Dates, the staple food of the Middle East countries is a sweet fruit. Date palms or Phoenix dactylifera (scientific name) produce clusters of oval, dark, reddish-brown drupes called dates, below their fronds. The skin of the dried fruit is wrinkled and covered in a sticky, waxy film.
Dates are eaten fresh or dried, whole or incorporated in various Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines. Served mainly as desserts, these date fruits are generally chopped into tiny slices and scattered across cakes and puddings to ameliorate their flavor. Some people mix date paste with yogurt, milk, bread, or butter to enhance their flavor.
Dates are also deseeded and stuffed with several sweet fillings like apricot, etc. Besides the versatility of date preparation and consumption, these dry fruits also feature various nutritional values. Dates are opulent in vitamins, minerals, natural fiber, and are also cholesterol-free. This is why date fruit benefits are widely known across the globe.
Date Fruit Health Benefits
Dates are a high source of energy, with 100 grams of dates yielding about 300 kcal of energy. They are packed with 29 grams of natural sugars (glucose, sucrose, and fructose), 3 grams of dietary fiber, and 31 grams of carbohydrates. Therefore, the tiny date fruit can be appropriately described as an energy-boosting dry fruit.
Date fruits have been considered very important in the Islamic culture. They break their fast by consuming dates. After fasting the body requires an energy-boosting food. The natural sugars in dates convert to energy in the liver, which is used by the body. Thus, it also helps prepare the digestive system for the meal, thereby assisting in digestion.
Breaking your fast with dates will help you avoid overeating. The shortage of sugar in the blood can make you hungry. Consumption of dates takes care of this shortage, and calms the feeling of hunger with its sugar content. The dietary fiber and other nutrients in dates, gets absorbed by the body, which prevents people from overeating after a day of fasting.
Pregnancy is a time when a woman experiences extreme bloating, constipation and other intestinal problems. Dates are an excellent remedy for such intestinal disturbances. However, women with gestational diabetes must control the intake of dates, unless otherwise specified by the obstetrician.
Help alleviate constipation
Loaded with soluble and insoluble fibers, dates not only help improve bowel movements, but also clears toxins from the gastrointestinal tract. To get benefit of it, soak dates overnight in water.
The soaked dates should then be ingested in the morning along with the water to gain the advantages. The roughage provided by dates increases bowel movement, solving constipation issues. Pregnant women must eat dates to alleviate constipation, as it is not only a high-fiber snack, but also contains lots of nutrients that are good for the growing fetus.
Including 5 to 6 dates in one's daily diet can help increase body weight. Dates, unlike junk food are a healthy way of gaining weight. If you don't like to eat dates as they are, you can also add dates to cakes, puddings, and other baked items to reduce the sugar content in them.
Soaked and pureed Medjool dates, when combined with applesauce and added to the cake batter, it not only adds moisture, texture, fiber and increase the nutritional content, but also keeps away refined sugar of the baked food. If the dates purchased are not soft, microwave them with a little water for a minute. Blend the softened dates in a food processor.
Dates strengthen uterine muscles to ease childbirth. A study (2007-2008) was conducted at Jordan University of Science and Technology, on pregnant women to analyze the link date fruits have on labor. 69 women were asked to have 6 dates per day, for last 4 weeks before their due date. Also, 45 other women were included in the study, who were not given these.
After analysis of all their births, it was found that the women who consumed dates showed more cervical dilation, along with higher percentage of spontaneous labor in of women, as compared to those who didn't consume dates. The study noted that dates helped labor and spontaneous labor. However, more research has to be conducted in this field.
Helps improve heart health
Not only are dates sodium-free, but are also high in potassium. When dates are consumed, the ratio of sodium to potassium is balanced, due to the high potassium in it. When the ratio of sodium and potassium is maintained, the pressure applied on the walls of the arteries is not high.
Dates are also cholesterol-free, which again is an added advantage. Thus, dates help in controlling the blood pressure. Since dates are low in saturated fat, they are considered as healthy food for the heart. Research reveals that higher potassium intake of about 400 mg can reduce the risk of strokes by 40%.
Dates for Diabetics
Diabetics have to keep in consideration the glycemic index (GI) of food items, because the lower the GI, the better it is for their bodies. As we know, there are over 300 varieties of dates, all having different GI. On an average dates have a glycemic index of 103, which is very high.
However, research conducted at Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, United Arab Emirates University (2001) on three varieties of dates; khalas, barhi, and bo ma'an dates reveals GI of 35.5, 49.7 and 30.5 respectively.
The study shows that dates can also be considered as low GI foods, provided you eat these varieties. To be on the safer side, if you do not know the glycemic index of the dates you are eating, it's best to restrict its intake.
Nevertheless, dates are the ideal choice when blood sugar drops. It raises the blood sugar levels quickly during hypoglycemia. To make it a fulfilling snack it's best to combine dates with walnuts or pecans.
Rich in Antioxidants
Free radicals formed after metabolic activities, damage body cells, and cause cancer. Thus, antioxidants stabilize these radicals and prevent them from damaging the cells, helps in preventing cancer, heart diseases. They are high in phenolic compounds and flavonoids, which possess antioxidant activity. Thus, dates indirectly help slow down or prevent cancer.
Pregnant women are often advised to consume dates, so as to prevent iron-deficiency anemia in mother and child. However, since vitamin C is required for iron absorption, it's important to consume vitamin C-rich foods as well. Anemia patients are advised to eat several dates on a daily basis to raise their level of iron in the blood.
Strengthens Tooth Enamel
Dates contain fluorine, which is an essential mineral to slow down the process of early tooth decay. Fluorine is also known to keep plaque at bay by strengthening the tooth enamel. However, many people are of the misconception that tooth enamel can magically reverse tooth decay. This is not true.
Tooth enamel consists of hydroxyapatites, which when brought in contact with fluorine forms hydroxyfluoroapatites, which is resistant to decay. This clearly means that fluorine helps prevent further tooth decay, but cannot reverse the decay process.
The problem of sexual weakness can be countered by dates, as they are beneficial in increasing the body's sexual stamina. One needs to soak handful of dates in goat's milk overnight. Next morning, grind the dates in the same milk and add a mixture of honey and cardamom powder. This yields a tonic capable of increasing sexual endurance.
Dates are nutrient-rich brown nuggets, that not only satiate the palate, but also provide a variety of nutrients to the body. Consuming a couple of dates when one's hungry will be a good idea, because it will help prevent binge eating. Enjoy the sweetness of dates along with its numerous health benefits!
Disclaimer: The information provided in this is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice.