One of the oldest crops on the planet, humans have been eating dates for over 6,000 years. Modern nutrition and science are just starting to find out why dates are so beneficial for our health.
Over 200 varieties of dates are grown worldwide. These may not all be available in your local supermarket, but read on to find out why you should include more of these tasty fruits in your diet.
Health Benefits of Dates
1. Highly Nutritious
Dates are not simply a sugary treat as their taste may suggest. They are a great source ofmany different nutrients and they’re high in fiber.
In fact, a 3.5 ounce (100 gram) serving of Medjool dates, about 4 or 5 fruits, provides you with 18 percent of your daily recommended intake of fiber.
The same serving gives you 20 percent of your potassium, 18 percent of your copper, 14 percent of your magnesium and high amounts of calcium and iron, which are excellent for supporting bone and blood health.
Dates contain a good complement of vitamins as well, including vitamins B5 and B6, folate, niacin and vitamin A.
2. Antioxidant Properties
A 2005 study found that dates have the highest amounts of polyphenols, an important type of antioxidant, compared to other commonly dried fruits. Polyphenols have been shown to help prevent degenerative diseases like heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis and diabetes.
3. Diabetic Control
One study found that consuming dates helped to control blood sugar levels and circulating fats in diabetic patients.
This is interesting because dates are high in carbohydrates and natural sugars. Sugary foods can cause a rapid rise in blood sugar levels, which can be dangerous for people with diabetes. The researchers compared eating dates alone or with a meal and determined either way did not spike blood sugar levels.
Another study found that a date fruit extract helped to prevent deterioration of diabetic neuropathy.
4. Sexual Health
Dates are traditionally recognized for increasing sexual stamina. It’s said an excellent recipe to enhance your potency is to soak a handful of dates in goat’s milk overnight, then grind the mixture with some cardamom powder and honey in the morning.
Science has not delved into this, but it could be worth a try.
Interestingly, the pollen from date palm flowers has been found to enhance male fertilityand increase sperm counts. This has not been shown for the fruit, but the research shows promise for helping with infertility.
5. Bowel Function and Cancer
A University of Reading study looked at intestinal health as it relates to the prevention of cancer. A group of volunteers ate about 50 grams of dates (1.8 ounces) per day for 3 weeks. In that time, their bowel movement frequency increased and there was a significant reduction of potentially cancer-causing chemical byproducts created by digestion.
The researchers believe that the high fiber and polyphenols found in dates support the function of healthy intestinal flora, which can lead to a lower risk of colorectal cancer.
Other studies have also found that certain natural compounds in dates have anti-tumor and anticancer effects.
6. Heart Health
Date consumption has been shown to reduce blood lipid levels and oxidative stress in the body. This will help prevent the development of atherosclerosis, which can lead to diseases such as heart attacks, stroke or aneurysms.
A Jordan University of Science and Technology study found that pregnant women who ate 6 dates per day in the last 4 weeks of pregnancy had significantly better outcomes during labor and delivery. Compared to women who did not eat dates, the women who consumed dates had:
- Greater cervical dilation upon admission to hospital.
- A higher proportion of intact membranes.
- Spontaneous labor in 96 percent of the group, compared to 79 percent of the non-date eaters.
- Significantly lower use of prostin and oxytocin drugs.
- A shorter first stage of labor, which was almost half the time of those who didn’t eat dates.
Ways to Use More Dates
Dates are delicious plain as a snack. Various types can be found either fresh or dried in most supermarkets.
Drinks and smoothies are another favorite way to eat dates. Try a Butternut Cinnamon Date Smoothie, Cacao, Banana and Avocado Smoothie, or Peanut Butter and Jelly Date Smoothie.
If you drink coffee, you could add dates to a Coffee Smoothie.
Dates make an excellent sweetener for healthier snacks, such as Oat Date Bars, Date and Chia Energy Bites, or Raw Vegan Truffles.
You can also use them in savory dishes like salads, soups and casseroles. Try makingBrussel Sprout and Date Salad, Cheese Stuffed Dates or Rice with Dates.