Why dates are good for you?
In this article, we will show you what are the key benefits of eating dates and how to incorporate them into your diet. Naturally sweet this nutritious fruit can offer some pretty impressive health benefits. Such as great energy source, may support digestive health, adds strength to the nervous system, and so much more.
What are dates and where do they come from?
Dates are the sweet fruit of the date palm tree. They are native to the Middle East and have been part of the region’s cuisine for thousands of years. They are very sweet.
The sugar content in dates is very high. Their sugar content gets more intense as dates dry and moisture leaves the fruit.
There are more than 200 varieties of dates with different flavors and shapes. The most popular date varieties are Medjool Dates, Barhi, Dayri, Deglet Noor. All of them are the same in nutrition.
Interesting facts about dates:
- The word ‘date’ comes from the Greek word ‘daktylos’, meaning finger because a date fruit looks like the tip of a finger.
- About 3% of the earth’s farmland is covered by date palms, producing 4 million tons a year.
- In Morroco, the Medjool date was referred as to as the “king of dates”. This was because it was only reserved for Moroccan royalty and their guests.
- A single mature date tree can produce 200 to 300 pounds or up to 10,000 dates in just one season! That’s a lot of dates!
Nutritional content of dates
According to the USDA, one Medjool date pitted (24 grams) provides the following nutrients:
- Calories: 66.5
- Carbs: 18 grams
- Fiber: 1.61 gram
- Protein: 0.434 grams
- Fructose: 7.68 grams
- Magnesium: 13 mg
- Potassium: 167 mg
- Iron: 0.216 mg
- Vitamin B6: 0.06 mg
Their calorie content is higher than most fresh fruits. According to the USDA, one Medjool date contains 66 calories which are similar to the other dried fruits like raisins and figs.
Most of the calories come from carbs. Dates taste so sweet because they have high fructose content, which is twice as sweet as glucose.
There are about 1.6 grams of fiber in average Medjool date. The sugar content increases and the fiber content decreases as the fruit ripens. Further dates are a good source of potassium, magnesium, and iron.
Also, they supply 6 essential B vitamins, including pantothenic acid and folate. Dates are also high in antioxidants which wich may contribute to many of their health benefits.
The key health benefits of dates
Great source of energy
Dates are rich in natural sugars like glucose, fructose, and sucrose. The high energy present in this fruit can be assigned to this high sugar content.
According to a review published in the International Journal of Food Science and Nutrition, dates are rich in essential nutrients and may help you retrieve your energy immediately.
Many people eat dates as an afternoon snack because it helps them to bump up their energy levels fast. Further, people who practice fasting often break their fast by eating dates along with water. This also helps to avoid overeating once the fast is over.
High concentration of antioxidants
One of the health benefits of eating dates is that they have a high content of antioxidants. Compared to other dried fruits in the same category, such as figs and dried plums, dates tops the chart with the highest antioxidant concentration.
Antioxidants are compounds that inhibit the process of oxidation and thereby eliminate the dangerous free radicals which can cause a lot of harm to your cells.
The three most potent antioxidants in dates are carotenoids, flavonoids, and phenolic acid.
These beneficial antioxidants can protect you from diseases and enhance your immune system. They are also known for their ability to reduce the chances of macular degradation which is very important for eye health. Carotenoids are also proven for their ability to work wonders for your heart health.
Flavonoids are powerful antioxidants that are mostly known for their anti-inflammatory properties and their high affinity in helping to reduce the effects of chronic diseases such as diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and more.
Mostly known for its anti-inflammatory properties, phenolic acid also has a good history of reducing the risk of developing cardiac issues.
Dates support digestive health
Just 3 dates provide about 18% of the daily goal for fiber, and getting enough fiber is important for overall health. The high fiber content in dates can be very beneficial for people who are suffering from health issues caused due to irregular bowel movements.
In a randomized controlled trial published in Briitish Journal of Nutrition conducted to understand the effects of dates that have in preventing bowel and intestine related issues, 21 people who consumed 7 dates per day for 21 days experienced an improvement in stool frequency and had a significant increase in bowel movements compared to when they did not eat dates.
