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 their heavenly taste and nutrition.
This fruit is also consumed in dried form, mainly in the West. One can quickly 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 wide varieties, among which Medjool and Deglet Noor are the most common. Fresh dates have a ‘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 are thus called ‘nature’s power fruit.’
12 Health Benefits of Dates
As they contain several essential nutrients, dates have many uses and health benefits. Here are a few of those:
1. Dates are highly nutritious.
Dates have an excellent nutrition profile. The calorie content is higher in dried fruit and is similar to other dried fruits like figs and raisins. Dates are high in carbs, which are responsible for most calories. The rest of the calories come from a tiny amount of protein. Apart from the calories, dates contain a lot of vitamins, essential minerals, and a substantial amount of fiber.
One 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of dates has the nutrition profile as follows:
- 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.
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.
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 it also lowers your risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, and certain kinds of cancer.
By including dates in your diet, you can quickly 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 consume enough fiber, your digestive health will improve. Eating dates every day is one of the most effective solutions for those suffering from constipation. In one study, people who consumed seven dates per day for 21 days experienced improvements in stool frequency and a significant increase in bowel movements.
The fiber in dates can help with blood sugar control. That is because fiber slows digestion and can help prevent blood sugar from ramping 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 your immune system owing to their enriched antioxidant content. The antioxidant content in dates is even higher than 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 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, which 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 help reduce labor time.
In one study, women who ate six days every day for four weeks before their due date had a 20 percent more chance of going into labor naturally. Moreover, those women were in labor for less time than those who did not eat dates.
In another study, researchers found that women who consumed dates were less likely to need induced labor than those who did not eat dates.
While many experts opine that eating dates can help promote labor and reduce labor duration, there is much 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 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 suggests that dates help reduce inflammatory markers like the brain’s interleukin 6 (IL-6). 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 disease 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 and reduce anxiety-related behaviors.
Experts attribute this potential brain-boosting characteristic of dates to the fruit’s antioxidant content that alleviates inflammation.
Nevertheless, human studies are still required to verify if dates play any role in improving brain health.
7. Dates decrease cholesterol.
Dates prove to be very helpful in maintaining healthy cholesterol levels. Their consumption increases your insoluble and soluble fiber intake, which can naturally lower cholesterol significantly.
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 accumulates in the blood, it causes sticky deposits along the artery walls. These deposits can block blood flow 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 Medjool, can improve your heart health. A study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry states that consuming 100 grams of Medjool or Hallway dates daily can reduce 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; dates can help you with that.
9. Dates are natural sweeteners.
Dates contain fructose, 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 to 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, it would be best if you remembered that even though dates are high in nutrients and fiber, they still contain many calories. Therefore, they should be consumed in moderation.
10. Dates are rich in magnesium.
Dates are a great source of magnesium, which is 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. At the same time, 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 your 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. You can rely on dates if you want to increase your potassium intake. Notably, Potassium is an essential element for the growth of your body.
It also plays an essential 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, 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 to grow, repair, and maintain all cells and tissues. It is also required to create the genetic building blocks, 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.
Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the human body. It is vital for the maintenance and development of strong bones and teeth.
Calcium helps nerves, muscles, heart, and other body systems work correctly. 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 your calcium and phosphorus intake.
It is better to consume the right food now than to eat a bunch of medicines later. Therefore, you should be mindful of 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 can you replace your empty-calorie sweets, but they can also provide you with many health benefits. You can use dates to sweeten marinades, sauces, and salad dressings while retaining the healthy demeanor of these foods. You can also use them as a binder for baked goods like bars and cookies.