Dates are the fruit of the date palm tree. Date palm holds its origin in the Persian Gulf in ancient times. Wherever its origin lies, it is among today’s most cherished fruits, given its heavenly taste and nutrition.
This fruit is also consumed in dried form, mostly in the West. One can easily identify if the date is dried or not. The wrinkled skin is a telltale sign that the dates are dried while the smooth skin represents freshness.
Dates come in many varieties among which Medjool and Deglet Noor are the most common. Fresh dates have ‘melt-in-mouth’ quality while the dried dates are chewy.
The fruit has a strong sweet flavor because of its high-sugar content. That is the reason many people consider it bad for health. However, that is not the case in reality. In fact, dates are packed with nutrients and thus called ‘nature’s power fruit’.
12 Health Benefits of Dates
As they contain several important nutrients, dates have many uses and health benefits. Here are a few of those:
1. Dates are highly nutritious.
Dates have an amazing nutrition profile. The calories content is higher in the dried fruit and is similar to other dried fruits like figs and raisins.
Dates are high in carbs, which are responsible for most of the calories. The rest of the calories come from a very small amount of protein. Apart from the calories, dates contain a lot of vitamins and essential minerals along with a substantial amount of fiber.
One 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of dates has the nutrition profile as follow:
- Calories: 277
- Fiber: 7 grams
- Carbs: 75 grams
- Protein: 2 grams
- Magnesium: 14 percent of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI)
- Potassium: 20 percent of the RDI
- Manganese: 15 percent of the RDI
- Copper: 18 percent of the RDI
- Iron: 5 percent of the RDI
- Vitamin B6: 12 percent of the RDI
2. Dates are an excellent energy source.
You may know that carbohydrates are your body’s primary source of energy. This source is present in abundance in dates. One cup of dates contains 110 grams of carb.
Whereas, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 report, one should take 45 percent to 65 percent of calories from carbohydrates. The usual calorie requirement a day is 2000 calories for a moderately active adult, which means 225 to 235 grams of calories should come from carbohydrates.
It means that consuming a date smoothie can fulfill most of your carbs requirements.
3. Dates are packed with fiber.
Dietary fiber is an essential component of a healthy diet. Not only that it helps maintain a healthy weight but also lowers your risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, and certain kinds of cancer.
By including dates in your diet, you can easily get enough fiber. A 3.5-ounce serving of dates can give you 7 grams of fiber. However, this amount does not fulfill your recommended daily intake requirement of fiber, which is 25-30 grams.
If you are consuming enough amount of fiber, your digestive health will improve. For those, who suffer from constipation, eating dates every day is one of the most effective solutions.
In one study, people who consumed seven dates per day for 21 days experienced improvements in stool frequency and also a significant increase in bowel movements.
The fiber in dates can help with the blood sugar control. That is because fiber slows digestion and can help prevent the blood sugar to ramp up after eating.
Moreover, the dates have a low glycemic index (GI). GI is the indicator of how sugar rises after consuming specific food.
4. Dates are high in antioxidants.
Dates are high in antioxidants that offer several health benefits including a lower risk of developing diseases. Antioxidants protect your cells against free radicals that destabilize molecules and lead to harmful reactions in your body. They can cause many diseases.
Dates can help with your immune system owing to their enriched antioxidant content. The antioxidant content in dates is even higher than that present in figs and dried plums.
The three most potent antioxidants present in dates include:
• Carotenoids: These powerful antioxidants can promote heart health and reduce the risk of eye-related disorders like macular degeneration.
• Flavonoids: This antioxidant can help reduce the inflammation. Evidence has it that it can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, and several kinds of cancer.
• Phenolic Acid: It has anti-inflammatory properties, owing to which, it can help reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease.
5. Dates ease natural labor.
Dates have been studied for their capability to ease and promote late-term labor in pregnant women. Eating dates throughout the last few weeks of pregnancy can help with cervical dilation and remove the need for induced labor.
According to some studies, they can also be helpful in reducing labor time.
In one study, women who ate six days every day for four weeks earlier than their due date had 20 percent more chance to go into labor naturally. Moreover, those women were in labor for prominently less time than the women who did not eat dates.
In another study, researchers found that women who consumed dates were way less likely to need induced labor as compared to those who did not eat dates.
While many experts opine that eating dates can help promote labor and cut down on the labor duration, there is a lot of room for research to confirm this premise.
According to some experts, dates play a role in pregnancy because they contain compounds that adhere to oxytocin receptors and seem to imitate the oxytocin effects in the body. Notably, oxytocin is the hormone responsible for labor contractions during childbirth.
Apart from that, dates are also composed of tannins. Tannins are the compounds that are believed to help aid contractions.
The fruit is also a great source of calories and natural sugar. Both are necessary to maintain energy levels during labor.
6. Dates promote brain health.
Consuming dates can improve brain health. Evidence has it that dates are helpful in reducing the inflammatory markers like interleukin 6 (IL-6) in the brain. IL-6 in high levels is linked to an increased risk of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.