If you’ve ever experienced constipation you know how it can affect your energy levels and overall comfort. Dates can be a simple way to get things moving.
They may help with diabetes
People with diabetes are typically advised to be conscious about their carb intake. Due to the natural sweetness and high carbohydrate content, diabetics may wonder if dates are safe to consume.
Diabetics can eat dates. However, dates can be part of a healthy diet if you have diabetes when eaten in moderation. Try not to eat more than 1-2 dates at a time. Also, a person should speak with a doctor to confirm this is safe.
A single dried date packs nearly 1.6 grams of fiber which is about 6% of the daily value. Dietary fiber helps your body to absorb carbs at a slower pace. This is very important for people with diabetes.
The slower the carbs are digested the less likely your blood sugar is to spike after eating. It is also important to know that dates can come in different sizes. Medjool dates can be about as twice as large as other varieties. A person may wish to consider their portion size accordingly.
Further people with diabetes should try to stick to foods with a low glycemic index (GI). The GI is a way of measuring the effect of carbs on blood sugar levels.
Low GI carbs have a GI of 55 or lower, and those with a high GI are ranked at 70 or above. Despite their sweetness dates have a low GI. This means that when eaten in moderation they are safe for people with diabetes.
A study from 2011 examined the GIs of 50 grams ( 1.8 ounces ) of 5 common varieties of dates. The results showed that they have a low GI, between 44 and 53, which may differ depending on the type of dates.
Dates are naturally sweet and provide no added sugar
People think that dates are dried fruit – but dates are fresh fruit since no water is removed. And because they are whole unprocessed fruit their sugar content is naturally occurring. Dates are a source of fructose, which is a natural type of sugar found in fruit.
They have a caramel-like taste. Due to their sweetness, and the presence of fiber, nutrients, and antioxidants they make a great healthy substitute for white sugar.
For this purpose, you can use Date Paste which is a great substitute for white sugar. If the recipe calls for 1 cup of sugar, you’ll replace it with 1 cup of date paste.
The American Heart Association recommends that men consume no more than 9 teaspoons of added sugar, which is 36 grams of 150 calories. The advised cap for women is no more than 6 teaspoons, which is 25 grams or 100 calories.
If you use dates to sweeten your recipes or meals, you haven’t used up any of your daily added sugar budgets, unlike sweeteners such as cane sugar.
Adds strength to your nervous system
The nervous system is very important for proper body functioning. Neurological problems are very dangerous and they can affect many parts of the body at the same time.
There are several nutrients that are important for ensuring proper neurological health and the upkeep of the nervous network.
Dates contain very low levels of sodium and are highly rich in potassium which makes them a very successful fruit in ensuring your neurological health.
The low amount of sodium in dates reduces the chance of hypertension which helps keep your nervous system safe from increased blood pressure. Also, foods that are high in potassium make the communication between nerve cells easier.
They may increase skin health
Research published in 2017 suggests that the application of date creams to the skin can improve skin moisture content, brightness, and elasticity. Further, the researchers claim that dates in skincare may reduce the effects of aging on the skin.
A high concentration of vitamin D and vitamin C in dates ensures that your skin gets well nourished and all the nutrient expectations for glowing skin are met.
These two vitamins also, work for the improvement of your skin’s elasticity which is very hard to maintain as you age. The other nutrients present in dates are also helpful in preventing faster aging and helps you look younger for a longer period of time.
May promote natural labor
Further adding to the health benefits of dates, one study published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology set out to discover how the date fruit impacted labor parameters and delivery outcomes.
The results of 154 pregnant women showed that those who ate dates were much less likely to be induced for labor compared to those who did not.
Another study found similar results in 91 pregnant women who consumed 70-76 grams of dates daily straight the 37yh week of pregnancy. They were in active labor for an average of 4 fewer hours than those who did not eat dates.
Although eating dates appears to help promote labor and reduce labor duration more research is needed to confirm these effects.
Are dates good for weight loss?
