Thanks to their wrinkled skin and overall shriveled appearance, dates aren’t the most attractive-looking of foods. But don’t be put off by that exterior, as the fruit is not only delicious but very good for you. Yes, whether you’re looking to improve your skin or your digestion – or just to give yourself a bit of an energy boost – dates could be the powerhouse that your diet is missing.
Certainly, there are many health benefits to eating dates – not least because of the valuable nutrients that the fruit contains. A 100-gram serving of medjool dates contains 20 percent of an individual’s recommended daily amount (RDA) of potassium, for instance, as well as 12 percent of the RDA of vitamin B6 and 5 percent of the same in iron.
What’s more, not only do dates taste great, but the fruit could also provide natural solutions to common ailments. Yes, that’s right: health issues that affect both welfare and confidence may be alleviated simply through adding a handful of dates to your meals or by consuming them as a snack.
But before we investigate just how dates may improve your wellbeing, let’s take a closer look at the fruit itself. As some may know, dates are harvested from specimens of Phoenix dactylifera – or the date palm tree – which can be found across parts of Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
And, in fact, the fresh fruit appears very different to the dried examples that we find in supermarkets. These dates are smooth, and their coloring can range from bright red to a vivid shade of yellow before they are processed in preparation for exportation to other countries.
In addition, dates have been around for a very long time: a minimum of 50 million years, according to fossil records. The date palm’s binominal name, meanwhile, comes from Greek – with “dactylifera” aptly translating into English as “date bearing” – while the tree itself is thought to have originally grown in a part of the Middle East that is now known as the “Fertile Crescent.”
In the western world, however, it is more common to see and consume dates when they have been dried. This process can occur both naturally through the sun or in large industrial ovens. And through that method, dates acquire their distinctly furrowed appearance; they also change color to a deep brown.
But how can dates create a new, healthier you? Well, for one, they can help satisfy a sweet tooth without you feeling the need to turn to the cookie jar. And as medjool dates typically come in at just 66 calories each, they’re a better option for a treat than many desserts – making them an excellent aid for weight loss.
That’s not all, though. You see, dates are also fairly high in fiber, which we need in our diets to keep on top of digestive health. In fact, 100 grams of medjool dates provide an impressive 27 percent of our recommended daily fiber intake.
And if you’re suffering from constipation, it may therefore be a good idea to chow down on some dates. Why? Well, the type of fiber contained in the fruit helps speed up digestion; as a result, then, those lengthy and unsuccessful visits to the bathroom may yet become a thing of the past.
Plus, there’s yet another benefit to dates’ high fiber content. In short, fiber can help you feel fuller for longer, meaning it may assuage the desire to snack on unhealthier foods such as chips or chocolate. And dates’ sweet taste and gooey texture could even fool your taste buds into assuming that you’re eating junk – without the nutritional downside, of course.
Dates are great, too, when it comes to lowering levels of cholesterol – a lipid that is found in everyone’s blood. If there is too much cholesterol in the body, however, this can become harmful. In particular, fat may begin to clog up the arteries, and this in turn could lead to a stroke or a heart attack.
As for how dates may help alleviate high levels of cholesterol? Well, once again, it’s all down to fiber. Specifically, the fruit contains a fair amount of both insoluble and soluble fiber, and this roughage is able to reduce the amounts of unhealthy LDL cholesterol that are present in the blood.
Furthermore, dates themselves contain no cholesterol, which again makes them a considerably healthier option for snacking when compared to fattier treats. If you’re looking to lower your own cholesterol levels by incorporating some of the fruit into your diet, however, then it’s worth considering the variety of date that you intend to consume.
Perhaps the best option, moreover, is the halawi date. This variety of the fruit has a greater amount of catechin than the medjool. And this antioxidant – which can also be found in green tea – may very well have a beneficial effect on the levels of potentially harmful cholesterol in the body.
But there are yet further potential benefits to eating dates. If you’re flagging at work, for example, then it’s worth turning to a date or two before considering that extra cup of coffee. The fruit contains naturally occurring sugar, you see, and this in turn should give you a much-needed boost.
And if you need a quick jump-start prior to going to the gym, then consider chewing on a few dates in the changing room. At the very least, you don’t need to eat them long before you start your workout, as the fruit’s sugar provides a quick energy hit.
But dates may not only be able to power your muscles; they’ll also help to get your brain in gear. Eating the fruit for breakfast should in fact somewhat improve your mental clarity, meaning you’ll be able to get things done at work. Yes, dates may actually make you more productive.
It’s not only the sugar contained in dates that helps, either. As we age, you see, tissue in the brain begins to become inflamed, and this phenomenon in turn may lead to memory loss and confusion. Thanks to the antioxidant properties of dates, however, eating the fruit may reduce this inflammatory influence.
In addition, the antioxidants found within dates can help protect the body. The fruit’s flavonoids are beneficial, for example, in combating the risk of heart disease and cancer. Dates’ carotenoids may lessen the spread of cancer, too, although these particular antioxidants are arguably most key for maintaining healthy vision.
