Dates are a very sweet, tasty fruit that are packed full of goodness with many health benefits. Consuming dates is good for your digestive health, keeping your heart healthy, and boosting your cognitive function. Eating dates in moderation can also help you lose weight because they contain a lot of fiber and can help you cut back on refined sugar.
Date palms grow in countries around the Mediterranean, North Africa, and in Asia where fresh dates are part of the staple diet. The majority of dates sold in Western countries are dried dates, with Medjool dates being the most popular. Fresh dates have a smooth skin whereas dried dates look wrinkled.
In this article, I will examine scientific research that sheds light on the many reasons why eating dates is so good for your health. You will also find out if dates are good for weight loss and how many dates are recommended to eat per day.
What Are Dates?
Dates are small cylindrical-oval fruits that grow in clusters on the date palm tree (Phoenix dactylifera). One date palm can produce between 400 and 600 kg of date every year. There are many types of palm trees but not all palms grow dates.
The journal Frontiers in Plant Science says that date fruits are actually berries. Fruit from the date palm has a high nutritional value with many therapeutic properties. Date palm fruits contain antioxidants and antimicrobial properties that help to promote good health. (1)
Dried dates contain more sugar and phenolic compounds (plant-based antioxidants) than fresh dates.
Dates also come in various colors ranging from light brown to black.
Nutritional Content of Dates (Including Medjool Dates)
Every date – whether dried or fresh – is packed full of vitamins, easily digestible sugars, micronutrients, and antioxidants.
Eating dates is a good, healthy source of energy that can help keep you feeling fuller for longer.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, there are 66 calories in one medjool date (24 g) without the pips. So, 5 pitted Medjool dates contain 330 calories and 8 grams of fiber. This means that this portion of dates gives you 30% of your daily fiber needs. (3)
It’s worth noting that medjool date is a large type of date and other dates that are smaller in size contain less calories. For example Deglet Noor date is much smaller than medjool date. Each pitted Deglet Noor date weighs 8 g and contains 24 calories (27)
A 1-oz (28 g) serving of dates contains 21 g of carbs which is about 7% of your recommended daily intake (RDI).
Levels of sugars in the date fruit gradually increase as the date ripens. Date pulp contains about 70% sugar. This means that 1 oz. (28g) of dates has 18.6 g of sugar which is mainly glucose, fructose, and sucrose. (4)
Dates also contain most B-group vitamins as well as vitamin A and vitamin K. Dates are also a rich source of minerals like potassium, magnesium, copper, and manganese. In fact, 100 g of dates provides you with 18% of your copper RDI (0.4 mg), 15% of your manganese RDI (0.3 mg), and 5% of your iron RDI (0.9 mg).
Consuming dates regularly is good for your immunity and even dental health. Research has shown that dates contain elemental fluorine that helps protect teeth. Also, selenium in dates has been linked to cancer prevention. (5)
Date consumption also gives your body plenty of protein. Dates contain 23 different amino acids, many of which are not found in other fruits. (5)
Dates are good for your digestive system and increase satiety because they contain a lot of fiber. For example, just one Medjool date contains 1.6 g of fiber which is 6% of your recommended fiber intake. (5)
Eating dates is also good for diabetics because they have a low glycemic index. Researchers say that diabetic patients can be reassured that consumption of 6-8 small dates will not cause rapid and large fluctuations in blood glucose levels. (6)
The high nutritional value of dates mean that they are good for keeping your body healthy. Studies into the benefit of dried dates found that they contain the highest concentration of polyphenols. Researchers say that fresh dates have some of the best nutritional content among fresh fruits. (7)
Are Dates Good for You? 12 Health Benefits of Eating Dates
Let’s look in more detail at how consuming dried or fresh dates is good for your cardiovascular health, digestion, and efforts to lose weight.
Dates Promote Good Digestive Health
Dates are good for you because they are high in fiber which can help to keep your digestion working properly.
