We love dates. I mean, who doesn’t? These were probably our favorite fruits since childhood! At least for most of us. And the healthiest too. Now that’s something new, isn’t it? While we have always reveled in the taste, seldom have we considered the incredible benefits of dates.
Which is why we have this post. Keep reading.
What Are Dates?
Also popularly known as date palm (Khajoor/Khajur) in Hindi, ‘Tawarikh’ in Arabic and ‘Palmier’ in French.. It is a flowering plant species from the palm family. It is usually cultivated for its sweet fruit.
Scientifically called Phoenix dactylifera, the date fruit is believed to have originated in Iraq. The leaves of the date tree are 4 to 6 meters in length, with spines that have about 150 leaflets. The seeds of the fruit are soaked and ground for animal feed. And their oil is used in cosmetics and soaps. The seeds, at times, are also added as an additive to coffee beans.
While fresh dates are available from August to December, one can purchase dried dates any time of the year.
History Of Dates
For thousands of years, the date fruit has been the staple food of the countries in the Middle East and the Indus Valley. As per records, the ancient Egyptians had used the fruit to make date wine. Date cultivation happened in modern day West Pakistan, way back in 7000 BC. Date consumption eventually spread to South West Asia and Northern Africa and Spain. Subsequently, they were introduced to the West.
According to fossil records, the date palm has existed for as many as 50 million years.
That’s about the history. A brief. But did you know there are different types of dates?
Types Of Dates Fruit
Check out here what are the best types of dates to eat.
Following are the types of dates:
Medjool – Has its origins in Morocco. They are large and delicious. Have a toffee-like flavor.
Barhi – Also called yellow dates, this variety is native to Iraq. They are gentle and have thicker flesh.
Dayri – These dates are lengthy, slim, and black.
Halawy – These are incredibly sweet and small in size.
Deglet Noor – One of the best varieties from Tunisia and Algeria. Semi dry and not too sweet, these dates are usually used in cooking.
Hayani – Grown in Egypt, these dates are gentle and red to black.
Migraf – Popular in southern Yemen, these dates are large and golden amber.
Iteema – These are native to Algeria, and are extremely sweet. Big and oblong.
Of all these, Medjool is supposed to be the most delicious and nutritious variety. It is the most common variety of black dates. They are rich in antioxidants and fiber and abundant in potassium as well.
Ah, wait! I am not going to give away everything here. Dates are indeed good for you. In the next section, you will see more of this in detail.
Are Dates Good For You?
They sure are. There are numerous varieties of the fruit, of which medjool is the most popular. Even otherwise, the benefits of each variety are similar, more or less.
Some of the wonderful ways dates can benefit us is by decreasing cholesterol, treating constipation, and boosting the energy levels and bone health.
You can also choose organic medjool dates – they are large and moist and come with the same health benefits. Or you can choose pitted dates – they come without the pits, are firmer and drier than the medjool variant, and are much easier to chop.
How many calories in dates? Coming to the calorie count, one date contains about 20 calories. It contains 2.8 mg of calcium and 5 g of total carbohydrates.
Dates are also extremely rich in antioxidants, tannins being the most important of them. These tannins prevent cell damage and protect against inflammation. In fact, eating dates on an empty stomach is known to kill intestinal worms.
You can also try ajwa dates, a variant found specifically in the Arab countries.
And by the way, not just for us adults, dates work great for babies as well. The fruit promotes stronger bones and teeth, boosts the immune system, improves weight, offers added nourishment during fever, and cures dysentery.
Dates Nutrition Facts
They are a very rich source of vitamins and minerals and are very beneficial for the body. Read more to know in detail about the nutritional value of dates.
Dates are especially rich in vitamins B6, A, and K. These help in bone development and improve eye health. The fiber in dates enhances intestinal health. It also prevents dangerous ailments like stomach and colon cancers. Other minerals like calcium, iron, potassium, protein, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, and sulfur aid in the overall body functioning. They improve the metabolism and immunity as well. Folate is good for pregnancy. Thiamin (nervous system), niacin (cholesterol levels), and riboflavin (energy production) are the other vitamins the fruit is rich in.
So, that was about the dates nutritional value, now let’s take a deep isight into dates fruit benefits.
Health Benefits Of Dates
The many health benefits of eating dates include constipation relief, regulating cholesterol levels ,intestinal disorders, heart problems, anemia and sexual dysfunctions.
