Last Updated on November 27, 2020
Who would have thought it possible that a fruit so sweet could come from desert-like conditions of the Middle East and North Africa?
The date palm is believed to have originated back from ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. It grew along the banks of the Nile and Euphrates River. Dates come from a species of palm tree.
These trees were a symbol of life and longevity. Later on, it was brought by Spanish missionaries to other parts of the world such as California, Mexico, and the Canary Islands.
There are different cultivars of date palm trees, and that’s why you would see dates of different colors, from golden yellows to bright reds to dark browns.
The most popular varieties of dates are the Amir Hajj, Deglet Noor, Khadrawy, Medjool, and Saidy. Dates are stone fruits which means that its firm flesh wraps around a shell (stone) that contains the seed. It’s oval in shape and can grow anywhere from 3 cm to 7 cm long.
Dates can be eaten fresh from the tree, but most prefer them dried. Dried dates have a much more concentrated flavor and a longer shelf life. Half of its weight is composed of sugar or carbohydrates, and the other is of fat, protein, and other minerals and vitamins.
Dates are not only for snacking, they’re also used for making alcohol, liquor, syrup, and vinegar. Currently, there’s a growing interest in the regenerative properties of dates, which can potentially be used in modern medicine.
Carbohydrates and Sugar in Dates
Dates are traditionally consumed to break the all-day fasting of Arabs during Ramadan. Half of its weight is composed of carbohydrates, mainly sugar and a lower percentage of dietary fiber. Carbohydrates get a bad reputation for being fattening, but the truth is, it should be the main source of energy rather than fat.
Carbohydrates are one of the macronutrients that’s always present in our food. It has three different types: sugar, fiber, and starch. The type of carbohydrates you mainly consume can affect how it’s used and stored in the body.
Fiber is the most recommended carbohydrate, because it slowly releases sugar into the body. When there’s a large amount of sugar released, it can put a strain on the pancreas, kidneys, heart, and liver.
Now the question is, is the high amount of sugar in dates bad? The simple answer is no. There are many types of sugars; dates contain fructose or the sugar found in fruit. Fructose can only become harmful to your health if it’s excessive. By eating fruits alone, you cannot “overdose” on fructose.
Another great thing about the fructose in dates is that it ranked as low glycemic, and it doesn’t contain any cholesterol. This means that it doesn’t produce a spike in blood sugar levels when consumed.
It’s great news for diabetics and people watching their weight. Dates are used as a substitute for table sugar by mixing them with smoothies and desserts, or pureeing them into a syrup.
Dietary Fiber Content of Dates
Fiber is one of the most important things to include in your diet simply for the benefits it poses to your overall health. Dates contain both soluble and insoluble fiber. It has more fiber content than a banana or an unpeeled apple.
The soluble fiber in dates is responsible for lowering blood sugar and cholesterol levels in the body. Soluble fiber reduces the absorption of cholesterol into the bloodstream.
It also prevents bile salts from re-absorbing into the small intestine, thus increasing the inclusion of bile salts and its waste during excretion. This property of fiber is what makes dates helpful in lowering the risk for a coronary heart disease and diabetes.
Insoluble fiber are the fibrous material of the plant or fruit that can’t be digested. It creates the bulk of the waste into a solid and compact form. It helps food and waste move through the gastrointestinal system.
People who don’t get enough fiber in their diet are usually constipated, low on energy, and may even develop hemorrhoids. A person experiencing diarrhea can also benefit from immediately eating dates.
Besides giving volume to stool and making it intact, dates contain the electrolyte potassium to regulate the fluid in the body which is lost during loose bowel movement.
Potassium in Dates
Potassium is an essential macro-mineral needed by the body. An adult should consume 4700 mg of potassium a day. A hundred milligrams of potassium is immediately required for the key body functions and processes that keep us alive each day. Unfortunately, most adults don’t get enough potassium, less than 2% in the US alone.
Potassium is an electrolyte, because it balances the effects of sodium and the pH level in our body. When there’s an increase in sodium intake, it directly affects the blood pressure.
The body is not able to release excess water right away, and it takes a toll in the heart. That’s why too much sodium can also lead to a stroke, cardiac failure, osteoporosis, and renal failure.
When the pH level of the body becomes too acidic, it can throw off the homeostasis or conducive environment within the body.
This condition is called acidosis. Nitrogen will be constantly released from the body which is bad, because nitrogen should be maintained to help produce DNA, amino acids, and proteins. These are what make up your whole body, from your hair to your toes.
Acidosis also causes bone density loss and wear and muscle wastage. Potassium works together with the copper, magnesium, manganese, selenium, and vitamin K in dates. These minerals and vitamin are what help maintain healthy bones, teeth, muscles, and joints.
Six B Vitamins in Dates
There are eight B-vitamins that create the B-complex, and six of these are found in dates. Vitamin B is one of the building blocks of the body, and without it, the body rapidly progresses with aging.
This is the reason why people often notice that taking vitamin B creates an anti-aging effect. It’s vital in cellular health and proper nerve function. The production of red blood cells, important in the delivery of oxygen and nutrients throughout the body, is aided by having enough B vitamins in the body.
It also contributes to brain development and function. It’s one of the vitamins that are highly recommended for students to help with studying, for adults to help with mood stability, cognitive function, and memory.
Pregnant women also need to have enough vitamin B, especially folates, to ensure the proper brain and spinal development of the fetus.
Vitamin B, along with the other vitamins and minerals in dates, creates a powerful antioxidant effect when consumed regularly. It can reverse the damages made by cellular degeneration, inflammation, physical signs of aging, and fatigue.
According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, 100 grams of date fruit contain the following:
- 277 Kcal of energy
- 74.97 grams of carbohydrates
- 1.81 grams of protein
- 0.15 gram of fat
- 6.7 grams of dietary fiber
- 15 µg of folates
- 1.610 mg of niacin
- 0.805 mg of pantothenic acid
- 0.249 mg of pyridoxine
- 0.060 mg of riboflavin
- 0.050 mg of thiamin
- 149 IU of vitamin A
- 2.7 µg of vitamin K
- 1 mg of sodium
- 696 mg of potassium
- 64 mg of calcium
- 0.362 mg of copper
- 54 mg of magnesium
- 0.296 mg of manganese
- 62 mg of phosphorus
- 0.44 mg of zinc
As you can see, dates are dense in nutrients. Any person can benefit from a healthy serving of dates every day. These include children, pregnant women, diabetics and hypertensive people, and aging adults.
Including Dates in Your Diet
Dates are widely exported and imported all over the world. No matter which cultivar you prefer, dates will offer a good source of nutrition for you and your family. Here are some ideas on how you can include it in a healthy diet.
- Dates are eaten fresh or dried before consuming.
- Dates are added to rice dishes for flavor and texture.
- Dried dates are added to trail mixes or nutrition bars.
- Dates are baked into pies, tarts, cookies, bread, and cakes.
- It can be pureed to create a syrup to sweeten beverages and dishes.
- Dates are added to healthy smoothies along with other fruits and vegetables.
- Date vinegar can be used in salad dressings, savory dishes, or as a dipping sauce.
- Dates are dried and ground to create a sugar-like powder to use in desserts and other recipes.
- Some specialty stores carry liquor made from dates. It can be used to make cocktails, added to dishes and desserts, or drank in its own.
The date fruit is a flavorful way to add sugar into your diet without worrying about health risks such as elevated cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure level. It’s one the best alternatives to sugar and perfect for people with an irresistible sweet tooth.
By avoiding the harmful effects of sugar and artificial sweeteners, sodium, and cholesterol, you can reap all the other health benefits that dates can offer.