Dates are delicious and amazingly sweet fruits native to the middle-east and persian gulf area. They pose as the perfect food for energy. Sweetness comes from the high quantities of glucose, sucrose and fructose present in it. Apart from being a sweet delicacy, Dates are highly nutritious and beneficial for us. They are consumed in both dried and raw forms.
Benefits of dates
- Good Source of Energy – Dates are high in natural sugars like glucose, fructose, and sucrose. The high energy obtained from it can be attributed to its high sugar content. Many people around the world eat natural low-fat dates for a quick afternoon snack, when they are feeling lethargic or sluggish to help bump up energy levels fast. People who follow Islam and observe fastings, break their fast by eating them along with water. This also helps avoid overeating of food once the fast is over. When the body begins to absorb their high nutritional content, feeling of hunger can be pacified.
- May Boost Brain Health – A study led by Musthafa Mohamed Essa, Ph.D. suggests that dates protect against oxidative stress and inflammation in the brain. According to research, “date palm fruits are a good source of dietary fiber and are rich in total phenolics and natural antioxidants, such as anthocyanins, ferulic acid, protocatechuic acid, and caffeic acid”. The presence of these polyphenolic compounds could potentially help slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
- Dates Rich in Fiber May Help Relieve Constipation – In traditional Tunisian medicine, dates are used for treating constipation. According to research on the effects of dietary fiber, the foods that are rich in fiber are essential for promoting healthy bowel movements and ensuring the comfortable passage of food through the intestinal tract. A 2005 study also suggests that these dried fruits have high levels of dietary fiber and insoluble fiber, in particular. The insoluble fiber found in dates promotes digestion by bulking up the stool and may also aid in relieving the symptoms of constipation.
- Relief from Intestinal Disorders – Research suggests that dates contain insoluble and soluble fibers, as well as many beneficial amino acids, which can stimulate the digestion of food and ensure quick passage through the gastrointestinal tract. According to a review published in the Journal of Nutrition Reviews, the fiber may also aid in the treatment of conditions like gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), diverticulitis and hemorrhoids.
- Give Relief from Anaemia – Dates are a good source of many nutrients, including iron. A deficiency of iron can contribute to anaemia, a condition characterized by fatigue, dizziness, brittle nails and shortness of breath. Fortunately, increasing your intake of iron-rich foods such as dates could help to relief from anaemia symptoms. However, there is currently a lack of research evaluating their direct role in the treatment of anaemia.
- Prevent Heart Diseases – A study by Waseem Rock et al. concluded that consuming dates was effective at reducing triglyceride levels and decreasing oxidative stress, both of which are considered as risk factors for heart disease and atherogenesis, which is the build-up of fatty plaque in the arteries. These dried fruits are rich in antioxidants, which may help to prevent atherogenesis and aid in reducing risk of stroke. They are also high in various phytochemicals, which may also help protect against heart disease. Furthermore, they are a rich source of potassium, which studies have shown to lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of stroke as well as other heart-related diseases.
- Treats Sexual Dysfunction – In 2006, an animal study revealed the effects of date palm pollen and its oil on sexual functioning, reporting that the high levels of estradiol and flavonoid components in dates are helping increase sperm count and motility. Another study was conducted in Indian states that date palm pollen, which has been used to treat male infertility in traditional medicine.
- Prevent Night Blindness – Vitamin A deficiency is often linked to night blindness, along with other symptoms like dry eyes and an increased risk of infection. According to an article by H.A. Hajar Al Binali, M.D., dates are rich in carotenoids, which may help to prevent night blindness and preserve healthy vision.
- Help Treat Chronic Diarrhea – According to an article published by Columbia University Medical Center, foods rich in potassium such as dates can help to replace and replete electrolytes that may be lost due to chronic diarrhea. Thanks to their high fiber content, that can also aid in digestion and may alleviate the unpredictable nature of chronic diarrhea.
- May Have Cancer-Fighting Properties – Research conducted by Prof. Dr. Jeremy PE Spencer et al suggests that eating dates may help in improving bowel health and slow down the development and spread of colorectal cancer cells. Studies also indicate that these dried fruits exhibit anti-tumor activity, although the exact mechanism remains unknown and requires more research.
- Bone Health – Dates contain boron, which is amongst the nutrients that promotes healthy bones. A study published in the Journal of Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition suggests that significant amounts of minerals such as phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium found in dried fruits make them a superfood for strengthening bones and fighting off painful and debilitating diseases like osteoporosis. Organic pitted dates contain selenium, manganese, copper, and magnesium, all of which aids in managing bone health, particularly amongst older adults.
- Dates May Promote Healthy Weight Gain – Dried dates are rich in sugar along with proteins, and many other essential vitamins and minerals. They are also high in fiber, which can aid in the weight management. Medjool dates are easily available in grocery markets and make for a healthy and delicious snack. An animal study conducted in 2014 suggested that intake of dates may aid in weight gain. However, another animal study done in 2016 indicated no such increase in weight. In view of the conflicting reports, more research is needed to support this benefit.
