At a glance......
Dates is a flowering plant species in the palm family, Arecaceae, cultivated for its edible sweet fruit. Although its place of origin is unknown because of long cultivation, it probably originated from the Fertile Crescent region straddling between Egypt and Mesopotamia.
Dates are sweet fruits of date palm tree scientifically known as Phoenix dactylifera. They are one of the best versatile foods that can regulate the digestive process and have gained popularity in the recent times. Date palm trees are cultivated all over the world especially across tropical regions. They can significantly boost energy levels in people within half an hour of consumption. You can also use in your smoothies or desserts as a sweetener.
Types of Dates Fruit
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.
Nutritional Value of Dates
Health Benefits of
Let us look at some of the key benefits in detail below.
Natural antioxidants in date flesh and seeds
Studies on antioxidant properties of some date fruits obtained from various countries are summarized in . The total antioxidant activity of dates, measured using the ORAC-fluorescent assay, ranged 8212–12,543 μM/g and was higher than other fruits including elderberry and bilberry . In fact, date fruits were found to have the second highest antioxidant activity among 28 fruits commonly consumed in China . Date fruits are known to contain high levels and wide range of phenolic antioxidants, e.g. the total content of soluble phenolic compounds in three sun-dried Omani date varieties ranged 217–343 mg of ferulic acid equivalents/100 g, which are high when compared to other fruits . The total antioxidant activity in dates decreased upon storage at ambient temperature possibly due to the conversion of soluble tannins into insoluble tannins  and/or to enzymatic oxidation and disappearance of flavans and caffeoyl shikimic acid , .
- High in Fiber – Getting enough fiber is important for your overall health. With almost 7 grams of fiber in a 3.5-ounce serving, including dates in your diet is a great way to increase your fiber intake . Fiber can benefit your digestive health by preventing constipation. It promotes regular bowel movements by contributing to the formation of stool . In one study, 21 people who consumed 7 dates per day for 21 days experienced improvements in stool frequency and had a significant increase in bowel movements compared to when they did not eat dates .Furthermore, the fiber in dates may be beneficial for blood sugar control. Fiber slows digestion and may help prevent blood sugar levels from spiking too high after eating .For this reason, dates have a low glycemic index (GI), which measures how quickly your blood sugar rises after eating a certain food .
- High in Disease-Fighting Antioxidants – Dates provide various antioxidants that have a number of health benefits to offer, including a reduced risk of several diseases. Antioxidants protect your cells from free radicals, which are unstable molecules that may cause harmful reactions in your body and lead to disease . Compared to similar types of fruit, such as figs and dried plums, dates appear to have the highest antioxidant content .Here’s an overview of the three most potent antioxidants in dates ,Flavonoids are powerful antioxidants that may help reduce inflammation and have been studied for their potential to reduce the risk of diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and certain types of cancer (18, 19). Carotenoids are proven to promote heart health and may also reduce the risk of eye-related disorders, such as macular degeneration (20, 21). Known for its anti-inflammatory properties, phenolic acid may help lower the risk of cancer and heart disease (22, 23).
- May Promote Brain Health – Eating dates may help improve brain function. Laboratory studies have found dates to be helpful for lowering inflammatory markers, such as interleukin 6 (IL-6), in the brain. High levels of IL-6 are associated with a higher risk of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s (24, 25). Additionally, animal studies have shown dates to be helpful for reducing the activity of amyloid beta proteins, which can form plaques in the brain (26). When plaques accumulate in the brain, they may disturb communication between brain cells, which can ultimately lead to brain cell death and Alzheimer’s disease (27). One animal study found that mice fed food mixed with dates had significantly better memory and learning ability, as well as less anxiety-related behaviors, compared to those that did not eat them (28). The potential brain-boosting properties of dates have been attributed to their content of antioxidants known to reduce inflammation, including flavonoids (29).
- May Promote Natural Labor – Dates have been studied for their potential to promote and ease late-term labor in pregnant women.Eating these fruits throughout the last few weeks of pregnancy may promote cervical dilation and lower the need for induced labor. They may also be helpful for reducing labor time (30). In one study, women who consumed 6 dates per day for 4 weeks prior to their due date were 20% more likely to go into labor naturally and were in labor for significantly less time than those who did not eat them (31). Another study of 154 pregnant women found that those who ate dates were much less likely to be induced compared to those who did not (32). A third study found similar results in 91 pregnant women who consumed 70–76 grams of dates daily starting the 37th week of pregnancy. They were in active labor for an average of fewer hours than those who did not eat dates (33).The role dates may have in pregnancy is likely due to compounds that bind to oxytocin receptors and appear to mimic the effects of oxytocin in the body. Oxytocin is a hormone that causes labor contractions during childbirth (34, 35).
- Strengthen Bones – A study published in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition journal suggests that significant amounts of minerals such as phosphorus, potassium, and calcium found in dry 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 are integral to healthy bone development and strength, particularly as people age, their bones gradually weaken.
- Good Source of Energy – Dates are high in natural sugars like glucose, fructose, and sucrose. Therefore, they are the perfect snack for an immediate burst of energy. Many people around the world eat for a quick afternoon snack when they are feeling lethargic or sluggish. Often when you exercise in a gym, outside or even on a stretching machine at home, you feel exhausted. In one study published in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, it was found that chewing a few at such times helps you regain your energy immediately.
