In case you are looking to upgrade your diet plan as a New Year resolution, dates would prove a valuable addition. Palm dates are one of the oldest dry fruits being used as a nutritional supplement worldwide. Their roots can be traced back to the ancient civilizations dating to 5,320 BC.
Palm dates are native to and have been a staple food throughout the Middle East and north African regions. They play an elemental role in the Middle East heritage and culture. However, with the onset of globalization, they are even grown regions like the Mediterranean, Asia, USA, and Mexico.
What are Dates?
Dates are sweet and chewy fruits widely grown on palm trees – native to the tropical regions. Scientifically known as Phoenix Dactylifera, dates are relatively sweeter and more nutritious than many fruits.
Most dates sold all over the world are in dried form. The dates ripen when moisture leaves the fruit forming wrinkles on the surface with a brown color fade. Dried-out dates have a slightly lower sweetness content and high-calorie content. Although they are primarily harvested in winters, you can find dates any time of the year.
Depending on where they are grown, dates come in different sizes and colors, ranging from bright red to bright yellow. They are considered one of the most potent fruits globally, featuring a vast amount and variety of essential vitamins and nutrients.
Nutritional Value of Dates
Since they are primarily found in dried form, their calorie content compared to other fruits is also higher. Dates contain the same calories found in other dried fruits such as figs and raisins.
Moreover, the majority of calories found in dates come from carbohydrates. The rest comes from a minimal amount of protein. Lastly, dates tend to include a high concentration of antioxidants that play a massive role in protecting and improving overall health. A 30gm serving of dates carries around 81 kcal as:
- 1.0g Protein
- 20.4g Carbohydrates
- 20.4g Sugar
- 0.1g Fats
- 1.6g Fibre
- 0.21g Potassium
Dates also contain high amounts of vitamins, including riboflavin, niacin, thiamin, folate, vitamin A, vitamin K, and vitamin B6. Researchers believe that around 15% of daily body mineral requirements like potassium, copper, magnesium, and selenium can be fulfilled with 100 gm of dates.
Health Benefits of Dates
Improves Digestion and Facilitate Healthy Bowel Movements
Dates carry huge proportions of fiber – a nutrient that helps the body digest food. Gut bacteria utilize fiber content to dissolve, absorb, and extract nutrients and vitamins from the foods we intake.
If you consume a 3.5-ounce serving, you will get almost 7 grams of fiber. This is a great way to incorporate fibers into your diet. Another significant benefit of consuming dates is that fiber helps eliminate constipation. It encourages the movements of the bowel and contributes to stool formation.
A study conducted on 21 people found that those who consumed seven dates per day for 21 days experienced and observed improvements in stool frequency and showed improved signs of bowel moments compared to when they were not eating them.
Dates May Regulate Blood Pressure
In addition to that, the fiber found in dates might also help with blood sugar control. The reason is that fiber slows down the process of digestion and prevents blood sugar levels from spiking all of a sudden.
Dates are rich in potassium. This helps manage hypertension. One Medjool date contains around 167 mg of potassium. As compared to other fruits, this is fairly high content. Lack of potassium might also lead to kidney stones. At the same time, fiber also helps stabilize blood sugar levels. Additionally, the magnesium found in the fruit relaxes the blood and heart vessels while reducing blood pressure.
High in Disease-Fighting Antioxidants
Apart from controlling the blood sugar level, dates have the potential to protect your body against harmful diseases as well. This, as a result, helps improve your overall health. The purpose of antioxidants is to protect your body against free radical cells that are unstable molecules causing chemical reactions in your body, ultimately misbalancing it.
Furthermore, dates contain the highest antioxidant concentration compared to other dried fruits such as figs and dried plums. The first type of antioxidants found in dates is called Flavonoids. Flavonoids are potent antioxidants that might help reduce inflammation and reduce the chances of diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and other types of cancer.
The second type is called Carotenoids, which promote heart health and reduce muscle degeneration. And the last type is called Phenolic acids. Phenolic acids are known for their anti-inflammatory properties, which help reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease.
Dates Might Promote Brain Health
Dates have been associated with promoting brain health as well. Studies conducted in laboratories have found that dates are lowering inflammatory markers. It helps reduce the risk of diseases like Alzheimer’s.
