Dates are the edible and sweet fruit from the date palm. The tree probably first grew in Egypt and/or Mesopotamia, and individuals in the Middle East and the Indus River Valley have been eating dates for thousands of years.
There are many types of dates, and they all have a single pit. Ripe dates can range from yellow to red, depending on type. They similarly vary in length; some varieties are nearly three inches long.
Dates can be eaten fresh or dried; most individuals in the United States eat dried dates. Dates can be pitted and stuffed with ground nuts, cream cheese, or marzipan.
Health Benefits of Dates
Dates can also be used in baking, and they can be made into vinegar or alcohol. Get familiar with the major health benefits of dates now.
1. Prevent Constipation
A 3.5-ounce (one hundred grams) serving of dates contains roughly seven grams of fiber, and fiber can help prevent constipation. It does so by helping the digestive tract form stools.
The World Journal of Gastroenterology described a 2012 study in which researchers analyzed earlier studies of the effects of fiber on constipation.
They found dates and other sources of fiber caused the participants to have more regular bowel movements.
Fiber also makes individuals feel full longer, so they are less likely to overeat. One-quarter cup of dates provides twelve percent of an individual’s recommended daily intake of fiber.
2. Control over Blood Sugar
The fiber in dates may benefit control over blood sugar by slowing digestion and possibly keeping blood sugar from rising too high after a meal.
Consequently, dates have a low glycemic index, which is a measurement of how quickly blood sugar rises after eating a specific food.
In 2011, there was a study in which scientists determined the glycemic index of five types of dates by feeding them to healthy volunteers and then measuring their blood sugar.
They then tested the effects of the dates on the blood sugar of volunteers with diabetes. The scientists found all five types of dates had low glycemic indices and could benefit patients with diabetes.
3. Improve Cognitive Function
Dates may help improve cognitive function, for their anti-inflammatory properties may help defend the brain from Alzheimer’s disease. In 2016, the science journal Neural Regeneration Research described an experiment in which researchers fed dates to some mice for fifteen months.
They found the mice that had been fed dates showed less oxidative stress and inflammation in the brain. They were also less likely to develop the plaques associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
A year earlier, the Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine described a study in which researchers worked with two groups of mice over a fourteen-month period.
They fed one group a diet that included dates, while the other group got the standard mouse feed. The scientists had the mice run a series of mazes and perform a variety of tests at both the beginning and the end of the study.
They found the mice that had been given the conventional diet were more anxious, had poorer memories, and had more trouble learning than the mice that had received dates.
While other studies involving animals have gotten similar promising results, researchers will need to perform similar tests on human volunteers to prove dates’ efficacy in protecting the brain from Alzheimer’s disease and, possibly, other degenerative diseases of the nervous system.
4. A Natural Sugar Substitute
Dates are sweet with a flavor reminiscent of caramel. They also contain a lot of fructose, a sugar often found in fruit, can thus be used as a natural sugar substitute. Date fruit can be used as a replacement for white sugar in many recipes.
Individuals who want to use dates as a sweetener when cooking or baking make it into a paste first. The simplest way to do so is to pit the dates, add them to water, and then pour everything into blender or food processor and switch it on.
Individuals who don’t have a blender or food processor will have to let their dates soak overnight to soften them. Some will add vanilla or salt for flavor. When refrigerated, date paste keeps for about six months.
Individuals generally use a 1:1 ratio when using date paste. This means if a recipe calls for a single cup of white sugar, they should replace it with a single cup of date paste.
5. High in Antioxidants
Dates are usually eaten dried and are thus high in calories. A single 3.5-ounce serving contains 277 calories. The same serving, however, also contains a lot of nutrients, such as two grams of protein.
They also provide twenty percent of the recommended daily intake of potassium and twelve percent of the RDI of vitamin B6.
Dates are also high in antioxidants. They provide eighteen percent of the RDI of copper and fifteen percent of the RDI of manganese.
Date fruit also contain carotenoids, flavonoids, and phenolic acid. Carotenoids can help the heart stay healthy and they may also prevent eye disorders like macular degeneration.
Flavonoids prevent inflammation and thus may reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, and some kinds of cancer. Phenolic acid also prevents inflammation and may reduce the chances of developing heart disease or cancer.