- Boost Brain Health – The vitamins present in dates make it an ideal boost to nervous system health and functionality. Potassium is one of the prime ingredients in promoting a healthy and responsive nervous system, and it also improves the speed and alertness of the brain activity.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”.
- Dates Rich in Fiber Relieve Constipation – Dates are often categorized as a laxative food. This is why they are so frequently eaten by people suffering from constipation. In order to achieve the desired laxative effect of dates, soak some of them in water overnight, then consume in the morning when they turn into a to get the most optimal results. According to a research on the effects of fiber on dietary constipation, foods rich in fiber are essential in promoting healthy bowel movements and comfortable passage of food through the intestinal tract. Dates have high levels of soluble fiber and thus can help relieve the symptoms of constipation.
- Treat Intestinal Disorders – The nicotine content in dates is thought to be beneficial for curing many kinds of intestinal disorders. Continuous intake helps inhibit the growth of the pathological organisms and thus, help stimulate the growth of friendly bacteria in the intestines. In terms of digestive issues, they contain insoluble and soluble fibers, as well as many beneficial amino acids which can stimulate the digestion of food and make them more efficient, meaning that more nutrients will be absorbed by the digestive tract and enter your body for proper usage.
- Treat Anemia – Dates have a high mineral content, which is beneficial for many different health conditions but their impressive levels of iron make them a perfect dietary supplement for people suffering from anemia. The high levels of iron in dates balance out the inherent lack of iron in anemic patients, increasing energy and strength while decreasing feelings of fatigue and sluggishness. You can even add to your cereal and porridge.
- Cure Allergies such as SAR – One of the most interesting facets of dates is the presence of organic sulfur in them. This is not a very common element to find in foods, but it does have a worthwhile amount of health benefits, including the reduction of allergic reactions and seasonal allergies.According to a study done in 2002, organic sulfur compounds can have a positive impact on the amount of suffering people experience from SAR (Seasonal Allergic Rhinitis), which affects approximately 23 million people in the United States alone.
- Dates Promote Healthy Weight Gain – Dates should be included as a part of a healthy diet as they are rich in sugar, proteins, and many essential vitamins. If dates are consumed with cucumber paste, you can keep your weight at a normal, balanced level.
- Promote Heart Health – Dates are quite helpful in keeping your heart healthy. When they are soaked overnight, crushed in the morning and then consumed, they have been shown to have a positive effect on weak hearts. They are also a rich source of potassium, which studies have shown to reduce the risk of stroke and other heart-related diseases.
- Treat Sexual Weakness – Studies have shown that dates are even beneficial for increasing sexual stamina. 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. This mixture becomes a very useful tonic for increasing sexual endurance and reducing sterility caused by various sexual disorders. The science behind this phenomenon is largely due to traditional usage which stimulated formal research. In 2006, a study revealed the effects of date palms and their oil on sexual functioning and found that the high levels of estradiol and flavonoid components of dates are what increase sperm count and motility, as well as promoting increased testes size and weight. So, if you are looking for a masculine boost, eat , because they are a great natural aphrodisiac
- Prevent Night Blindness – The benefits of dates are extensive and are commonly employed to fight off various conditions affecting the ear, nose, and throat. According to research, the vitamin A in dates helps prevent night blindness. Dates and their leaves help reduce the frequency of night blindness and are commonly used in rural areas where dates grow and are used as an alternative medicine. The leaves of the date palm are ground into a paste and rubbed on and around the eyes, or dates are ingested orally for preventing night blindness.
- Relieve Alcoholic Intoxication – Dates are commonly used as a remedy for alcoholic intoxication. They provide quick relief and have a sobering effect in case you feel as though you have consumed an uncomfortable amount of alcohol.
- Treat Chronic Diarrhea – According to a research published in Cornell University, dates are high in dietary fiber and antioxidants, which help relieve diarrhea, by providing bulk to the bowel movements and promoting normal, healthy functioning of the excretory system. Ripe dates contain potassium, which is known as an effective way of controlling diarrhea. They are also easy to digest, which further helps alleviate the unpredictable nature of chronic diarrhea.
- Reduce risk of Abdominal Cancer – Research has pointed towards dates being a legitimate way to reduce the risk and impact of abdominal cancer. They work as a useful tonic for all age groups, and in some cases, they work better than traditional medicines.
- They are minor sources of vitamin-A (contains 149 IU or 5% of RDA per 100 g), which is known to have antioxidant properties and essential for vision. Additionally, it is also required maintaining healthy mucosa and skin. Consumption of natural fruits rich in vitamin-A is known to help protect from lung and oral cavity cancers.
- They compose antioxidant flavonoids such as ß-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin. These antioxidants found to have the ability to protect cells and other structures in the body from harmful effects of oxygen-free radicals. Thus, eating dates found to offer some protection from colon, prostate, breast, endometrial, lung, and pancreatic cancers.
- Zeaxanthin is an important dietary carotenoid that selectively absorbed into the retinal macula lutea, where it thought to provide antioxidant and protective light-filtering functions. It thus offers protection against age-related macular degeneration, especially in the older adults.