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Palm fruit has been used in folk remedies for the treatment of various infectious diseases, cancer and immuno-modulatory activity (Puri et al., 2007). Thus, regular consumption of dates found to offer some protection from colon, prostate, breast, endometrial, lung, and pancreatic cancers. Dates are not only a good source of energy but also wonderful means of vitamins, and minerals. Besides nutritional value, date fruits are rich in phenolic compounds and flavonoid constituents with free radical scavenging and antioxidant activities. Depending on the variety of dates and the degree of ripening, the ratio of both free (protocatechuic acid, vanillic acid, syringic acid, and ferulic acid) and bound phenolic acids (gallic acid, protocatechuic acid, p-hydroxybenzoic acid, vanillic acid, caffeic acid, syringic acid, p-coumaric acid, ferulic acid, and coumaric acid) varies (Al-Farsi et al., 2005; Biglari et al., 2008).
Nutritional Value of Palm Fruit
Health Benefits of Palm Fruit
Aside fats, the major nutrient which palm oil contributes to the diet, Wattanapenpaiboon and Wahlqvist8outline the following minor but nutritionally beneficial components of palm oil
- Palm oil contains α-, β- and γ-carotenes - These are precursors of vitamin A, which prevents night blindness, aids maintenance of tissues and promotes growth. In developing countries like Ghana where vitamin A deficiency is a major problem among both adults and children, using palm oil in meals in moderate amounts is a relatively affordable means of ensuring adequate vitamin A intake.
- Alzheimer's disease (AD) - is characterized by a progressive loss of cognitive function, occurring parallel to granulovacuolar degeneration, the deposition of β-amyloid amyloid beta (Aβ) in extracellular plaques and in the cerebrovasculature, and the formation of intracellular neurofibrillary tangles containing hyperphosphorylated tau protein in neurons. The AD is the third leading cause of death after cardiovascular disease and cancer and affects more than 25 million individuals worldwide. At present, the number of patients suffering from the AD is rising continually worldwide and represents one of the biggest challenges for most societies throughout the world. Although the etiology of AD remains unclear, increased oxidative stress has been reported to be an important underlying cause of neurodegeneration in the AD.
- Source of phytosterols - such as sitosterol, stigmasterol, and campesterol. These lipophilic sterols are easily absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract and then converted through a series of enzymatic reactions into cholesterol, which is a major precursor of steroid hormones.
- Squalene - present in palm oil, when in excess amounts has been found to possess a negative feedback inhibition activity on the function of HMG-CoA reductase, an enzyme involved in the production of cholesterol in the liver. Thus, a moderate use of palm oil is likely to be beneficial for blood lipid profiles.
- Palm oil is rich in vitamin E - which is composed mainly of tocopherols and tocotrienols. These compounds act as potent antioxidants that make it relatively stable to oxidation. Both animal and human studies show that tocotrienols could reduce plasma cholesterol, apolipoprotein B, thromboxane B2, and platelet factor IV. They could also inhibit or delay the oxidative deterioration of cellular membranes. This makes palm oil protects against chronic conditions like cancer which is currently emerging in developing countries like Ghana.
- Wonderfully delicious - dates are one of the most popular fruits packed with an impressive list of phytonutrients, vitamins, and minerals that are essential for normal growth, development, and overall well-being.
- Fresh dates compose of soft - easily digestible flesh and simple sugars like fructose and dextrose. 100 g of Medjool dates hold 277 calories. When eaten, they replenish energy and revitalize the body instantly. For these qualities, they traditionally served to break the fast during Ramadan month since ancient times.
- The fruit is rich in dietary fiber - which prevents LDL cholesterol absorption in the gut. Additionally, the fiber diet works as a bulk laxative. It, thus, helps protect the colon mucous membrane from cancer-causing chemicals binding to it in the colon.
- Anti-infective, anti-inflammatory - They contain health benefiting flavonoid polyphenolic antioxidants known as tannins. Tannins are known to possess anti-infective, anti-inflammatory, and anti-hemorrhagic (prevent easy bleeding tendencies) properties.
- 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 for maintaining healthy mucosa and skin. Consumption of natural fruits rich in vitamin-A is known to help protect from lung and oral cavity cancers.
- 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 older adults.
- Palm Dates are an excellent source of iron - carry 0.90 mg/100 g of fruits (about 11% of RDI). Iron, being a component of hemoglobin inside the red blood cells, determines the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood.
- Excellent sources of potassium - 100 g contains 696 mg or 16% of daily recommended levels of this electrolyte. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that help regulate heart rate and blood pressure. They, thus, offer protection against stroke and coronary heart diseases.
- Source of mineral - Date fruits are also rich in minerals like calcium, manganese, copper, and magnesium. Calcium is an important mineral that is an essential constituent of bone and teeth and required by the body for muscle contraction, blood clotting, and nerve impulse conduction. The human body uses manganese as a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase. Copper required for the production of red blood cells. Magnesium is essential for bone growth.
- Pyridoxine (vitamin B-6) - Further, the fruit has moderate levels of the B-complex group of vitamins as well as vitamin-K. It contains healthy amounts of pyridoxine (vitamin B-6), niacin, pantothenic acid, and riboflavin. These vitamins are acting as cofactors help the body metabolize carbohydrates, protein, and fats. Vitamin-K is essential for many coagulant factors in the blood as well as in bone metabolism.