- Aid in Relieving Symptoms of SAR – According to a study conducted in 2012, dates may have a positive impact on SAR (Seasonal Allergic Rhinitis), a condition which affects approximately 30 million people in the United States alone. The study published in Inflammatory Research actually found that date palm immunotherapy was effective at decreasing several markers of inflammation in patients with allergic rhinitis.
Types of dates
- Organic Medjool dates
- Noor dates
- Ajwa dates
Adding dates to your diet
Dates can be consumed in both raw and dried form. It can be eaten as it is or added to desserts, shakes and smoothies.
Recipe for Dates Smoothie
Boiled water – 1 cup
Dates seedless – 12 no’s
Vanilla essence – ¼ teaspoon
Curd 1- cup
Lemon juice –¼ teaspoon
Milk – ¼ cup
Cardamom powder – 1 pinch
In boiled water, add dates and soak it for 10 minutes.
Transfer dates to mixer without water then add vanilla essence, curd, lemon juice, milk, cardamom powder and grind well.
Now smoothie is ready to serve.
Recipe for Date and Nut Ladoo
Preparation time 5 minutes, Cooking time 10 minutes, This recipe will make 18 ladoos.
1 cup dates pitted and chopped (khajoor)
1-1/2 cups mixed nuts roasted and roughly chopped, I am using almonds, pistachios, cashews, and pecans
2 tablespoons coco powder
1/2 teaspoon instant coffee
Pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon oil to oil your palms
Soften the chopped dates in microwave for 30 seconds.
Blend the dates in the food processor until they become to the paste, this should take about 10 seconds, add coffee, coco, and salt blend it again until all the ingredients nicely incorporated about 10 seconds. Add the nuts to the food processor and blend it for about 15 seconds. Nuts should be still chunky.
Remove from food processor, oil your palm and knead the mix into dough, and divide them into 18 equal parts and roll them into ladoos.
Dates and nuts ladoos can be stored in air tight container for a month or more.
1. Might Cause Abdominal Issues
Dates by themselves may not cause abdominal problems – unless otherwise they have sulfites added to them – which is the most common today. Sulfites are the chemical compounds added to dried fruit to preserve them and even eliminate harmful bacteria. Individuals sensitive to sulfites can suffer from certain reactions like stomach pain, gas, bloating, and diarrhea.
Dates are an excellent source of fiber, which, surprisingly, can have a reverse effect in this case. If you haven’t been already taking enough fiber, consuming too many dates simply means the intake of fiber in excess and this sudden surge can lead to abdominal problems like constipation and bloating.
Though there is less research, dates were also reported to worsen diarrhea in certain cases.
2. Can Cause Skin Rashes
Dried fruit like dates can also cause skin rashes and the culprit, once again, are the sulfites. Rashes can also be caused by mold present in many dried fruits, dates being one of them.
3. Can Cause Asthma Attacks
There is not enough research on dates causing asthma attacks. But since dates can lead to allergies, and allergies can cause asthma, it is better if susceptible individuals take extra care. In fact, 80% of the people with asthma have allergies to airborne substances like molds – molds that are also found in dried fruit like dates.
4. Can Cause Weight Gain
Though dates are high in fiber, they also are relatively high in calories and energy density – and can contribute to unprecedented weight gain. Dates contain 2.8 calories per gram, which simply means they are medium energy density foods and can lead to weight gain.
5. Can Lead To Hyperkalemia
Hyperkalemia is the condition where the levels of potassium become excessively high in the blood. Dates are a rich source of potassium and consuming too many of them can lead to this condition. So, if your potassium levels are high, avoid dates. And avoid taking too many of them.
The ideal blood potassium levels are anywhere between 3.6 to 5.2 millimoles per liter. A blood potassium level higher than 7 millimoles per liter can get dangerous and requires immediate medical intervention.
6. The Wax Coating Can Have Harmful Effects
Like other fruits (such as apples), even dates often come coated with wax. Fruits are often coated with wax just to enhance their appearance and give them a shiny appeal –so they remain and look fresh for longer periods of time. The shine of dates usually comes from petroleum wax or chemical spray, both of which can lead to severe digestive issues in the long run.
7. Can Be Unhealthy For Babies
Dates are too thick for babies. They find them hard to be chewed, and since their intestines are developing, dates may not get easily digested. This can lead to complications. In fact, dates can also block an infant’s windpipe and choke them – so please exercise caution.
Keep dates away from infants, at least till they grow older.
8. Can Lead To Fructose Intolerance
The natural sweetness of dates comes with the fructose they contain (at least a part of it). Certain individuals experience difficulty in digesting fructose, which leads to a condition called fructose intolerance. The sugar is not properly absorbed, which makes it pass through your digestive system as a whole (as your body is not able to break it down). This can also ultimately lead to gas and abdominal pain, as the sugar starts to react with natural bacteria in your intestines.
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