Depending on the type of date, 100 grams of dates can contain between 3.5 and 11 grams of fiber. Dates mainly contain insoluble fiber which helps food pass through your digestive system. This means that dates are a good functional food to eat if you have constipation. (8, 9)
Another reason that dates are good for keeping your digestion functioning property is that they increase the number of healthy bacteria in your gut. Dates act as prebiotics in the gut which helps probiotic bacteria like Bifidobacterium to flourish. Scientific studies have shown that eating dates boosts colon and bowel health. (10)
Dates Are Helpful for Lowering Cholesterol and Triglycerides
Medjool dates are good for your health because their phenolic compounds can help to manage cholesterol and triglycerides levels.
Triglycerides are a type of fat (lipid) found in your blood. Doctors from Mayo Clinic say that when you eat, your body converts any calories it doesn’t need to use right away into triglycerides.
Even though dates contain a lot of sugar, scientific research has shown that Medjool dates don’t increase triglyceride levels. In studies, eating Medjool dates helped to significantly decrease levels of triglycerides. The researchers also mentioned that dates can be “considered an antiatherogenic nutrient”. This means that eating dates can also help prevent build-up of fats and cholesterol in and on the artery walls. (11)
Labs studies on animal models have found that consuming dates regularly help to lower total cholesterol levels. Scientists also found that the sugar content of dates did not increase blood glucose levels. (12)
Find out more about the best foods to eat to lower “bad” cholesterol and improve your vascular health.
Dates Contain Compounds That Are Good for Your Heart Health
Dates also contain potassium, magnesium, and antioxidants which are important compounds to help keep your heart healthy.
100 grams of dates contain nearly 700 mg of potassium which is 20% of your daily potassium needs.
Researchers from the National Institutes of Health report that many people in Western countries have a potassium deficiency. A higher intake of potassium helps to lower your risk of various cardiovascular heart diseases. (13)
Research published in the journal Phytomedicine reported that antioxidants in Ajwa dates have a cardio-protective effect. Date extracts can help to lower blood fat, reduce inflammation, and prevent cardio cell death. (14)
Extracts from date palm fruit have also shown to help repair heart tissue after a heart attack. All varieties of dates contain high concentrations of flavonoid and phenolic compounds that can protect your cardiovascular health. (15)
Do you know how to spot the first signs of a heart attack? Learn what you can do to greatly lower your risk of suffering a heart attack.
Dates Are Good for Improving Memory and May Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease
Dates are a very nutritious fruit that also help to prevent various neuro-degenerative diseases in men and women.
The reason why dates are good at protecting your brain health is due to antioxidants that protect brain cells from damage. Scientists have found that these antioxidants reduce inflammation and oxidative stress in the brain. Date fruits can help to protect against Alzheimer’s disease and reduce memory impairment. (16)
One study involving mice found that a diet rich in dates can help to slow down or even prevent the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. (17)
Learn more about effective natural supplements that can help to prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Dates Help Reduce Inflammation
One of the benefits of eating a few dates every day is that their anti-inflammatory effect can help protect you against various chronic diseases.
Although inflammation helps to protect against infection, chronic inflammation in the body has been linked to various diseases like cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.
Research has found that natural flavonoids in dates have a significant anti-inflammatory effect. Scientists have identified various anti-inflammatory compounds in date fruit, date leaf, and date pollen extracts. (18)
Learn about other foods that can help reduce inflammation and help protect against the chronic painful symptoms of arthritis.
Medjool Dates Are Natural Sweeteners
Dates are much better for you than refined sugar because they are very sweet and provide your body with vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
100 grams of pitted Medjool dates contain just over 66 grams of sugar which are mostly fructose and glucose. One Medjool date contains 66 calories; therefore, 100 grams of dates will have about 277 calories. (4)
How can you use dates as a tasty sweet alternative to sugar by making a date paste? All you have to do is put about 24 dates in a blender with ¾ cup of water. Blend until you have a smooth paste. You can then use the date paste instead of sugar when baking. One cup of date paste is the equivalent to one cup of sugar.
Learn about other natural sugar substitutes that you can use without having to worry about consuming unhealthy calories. Or, you can use stevia leaf as a natural sweetener in your tea, coffee, or baked goods.
Dates Are a Tasty Treat if You Have Diabetes
Eating dried dates or fresh dates can benefit you if you are diabetic and need to consume foods with a low GI rating.
