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 benefits of dates.
Which is why we have this post. Keep reading.
Table Of Contents
- What Are Dates?
- What About Their History?
- What Are The Types Of Dates?
- Are Dates Good For You?
- What Nutrients Do Dates Contain?
- What Are The Benefits Of Dates?
- Any Benefits With Insufficient Evidence?
- What Are The Best Ways To Eat Dates?
- Fresh Dates Vs Dry Dates – What Is The Difference?
- Any Popular Date Recipe?
- How About The Selection And Storage?
What Are Dates Fruit?
Also known as date palm (khajoor in Hindi), 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
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.
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.
|Principle||Nutrient Value||Percentage of RDA|
|Total Fat||0.15 g||<1%|
|Dietary Fiber||6.7 g||18%|
|Pantothenic acid||0.805 mg||16%|
|Vitamin C||0 mg||0%|
|Vitamin K||2.7 µg||2%|
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.
Benefits Of Dates
1. Relieve 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
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.
15. Improve Skin Health
Dates contain vitamins C and D that work on the skin elasticity. The fruits can also help combat skin issues – you can incorporate dates into your diet and see the results in the long run.
Dates also come with anti-aging benefits; they prevent the accumulation of melanin in your body, which otherwise has undesirable effects.
We know that hormones play a major role in skin aging and appearance. Date palm kernel extract is known to have phytohormones that exhibit significant anti-aging effects. The extract can combat wrinkles too (23).
16. Prevent Hair Loss
Being rich in iron, dates promote blood circulation to the scalp and promote hair growth. This happens as oxygen is properly dispersed to your entire body, your scalp included. This ultimately prevents hair loss and stimulates new hair growth.
17. Prevent Inflammation
As per a report by a popular online library, date palms contain components that fight inflammation (24).
Dates also contain good amounts of magnesium – a mineral that is important for immune functioning. If your diet is low in magnesium (which is the case with most regular diets), your immune system cannot be strong enough to fight inflammation.
18. Support Healthy Pregnancy
One way dates help pregnant women is through their calories. Pregnant women need about 300 calories more than their non-pregnant peers. But most pregnant women tend to choose high-calorie foods that are low in nutrients, which is a mistake.
This is where dates can help. Though a little high in calories, they are immensely nutrient-dense.
And we have already seen how the fiber in dates prevents pregnancy hemorrhoids.
According to a Jordan study, consuming dates in the last four weeks before labor can produce more favorable outcomes (25).
Dates are also known to strengthen the muscles of the uterus in the last months of pregnancy.
That’s about the benefits. We have a few more, but there is no adequate evidence to back them up. But no harm in knowing about them, right?
So, here you go.
Insufficient Evidence For
1. Treat Intestinal Disorders
The fiber in dates sure does have a beneficial effect. But too many dates can overwhelm the bacteria in the large intestine and cause gas.
Certain studies say dates contain nicotine that helps treat intestinal disorders.
2. Aid In Anemia Treatment
Dates contain iron, and they sure must help combat anemia. But not many studies exist that support this fact.
3. Enhance Sexual Health
We already saw that dates can enhance male fertility. A few studies say that dates are rich in amino acids that increase sexual stamina.
4. Promote Muscle Development
This has to do with carbs. Though they are often looked down upon, if you don’t get enough of them, your body might burn your muscles instead for energy. Dates, being high-carb fruits, might help in muscle development.
5. Help Reduce Belly Fat
The fiber in dates gets the credit again. It makes you feel satiated and discourages overeating. Also, since they are sweet, they might satisfy your sweet tooth without having to opt for a less healthier alternative.
All good. But what is the best way to eat dates? How to include them in your diet?
What Are The Best Ways To Eat Dates?
We don’t have any one single best way to take dates. But we have numerous great ones!
- You can take them as a stuffed snack. Remove the pits and include dates with walnuts, almonds, cashews, and pecans for a delightful snack.
- You can also mix diced dates with your breakfast cereal.
- Wrap dates with tuna or chicken salad and other vegetables.
- You can dice dates and serve them along with frozen vanilla yogurt.
- The simplest – enjoy dates as they are.
You can also soak dates (the dry ones) to rehydrate them, and then eat them. And date syrup works well too. It has antibacterial properties that, as per certain studies, are more effective than those of honey.
And wait, what’s the deal with fresh and dry dates? Are they the same?
Fresh Dates Vs Dry Dates
What is the difference?
Fresh dates are soft, and dry dates, well, are harder. They contain less moisture than fresh dates.
Then, we have dried dates, which could be fresh as well. These are fresh soft dates that are deliberately dried over a period.
From a nutritional standpoint, though there is no big difference between fresh dates and dry dates, there is some difference between fresh dates and dried dates.
Dried dates have double the amount of carbohydrates than fresh dates. They are also a better source of fiber. Dried dates also contain higher levels of calcium and iron, but fresh dates win in vitamin C.
You can consume dates any way you want. Or you can try this wonderful recipe.
Any Popular Date Recipe?
