The powerful health benefits of dates include providing an energy boost, increasing iron in the body, and aiding digestion. Rich in various nutrients, fiber, and antioxidants, dates are popular throughout the world. These dried fruits are beneficial in treating various conditions due to their anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-tumor properties.
What are Dates?
Dates are the sweet, chewy fruit of the date palm tree (Phoenix dactyliferous). Dates have been the staple food of the Middle East for thousands of years. Muslims consider date palms and dates sacred, and throughout the religious fasting period of Ramadan, these dried fruits are a common ingredient in the diet. Each date is about 60 to 70 percent sugar and has 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 helps fight anemia.
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.
According to USDA Food Data Central, 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 also contain important vitamins such as thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, folate, vitamin A, and vitamin K.
A 2008 review published in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition journal by Cornell researchers Chang Yong Lee and Mohamed Ali Al-Farsi suggests that over 15% of the daily requirement of essential minerals such as copper, potassium, magnesium, and selenium can be fulfilled by consuming 100 grams, or about 4 pitted dates per day.
Let us look at some of the key health benefits of dates in detail below.
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 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.
People who follow Islam and observe fasting break their fast by eating them along with water. This also helps avoid overeating of food once the fast is over.
May Boost Brain Health
A study led by Musthafa Mohamed Essa, Ph.D. et al. suggests that dates 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 could potentially help slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
May Help 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 promotes 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.
Relief from Intestinal Disorders
Research suggests dates contain insoluble and soluble fibers, as well as many beneficial amino acids which can stimulate the digestion of food and ensure quick passage through the gastrointestinal tract. According to a review published in the Journal of Nutrition Reviews, the fiber may also aid in the treatment of conditions like gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), diverticulitis, and hemorrhoids.
Give Relief from Anemia
Dates are a good source of many nutrients, including iron. A deficiency of iron can contribute to anemia, a condition characterized by fatigue, dizziness, brittle nails, and shortness of breath. Fortunately, increasing your intake of iron-rich foods such as dates could help provide relief from anemia symptoms.
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.
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 has been used to treat male infertility in traditional medicine.
Therefore, if you are looking for an easy way to boost 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.
Prevent Night Blindness
According to an article in the Heart Views journal, dates are rich in carotenoids, which may help prevent night blindness and preserve healthy vision.
Help Treat Chronic Diarrhea
According to an article published by the Columbia University Medical Center, foods rich in potassium such as dates can help replace and replete electrolytes that you may have lost due to chronic diarrhea. Thanks to their high fiber content, they can also aid in digestion and may alleviate the unpredictable nature of chronic diarrhea.
Aid Bone Health
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 amongst 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 make them a superfood for strengthening bones and fighting off painful and debilitating diseases like osteoporosis.
Organic pitted dates contain selenium, manganese, copper, and magnesium, all of which may aid in managing bone health, particularly amongst 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.
Aid in Relieving Symptoms of SAR
According to a study conducted in 2012, dates may have a positive impact on SAR (Seasonal Allergic Rhinitis), a condition that affects approximately 30 million people in the United States alone. The study published in Inflammatory Research found that date palm immunotherapy was effective at decreasing several markers of inflammation in patients with allergic rhinitis.
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.
Where to Buy?
Dates are easily available in supermarkets, grocery stores, and online. Make sure you select the type that provides all the benefits you are looking for. Some of the popular varieties include:
- Organic Medjool dates
- Noor dates
- Ajwa dates
How to Eat?
Apart from eating them as is, people consume them in several ways.
- Mix the paste of the dates with milk and yogurt.
- Use the dates 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
- How To Make Sheer Khurma (Milk With Dates)
- Delicious Bacon-Wrapped Dates Recipe
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 attracts various impurities.
Finally, keep in mind that dried dates are relatively high in sugar and calories, which can contribute to weight gain and other health issues if consumed in excess. Therefore, it’s best to keep intake in moderation and enjoy as part of a healthy, balanced diet to maximize the potential health benefits.