The Nutrition Journal reported that consuming 50 grams of carbohydrates from dates didn’t cause an increase in blood glucose after eating. Scientists said that various varieties of dates can have health benefits for people with type 2 diabetes. (19)
Other research into the anti-diabetic effect of dates has found that antioxidants in dates help to increase insulin output and inhibit glucose absorption. (18)
As well as adding dates to your diet to help manage diabetes, learn what other foods are great for controlling blood glucose and insulin levels.
Dates Have Neuro-protective Properties
Consuming dates is good for diabetics because date fruit extract helps to protect against nerve damage (diabetic neuropathy).
Diabetic neuropathy is a complication of diabetes causing damage to the peripheral nerves. The symptoms of peripheral neuropathy include pain and numbness or weakness in the hands, feet, and the extremities.
One study involving diabetic animal subjects found that extracts from date fruits protected the nerves from deterioration. (20)
Dates Are Good for Helping to Lose Weight
One of the benefits of eating a few dates in the morning is that the extra fiber and healthy sugars give you energy and can help boost your weight loss efforts.
Dates contain about 80% sugar, but that doesn’t mean that eating a few dates is fattening.
For example, 5 dates contain nearly 1/3 of your daily fiber requirements. Researchers from Harvard Medical School say that getting more fiber in your diet is one of the key ways to lose weight. (21)
Of course, it is good to remember that 1 pitted date contains 66 calories. So, it’s good not to eat too many dates every day if you want to lose weight.
Dates May Make Childbirth Easier
Eating dates are good if you are pregnant because they don’t only give you a great nutritional boost but even make labor easier.
Scientists have discovered that eating dates in pregnancy, especially in the last trimester, can have a positive effect on childbirth.
One study found that women who ate 6 dates a day in the last 4 weeks of pregnancy had higher cervical dilatation before giving birth than women who didn’t consume any dates. (22)
Other studies found that eating 70 grams of dates a day during late pregnancy decreased the length of labor. Doctors also had to give oxytocin to start labor in fewer cases when women regularly ate dates during pregnancy. (23)
Dates Are Important for Good Liver Health
Another good reason to consume dates as part of a healthy, well-balanced diet is that antioxidants in dates protect your liver.
Other studies have shown that Ajwa date extracts help to promote liver function by decreasing liver enzymes that cause inflammation. In liver cancer, date fruit extract helped to keep the liver functioning better and help inhibit hepatocellular carcinoma, the most common form of liver cancer. (25)
Date Extracts Have Anticancer Potential
Phytochemicals and other bio-active compounds in dates may help to protect against various types of cancer.
For example, scientists have found that eating dried dates helps lower the risk of breast cancer. Other studies have shown that consuming date fruits can prevent colon cancer cells from spreading. (26)
Of course, more research has to be done to see exactly how dates can be used to treat cancer. However, the fact that dates contain high levels of antioxidants as well as vitamins and minerals means that consuming dates is good for boosting your immune system.
How to Store Date
To keep dates tasting delicious, it is important to store them properly so they retain their moisture.
Store dates in a glass container with a sealable lid or place them in a resealable plastic bag. Dates should stay fresh for up to a month in an airtight container.
To extend their shelf life, you can also store dates in the refrigerator or freezer. This way, you can store dried dates for a year or more.
How Many Dates to Eat Each Day? Recommended Dosage
Dates are high in sugar content – coming in at a whopping 66.5 grams per 100 gram serving of the fruit. (4) It is recommended to lessen sugar consumption, even when the sugar is being consumed from fruits, so moderation is a key.
Since dates vary greatly in size, the general recommendation is to consume 2-3 larger dates, or up to 4 smaller dates daily.
Ways to Eat More Dates in Your Diet
Dates are naturally sweet, and fresh or dried dates don’t contain added sugar. There are many different ways you can add dates to your diet.
For example, you can soak dates for 10 minutes in hot water before adding them to sweeten your favorite smoothie. Soaking dates before using them helps to release more sweet flavors and stops sticky date bits sticking to the sides of the blender.
You can also chop pitted dates and sprinkle them on your desserts, oatmeal, or even salads. Or simply eat dried dates as an easy snack. You can also add chopped dates in baking recipes such as breads, muffins, cookies, cakes and savory dishes.
Another way to cut down on refined sugar and use more dates in your diet is to use date paste in baking instead of sugar.
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