Dates are the fruit of the date palm tree and are grown primarily in dry, arid regions, such as the Middle East and parts of California. Though dates are often used as an ingredient in sweets and other recipes, they offer several nutritional benefits when eaten fresh and pitted.
One of the main reasons people avoid eating dates is the belief that they will raise their blood sugar levels, but studies have shown that belief to be erroneous. The May 28, 2011, issue of “Nutrition Journal” reports a study in which date consumption was tested on diabetics. The study shows that while dates contain high amounts of natural sugars, they are actually a low-glycemic index food and did not significantly raise blood sugar levels after they were eaten. If you are diabetic, speak to your doctor before adding dates to your diet so that you can monitor your blood sugar levels and determine how dates affect you personally.
Key nutrients in dates
The following nutritional data outlines some of the key nutrients found in dates, and is based on a 100g serving of the fruit.
- Fiber – 6.7 grams. 27% RDA.
- Potassium – 696 milligrams. 20% RDA.
- Copper – 0.4 milligrams. 18% RDA.
- Manganese – 0.3 milligrams. 15% RDA.
- Magnesium – 54 milligrams. 14% RDA.
- Vitamin B6 – 0.2 milligrams. 12% RDA.
Health benefits of date fruit
- 1. Promoting Digestive Health, Relieving Constipation – Fiber is essential for promoting colon health and making for regular bowel movements. The insoluble and soluble fiber found in dates help to clean out the gastrointestinal system, allowing the colon to work at greater levels of efficiency. Some other benefits relating to fiber and colon health are reduced risks of colitis, colon cancer, and hemorrhoids. (Dates could even be coupled with other home remedies for hemorrhoids.)
- 2. Boosting Heart Health – In addition to promoting colon health, fiber is also known to boost heart health.
- 3. Anti-Inflammatory – Dates are rich in magnesium – a mineral known for its anti-inflammatory benefits. One study found that “inflammatory indicators in the body such as CRP (C-reactive protein), TNF (tumor necrosis factor alpha), and IL6 (interleukin 6) were all reduced when magnesium intake was increased.” Further, inflammation in the arterial walls was also reduced with magnesium intake. Based on magnesium’s anti-inflammatory properties and the findings of this study, magnesium can effectively reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, and other inflammation-related health ailments.
- 4. Reduced Blood Pressure – Magnesium has been shown to help lower blood pressure – and again, dates are full of the mineral. Additionally, potassium is another mineral in dates that has several functions within the body, aiding with the proper workings of the heart and helping to reduce blood pressure.
- 5. Reduced Stroke Risk – After evaluating 7 studies published over a 14 year time period, researchers found stroke risk was reduced by 9% for every every 100 milligrams of magnesium a person consumes per day. The research can be found in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
- 6. A Healthy Pregnancy and Delivery – Further adding to the health benefits of dates, one study performed by researchers at the University of Science and Technology set out to discover how the date fruit impacted labor parameters and delivery outcomes. After studying 69 women for a year and 1 month, the researchers found that “the consumption of date fruit in the last 4 weeks before labour significantly reduced the need for induction and augmentation of labour, and produced a more favourable, but non-significant, delivery outcome. The results warrant a randomised controlled trial.”
- 7. Boosting Brain Health – Some studies, such as one found in JAMA Internal Medicine, found that sufficient vitamin B6 levels are associated with improved brain performance and better test scores.
A Summary of Dates Health Benefits: Dates are Great for:
- Weight loss
- Relieving constipation, supporting regular bowel movements
- Promoting heart health, reducing heart disease risk
- Iron-deficiency anemia
- Reducing blood pressure
- Promoting respiratory and digestive health
- Pregnancy deliveries
- Hemorrhoid prevention
- Chronic conditions such as arthritis
- Reducing colitis risk
- Preventing colon cancer