Furthermore, animal studies have observed that dates reduce the activity of amyloid-beta proteins that can form plaques in the brain. Upon the accumulation of plaques in the brain, the communication between brain cells is disturbed, ultimately leading to diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
A study conducted on mice found that diet, including dates, significantly improved memory and learning ability compared to those who did not eat them.
Might Promote Natural Labor
Several studies have been conducted on the benefits of date palm in pregnancy and the potential to ease late-term labor in pregnant women. The intake of dates throughout the last week of pregnancy might promote cervical dilation and lower the need for induced labor. Additionally, they might also reduce labor time.
One study based on 29 women found that women who consumed six dates per day for four weeks before their due date had 20% more chances of going into natural labor. Moreover, they spent comparatively less time in labor than those who did not eat them.
Additionally, dates also contain tannins that help facilitate contractions. And since they are a good source of natural calories and proteins, consuming them will provide sufficient energy required for labor.
Excellent Natural Sweetener
Dates contain fructose, a natural type of sugar found in fruits. Dates are sweet and feature a subtle caramel-like flavor. Due to this reason alone, they can be used as an excellent alternative to white sugar in recipes. However, it is essential to note that although dates are high in fiber and nutrients, they are still reasonably high in calories and should be, therefore, consumed in moderation.
Protection Against Diabetes Mellitus
Diabetes is one of the widely spread diseases around the world that is primarily linked with diet. What is usually treated with synthetic medicines like insulin shots can be dealt with palm dates.
Dates inherently promote insulin production in the body that helps break down energy and reduces the rate of glucose accumulation and absorption into the blood. The low quantity of glucose in the body limits the risk of diabetes.
As the absorption of glucose into the blood diminishes, the glucose level of the blood significantly drops. Nevertheless, various researches still need to be conducted on how palm dates affect diabetes.
Might Promote Skin Health
Instead of relying on the synthetic and harmful chemicals found in beauty products, dates offer a natural healing process and freshen skin. It is a well-known fact that dates contain Vitamin C and D. Anecdotal evidence suggests that these vitamins are fundamental to the nourishment of the skin.
Moreover, it improves skin elasticity that induces the skin’s anti-aging process, making it look young and fresh. It might also help the skin prevent other types of diseases and irritations. They control the accumulation of melanin in your body that might otherwise lead to skin issues.
Potential Side Effects of Palm Dates
At a glance, dates do not have any severe or underlying effects. Due to high protein and vitamin content and lower fats, they are safe to consume by many. However, people who are allergic to sulfites may develop adverse health reactions or allergic symptoms.
Minor allergic reactions include; runny nose, sneezing, and itching in the mouth and tongue. Moreover, consuming higher concentrations of palm dates can also have adverse effects on human health, such as bloating, diarrhea, and stomach pain. If you experience these issues upon consumption of dates, consult with your physician.
FAQs: Health Benefits of Palm Dates
1. How many dates should you eat in a day?
Dates have impeccable amounts of proteins, vitamins, and essential minerals that the body needs for proper functioning. Moreover, they are also rich in antioxidants and fibers that help improve digestion, heart health, and labor. Eating 3 – 6 dates is considered sufficient to consume all the necessary nutrients present in dates. Anything beyond that might
2. What are the best date types?
Among the various types of dates, some high quality and beneficial dates are:
- Medjool dates – contain excessive amounts of phytonutrients and potassium that prove a good source of energy.
- Ajwa Dates helps relieve blood pressure, improve heart health, and protect against any cardiac issues.
- Kimia Dates – High amounts of vitamins amplify brain activity and nervous system functioning.
- Deri Dates – Packed with fibers that help digestion and facilitate healthy bowel movements.
3. Can palm dates cause diabetes?
A common misconception associated with dates is that they may cause diabetes due to their sweet taste. On the contrary, dates diminish and prevent the absorption of glucose into the blood and, therefore, prove effective in the treatment of diabetes mellitus.
4. Are there any potential side effects of dates?
Palm dates are super beneficial to health if consumed inappropriately. However, they may cause adverse health effects due to excessive consumption or allergic reactions. Some common health issues linked to dates are:
- Stomach pain
- Sneezing, runny nose, itching in the mouth (allergic reactions.)
In the end, dates are a very healthy fruit consisting of powerful antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Their nutritional value is so immense that you can suffice on dates alone for days without exhausting energy.
There are several ways to incorporate them into your daily diet. Since they are high in calories, consume small amounts in both smoothies and energy bars.