1. Dates For Constipation
As per a study, the date pulp extract stimulates the gastrointestinal transit activity and can aid in treating constipation (1). The pulp of the fruit achieves this by correcting the mineral content deregulation that occurs during constipation. The fibers in dates were also found to prevent cancers of the digestive system.
According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, inadequate intake of fiber could cause constipation (2). Dates, being good sources of fiber, can solve this problem. Eating a minimum of 20 to 35 grams of fiber every day makes your stools soft and prevents the condition. And more importantly, limit your consumption of foods that contain no fiber at all.
2. Improve Heart Health
Just a handful of dates a day was found to improve heart health (3). The antioxidants in dates prevent atherosclerosis, which is basically the arteries getting hard and clogged with plaque. These antioxidants stimulate cholesterol removal from the artery cells.
Dates also contain isoflavones (the second highest of any fruit) that are known to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease (4).
We already saw dates contain fiber. As per one UK study, regular intake of dates has been linked to a lower risk of coronary heart disease (5). Fiber also helps in weight management, which can also lead to heart disease (6).
3. Help Regulate Cholesterol
One of the effective dates benefits. According to one Israeli study, intake of dates, even by healthy individuals, can have beneficial effects on cholesterol levels and oxidative stress (7).
Dates contain no cholesterol. They are also rich in iron and have more fiber than bananas.
4. Improve Bone Health
Dates are rich sources of copper, magnesium, selenium, and manganese – all of which are important to keep your bones healthy and prevent bone-related conditions like osteoporosis.
Dates are also rich in vitamin K, which is a blood coagulant and helps metabolize your bones (8).
As per a report by the North Dakota State University, dates also contain boron that is healthy for the bones (9).
5. Regulates Blood Pressure
Dates are rich in potassium, and the mineral helps lower blood pressure levels (10). One medjool date contains about 167 mg of potassium, which is relatively high compared to other fruits. Not taking adequate potassium can also lead to kidney stones.
One report by the Harvard Medical School discourages the use of drugs for blood pressure. Though certain drugs work well, they might not solve the exact problem. And they also have side effects (11).
Fiber also stabilizes blood sugar levels. It also counterbalances the effects of sodium in your diet – and this lowers blood pressure. The magnesium in the fruit relaxes the muscles in your heart and blood vessels, consequently reducing blood pressure.
6. Enhances Sexual Health
As per an Indian study, the date palm pollen is used in traditional medicine for enhancing male fertility (12).
7. Treat Diarrhea
According to a report by the Columbia University Medical Center, diarrhea can get better or aggravated by the choice of foods you consume. Which is why choosing the right food is important. Dates, being high in potassium, can help improve the condition (13).
8. Promote Brain Health
Dates have been found to offer protection against oxidative stress and inflammation in the brain. Regular consumption of dates and similar fruits has been linked to a lowered risk of neurodegenerative diseases and better cognitive performances in older individuals (14).
Another study has concluded that supplementation of date fruits has the potential to slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s (15).
Another Oman study says that dates can help prevent inflammation in the brain (16).
9. Prevent Colon Cancer
Intake of dates can reduce the development of colorectal cancer (17).
Consumption of dates also increases the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut, and this promotes colon health (18).
10. Boost Energy
The date fruit contains many nutrients that help boost your energy levels. It also contains natural sugars like sucrose, fructose, and glucose – all of which offer an energy boost.
11. Promote Weight Gain
Sounds like an absurd benefit? Of course, who would want to gain weight? But yes, if you are too skinny and are looking to put on some pounds, dates could be one of the additions to your diet.
According to a study conducted on lambs, weight gain was observed (by as much as 30%) following the consumption of ground date seeds (19). This could also be observed in humans, although more research is required.
12. Help Prevent Night Blindness
The primary cause of night blindness is a deficiency in vitamin A. Dates are rich in this vitamin as well and help combat this condition (20). In fact, regions with more date consumption have rare incidences of night blindness.
Dates, the oldest cultivated trees in recorded history, can cure night blindness (21).
13. Prevent Intoxication
Though there is no extensive research on this, we do have something interesting – in parts of northern Nigeria, dates (along with pepper) are added to native beer to make the drink less intoxicating (22).
14. Prevent Hemorrhoids
This holds true, especially in the case of pregnancy. Hemorrhoids are a common complication during pregnancy. And this could be caused by an inadequate fiber intake. Dates, as we saw, are excellent sources of fiber. They can help prevent hemorrhoids during pregnancy.