And anaemia sufferers may do well to incorporate some dates into their daily diets, since they possess a high iron content for their size. Remember, a 100-gram serving of medjool dates – so only around four of the wrinkly fruits – contains 5 percent of your recommended daily intake of iron.
If you have some hair loss, moreover, then dates may yet again be able to help you. The iron present in the fruit goes some way towards boosting blood circulation around the body, you see – and this includes extremities such as the scalp. As a consequence, then, the amount of oxygen getting to the head is raised, too, and this can subsequently aid the stimulation of new hair growth.
Then there are dates’ benefits for the skin. That’s partly down to the fruit’s vitamin C, which not only helps to brighten the complexion but may also boost collagen levels. Dates’ levels of vitamin D, meanwhile, are handy for keeping skin both feeling smooth to the touch and looking glowing.
Not only that, but dates may even help you ward off the years – or at least look as though you’re doing so, anyway. Yes, vitamins C and D can both reduce the appearance of unsightly wrinkles. Perhaps it’s best, then, to turn to dates before any anti-ageing creams.
And, of course, vitamin C is great for eye health. Vitamin A keeps us seeing well, too; it’s a good job, then, that dates possess both of these nutrients. Specifically, vitamin A can delay the degeneration of muscles in the eye, thus preserving vision for longer.
That’s not nearly the end of the benefits to dates, however. You see, the fruit may be able to help with high blood pressure, too. And that’s a good thing, especially as it can be easy to lose track of just how much salt – and therefore sodium – we pump through our bodies on a daily basis.
Furthermore, elevated levels of sodium in the blood are the primary cause of high blood pressure, which can put people at risk of heart issues, dementia or stroke. Foods that possess high percentages of potassium, however, can reduce the amount of sodium in the body – and therefore the likelihood of raised blood pressure.
And dates – as you’ve probably already guessed – have plenty of potassium. One medjool date contains 167 milligrams of potassium, in fact, which is a relatively large amount when compared to that contained in bigger fruits such as bananas. Eating a handful of dates, then, may combat high blood pressure and circulatory diseases further down the line.
It’s true, too, that dates can be a great help when pregnant. Women who are expecting, you see, need to up the number of calories they take in by about 200 a day or so during the third trimester. And, of course, dates are an easy way in which to achieve this.
Certainly, owing to their nutrients, dates are a better option for both mom and baby than the more processed alternatives available in stores. And the fiber that the fruit contains can also help to prevent hemorrhoids, which are often an unwanted side effect of pregnancy.
What’s more, a study carried out by researchers at Iran’s Mashhad University of Medical Sciences and published in 2014 in the Journal of Midwifery and Reproductive Health suggests that eating dates may even help labor. Some of the women surveyed began consuming the fruit at around the 37th week of their respective pregnancies.
The Mashhad University researchers found, then, that the date-eating expectant moms were prone to a greater level of cervical dilation than their counterparts in the control group. Not only that, but these women were also more likely to give birth naturally, while their labors were generally more successfully induced, too.
It may be the case, too, that dates help tackle loss of bone mass – something that often occurs as we age. There’s certainly calcium and phosphorus in the fruit, and these minerals act to harden both bones and teeth.
As a result, then, eating dates may be of benefit for those with osteoporosis. And according to the International Osteoporosis Foundation, the condition leads to bone fractures in a third of women over 50 and a fifth of similarly aged men across the world.
It seems, then, that dates are not only tasty, but they’re exceptionally beneficial for your health, too. And if you’ve been convinced that eating more of the fruit is the way to go, then here are three delicious recipe ideas to get you started on your journey.
Why not try pairing your dates with peanut butter, for example? Simply slice the fruit in half – removing the stones if necessary – and then fill the middles in with delicious peanutty goodness. Obviously, this is a rather calorific treat, but it would nevertheless be perfect before an intense gym session.
Energy balls, too, are great as a pre-workout snack or just as a little afternoon pick-me-up. To create your own, then, blend medjool dates with cacao powder, coconut oil, desiccated coconut and raisins. After that, roll the resulting mixture into small balls, and then put these spheres into the fridge to firm them up before you enjoy.
And you may also want to consider adding dates to that favorite smoothie you like to make. The fruit adds sweetness without the use of further sugar, after all – and that’s not even to mention the nutritional gains on offer. Blending the dates with other fruits should make them easier to eat as well, given their usual chewiness.
Take inspiration, too, from the myriad of recipes online – all of which show just how versatile dates can be. Blogger Megan Gilmore, who runs website Detoxinista, has even come up with a handy date paste tutorial, and her resulting sweet concoction would make a good substitute for white sugar when baking.
All in all, then, these small brown fruits pack a nutritional punch that belies their size. And if eating dates ultimately means that you don’t have to fork out a fortune on future medications, then can you really afford not to try them? It’s certainly worth a go…