What You Need
- Whole milkshake
- A handful of good quality dates
Mix the two ingredients. You can also add walnuts, cashews, and almonds to make it more nutritious.
Selection and storage of dates are important as well.
Selection And Storage
- Dates are generally sold whole, packaged in narrow boxes, or pressed into blocks.
- While buying fresh dates, look for plump, moist, and unbruised fruits that are soft with glossy skins.
- Fresh dates can be slightly wrinkled, but they should not feel hard and have crystallized sugar on their skins.
- Fresh and dried dates have a similar appearance, except that dried dates are a little wrinkly.
- They should look plump and glossy and have an even color.
- Fresh dates, when kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator, can be stored for up to 6 months.
- Dried dates, having a longer shelf life, can be stored in the same manner for up to 1 year.
- Freezing the dates extends their lifespan when kept in an airtight plastic bag or container.
Have more questions? Here you go.
Expert’s Answers for Readers Questions
Is date a nut?
Date is a fruit of the date palm tree, and not a nut.
How many dates should I eat in a day?
About 3 to 5 dates a day would do.
What is the benefit of drinking milk with dates?
In addition to getting all the benefits of dates that we have listed, you’ll also get the added goodness of calcium. This could be a superb diet to boost growth and maintain your overall health.
Can I have dates with tea?
Yes. But keep in mind that 100 grams of dates have about 60 grams of sugar. So, ensure your tea doesn’t have added sugar.
Can diabetics eat dates?
Though dates are high in sugar, they are also good sources of fiber that can benefit diabetics. However, check with your health care provider.
Is eating an odd number of dates more healthy?
If you truly believe that, then yes. The placebo effect, you see. Otherwise eating dates in odd or even numbers makes no difference.
Can dates be eaten daily?
How many dates should I eat for treating constipation?
There is no specific number. But if you stick to normal amounts of dates every day, you may not even suffer from constipation in the first place.
What are the health benefits of jujube dates?
Also called Chinese dates (or red dates as well), they help treat insomnia and anxiety. They also improve immunity and liver function.
No wonder dates are loved all over! Grab a pack today and include them in your diet right away.
And yes, tell us how this post has helped you. Comment in the box below.
- “Effects of Dates Pulp Extract and Palm Sap…”. Institut Supérieur de Biotechnologie de Béja, Tunisia. 2014 July.
- “Constipation”. University of Rochester Medical Center.
- “The new secret to preventing a heart attack? Half a glass of pomegranate juice and three dates a day”. Daily Mail. 2015 April.
- “Studying the health benefits of dates”. Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar. 2016 June.
- “Dietary fiber intake and risk of cardiovascular disease”. University of Leeds, UK. 2013 December.
- “Fiber and Prebiotics: Mechanisms and Health Benefits”. University of Minnesota, USA. 2013 April.
- “Effects of date ( Phoenix dactylifera L., Medjool or Hallawi Variety) consumption by healthy subjects on serum glucose and lipid levels”. Rappaport Faculty of Medicine, Haifa, Israel. 2009 September.
- “What are dates good for?” Dr. Mercola.
- “Nourish your bones”. North Dakota State University.
- “7 Foods Science Proves Will Help Lower Your Blood Pressure”. Huffington Post. 2014 April.
- “Beating high blood pressure with food”. Harvard Medical School. 2010 October.
- “Exploring scientifically proven herbal aphrodisiacs”. Department of Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry, New Delhi, India.
- “Diarrhea”. Columbia University Medical Center.
- “Beneficial effects of date palm fruits on neurodegenerative diseases”. Sultan Qaboos University, Muscat, Oman. 2016 July.
- “Diet rich in date palm fruits improves memory, learning and…” Macquarie University, NSW, Australia. 2015 April.
- “Long-Term Dietary Supplementation of Pomegranates, Figs and Dates Alleviate Neuroinflammation…”. National Institutes of Health, Rockville, USA. 2015 March.
- “The impact of date palm fruits and their component polyphenols, on gut microbial ecology…” University of Reading, UK. 2014 October.
- “Date Palm Tree (Phoenix dactylifera L.): Natural Products and Therapeutic Options”. Sultan Qaboos University, Muscat, Oman. 2017 May.
- “Effect of Feeding Date Pits on Milk Production…” King Faisal University, Saudi Arabia. 2016 April.
- “Night Blindness and Ancient Remedy”. Hamad Medical Corporation, Doha, Qatar. 2014 October.
- “Kitchen Clinic: Good Health Always With Charmaine”. By Charmaine D’Souza
- “Enhancing date palm processing, marketing…” Environmental Sciences and Research Institute Shahid Behesti University, Tehran, Iran.
- “Date palm kernel extract exhibits antiaging properties…” Vincience Research Center, France. 2002.
- “Antioxidant and Anti-Inflammatory Properties of Widely Consumed Date Palm…” Journal of Food Biochemistry. 2016 January.
- “The effect of late pregnancy consumption of date fruit on labour and delivery”. Jordan University of Science and Technology, Irbid, Jordan. 2011.
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