dietary fiber and are rich in total phenolics and natural antioxidants, such as anthocyanins, ferulic acid, protocatechuic acid, and caffeic acid”. The presence of these polyphenolic compounds may potentially help slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
Can Potentially Relieve Constipation
In traditional Tunisian medicine, dates are used for treating constipation. A serving of 100 grams of Medjool dates provides 6.7 grams of dietary fiber. A 2005 study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry also suggests that these dried fruits have high levels of dietary fiber and insoluble fiber, in particular. The insoluble fiber found in dates may potentially promote healthy digestion by bulking up the stool and may also aid in relieving the symptoms of constipation.
How to use: Start by soaking dates in water overnight to help them soften. Next, add soaked dates and a bit of the soaking liquid to a food processor and blend to make a thick, fiber-rich date paste.
May Prevent Heart Diseases
A study by Waseem Rock et al. in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry concluded that consuming dates was effective at reducing triglyceride levels and decreasing oxidative stress, both of which are risk factors for heart disease and atherogenesis, which is the build-up of fatty plaque in the arteries
Can Potentially Treat Sexual Dysfunction
There are many benefits of dates for men but this makes for one of the most important ones.
In 2006, an animal study revealed the effects of date palm pollen and its oil on sexual functioning, reporting that the high levels of estradiol and flavonoid components in dates are helping increase sperm count and motility. Another study conducted in India states that date palm pollen may have been used to treat male infertility in traditional medicine.
Therefore, if you are looking for an easy way to boost your libido and sexual function, you may consider consuming organic dates, thanks to their aphrodisiac-like properties.
How to use: Soak a handful of dates in fresh goat’s milk overnight, then grind them in the same milk with a mixture of cardamom powder and honey. However, consulting with a trusted medical practitioner before trying is strongly recommended to determine the best course of treatment for you.
Can Aid Bone Health Improvement
A publication by Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., L.R.D., et al., and colleagues of 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, magnesium found in dried fruits may make them a super food 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 along with 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 conducted in 2014 suggested that intake of dates may aid in weight gain. However, another animal study done in 2016 indicated no such increase in weight. Given the conflicting reports, more research is needed to support this benefit.
May Promote Natural Labor
Eating dates may help promote natural labor and also ease late-term labor for pregnant women. A 2017 study published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology found that 154 pregnant women, when given dates, did not need to be induced for labor with prostaglandin and oxytocin. Dates also did not have any adverse effects on the mother and the child. Another study found that eating 6 dates daily for 4 weeks before labor significantly reduced the need for labor induction.
How to Eat Dates
Apart from eating them as it 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
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 consumption in moderation and enjoy it as part of a healthy, balanced diet to maximize the potential health benefits.