There is very little research on the effects of dates on weight loss. Dates are high in natural sugars and calories, and if you’re like most dieters you probably avoid these foods. But what you may not know is that this delicious fruit can actually make weight loss easier by curbing hunger and cravings.
A clinical trial from 2020 showed that eating 3 dates per day did not lead to an increase in body mass index (BMI). So, people can eat a small number of dates each day without this leading to weight gain.
This study also notes that even dates are high in sugar they are low on the glycemic index scale. This means that they have fewer effects on blood sugar than foods containing table sugar.
Further dates are a healthier substitute for cookies, candies, cake, and other sugary treats. Plus they contain fiber. As we mentioned before the fiber in dates can make it easier to stick to your diet and downsize your portions.
This nutrient helps with weight loss in two ways. First, it fills you up quickly and keeps you full. Second, regulates the hormones that influence your appetite leading to reduced hunger.
Dates and weight loss summary
Eating a small number of dates per day does not lead to weight gain. Dates can help weight loss by keeping you full longer and balancing your gut flora. This effect is mostly due to their high fiber content.
If you follow the new weight loss diet trends, you should know that Medjool dates are part of the top 20 Sirtfoods that are the base of the Sirtfood Diet.
How to include dates in your diet
Dates are a very delicious snack and apart from eating them as is, they can be paired with other foods such as soft cheese, nut butter, almonds, etc. Here are some ideas for how to add dates to an eating plan:
- Salads: Mix dates into any kind of salad.
- Breakfast: Add a new texture and taste to hot or cold cereals. Just mix in diced dates and enjoy. You can also sprinkle dates into oatmeal or add them to dough for muffins.
- Stuffed snack: Remove the pit and add a nut – walnut, almond, or even peanut butter for a filling snack.
- Lunch: Wrap dates, tuna or chicken salad, and other vegetables into a whole wheat tortilla.
- Desserts: Make a parfait with layers of yogurt, dates, and your favorite fruits. Dice and serve dates with vanilla frozen yogurt or any of your favorite low-fat frozen yogurts.
- Trail mix: Make your own trail mix by mixing dates in with your favorite nuts and dried fruits.
Remember that even dates are good for you, they are high in calories and they are so sweet that is easy to overeat them. So consume them in moderation.
How many dates to eat per day?
If you want to maintain your current weight it’s ideal to have 100 grams or that is approximately 5-7 dates per day to get all the essential nutrients. The quantity to be consumed may differ from person to person based on underlying health conditions and calorie needs.
Dates have a high content of natural sugars, carbs, so eat them in moderation.
Frequently asked questions about dates
What is the difference between dry dates and fresh dates?
Dry dates have less moisture and they can stay fresh for a longer period of time, for almost 5 years if properly stored. Meanwhile, fresh dates have a shorter shelf-life of 8-10 months. Further, the moisture content in dates reduces with drying.
When the moisture level decreases, the natural sugar in dates concentrates, which enhances the caloric content. Fresh dates are a better source of vitamin C, and dried dates are a better source of iron and calcium.
Can I eat dates on the keto diet?
The Keto diet is a high-fat low-carb diet. Dates are high in carbs, so if you follow the keto diet can’t eat dates.
What is the best time to eat dates?
You can eat dates at any time of the day, but because they are high in calories and can provide a lot of energy for you, it is good to eat them in the morning for breakfast.
How long do dates last?
Dates can last a long time depending on the storage conditions. At the room, temperature dates can last for few months, and under refrigerated conditions, they last for about 12 months. They have the lowest moisture content of any whole fruit. As they age the tasty sugars in the date will slowly move to the surface producing little sugar-white spots. Don’t worry these are not molded.
Final thoughts about the benefits of dates and how to eat them
Dates are very sweet and nutritious fruit and you should include them in your diet. Rich in antioxidants, fiber, and nutrients dates provide several health benefits such as improved digestion, better skin health, great energy source, and so much more.
Keep in mind that they contain natural sugars and calories. They are very sweet, therefore it is best to consume them in moderation as a part of a healthy balanced diet to maximize the potential health benefits.