Moreover, animal studies have indicated that dates impact the activity of amyloid beta proteins that can form plaques in the brain.
You should know that the accumulation of plaques can disrupt communication between brain cells. This situation eventually leads to Alzheimer’s diseases and brain cell death. Therefore, this property of dates holds significance.
In fact, one animal study has found that dates can significantly improve memory and learning ability along with reducing anxiety-related behaviors.
Experts attribute this potential brain-boosting characteristic of dates with the fruit’s antioxidant content that alleviates inflammation.
Nevertheless, human studies are still required to verify if dates play any role in the improvement of brain health.
7. Dates decrease cholesterol.
Dates prove to be very helpful in maintaining healthy cholesterol levels. With their consumption, your insoluble and soluble fiber intake increases that can naturally lower cholesterol by a great deal.
The fruit is known to reduce the low-density lipoprotein (LDL), the bad cholesterol. LDL is the major contributor to heart attacks and stroke.
When cholesterol starts accumulating in blood, it causes sticky deposits to form along the artery walls. These deposits can block or narrow the flow of blood to the heart, brain, or other organs.
Blood cells that are stuck on the deposits form clots that can block the blood flow in an artery. The situation often results in a heart attack or a stroke.
One research in Israel has indicated that several varieties of dates prevent LDL oxidation while stimulating cholesterol removal from macrophages.
8. Dates improve heart health.
Certain varieties of dates including Mejdool can improve your heart health. According to a study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry states that consuming 100 grams of Mejdool or Hallway dates every day can reduce the blood triglyceride levels by 8 percent.
Notably, triglycerides are a kind of fat present in your blood. High levels of triglycerides can raise the risk of heart disease. Therefore, keeping your triglyceride levels is very important, and dates can help you with that.
9. Dates are natural sweeteners.
Dates contain fructose, which is the natural, less harmful kind of sugar found in the fruit. Fructose is the reason dates have a strong sweet taste. Owing to this component, dates can be a healthy, much better substitute in several recipes in place of white sugar, aka, white poison.
If you want to substitute dates with white sugar, make a date paste and add it in your recipe. For making the paste, mix dates with water in a blender. The ratio for replacing sugar with date paste is a 1:1 ratio. For instance, if your recipe requires 1 cup of sugar, you can add one cup of date paste instead.
However, you should keep in mind that even though dates are high in nutrients and fiber, they still contain quite a high amount of calories. Therefore, they should be consumed in moderation.
10. Dates are rich in magnesium.
Dates are a great source of magnesium, which is very crucial for the human body. It helps with protein synthesis, muscle and nerve function, and blood glucose control. It also helps regulate blood pressure.
In fact, the recommended daily intake for men between 19-30 years is 400 milligrams of magnesium every day. Whereas, women of the same age require 310 milligrams of magnesium per day. Moreover, pregnant women need more magnesium.
Consuming dates every day can provide you with enough magnesium. However, eating dates solely will not help you meet the daily requirement. A cup of chopped dates can give at least 15 percent of the RDI for men and 20 percent for women.
11. Dates are rich in potassium.
Dates can be dubbed as potassium powerhouse. If you want to increase your potassium intake, you can rely on dates. Notably, Potassium is an essential element for the growth of your body.
It also plays an important role in building protein and muscle, metabolizing carbohydrates, and controlling your acid-base balance. A cup of chopped dates can provide you with 20.5 percent of the RDI for adults, which is 4,700 milligrams per day.
12. Dates boost bone health.
Dates have several minerals in them, such as potassium, phosphorus, calcium, and magnesium. These minerals are believed to prevent bone-related conditions like osteoporosis. However, more studies are needed to prove that dates can aid in maintaining bone health.
Calcium and phosphorus are very crucial when it comes to bone health. Your body needs phosphorus for the growth, repair, and maintenance of all cells and tissues. It is also required for the creation of the genetic building blocks, i.e., Ribonucleic acid (RNA) and Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA).
This mineral is also required to balance and use other minerals and vitamins like vitamin D, magnesium, zinc, and iodine.
As for Calcium, it is the most abundant mineral in the human body. It is vital for the maintenance and development of strong bones and teeth.
Calcium also helps nerves, muscles, heart, and other body systems to work properly. It is also known for preventing osteoporosis. In fact, when people grow old and their bones get weaker, they are recommended to take a diet high in phosphorus and calcium to prevent or slow down bone degeneration.
Eating a date-inclusive diet can help you with the calcium and phosphorus intake.
It is better to consume the right food now than eating a bunch of medicines later. Therefore, you should be mindful about the content of the food that you eat every day. Moreover, eating healthy does not mean consuming something that does not go along with your taste buds.
Many healthy foods taste pretty good. Dates are one such example. Not only that you can replace your empty-calories sweets, but they can also provide you with a lot of health benefits. You can use dates to sweeten up marinades, sauces, and salad dressings while retaining the healthy demeanor of these foods. You can also use them as a binder in baked goods like bars and cookies.