Benefits of Dates
Date Palm fruit, also known as Phoenix dactylifera have a number of surprising benefits. These sweet fruits have been cultivated for thousands of years. While Dates are not considered to be in the superfood category like some others, the benefits of dates are varied and many. I do not have a very sweet tooth but for some reason, I have always loved dates.
I add them to my morning bowl of oatmeal with a bit of chopped up mango and it sets me up very well for the day. If you don’t like oatmeal, never mind – dates are very versatile and there is any number of ways that you can enjoy them. Try eating them alone and fresh, chopping them up and throwing them into your yogurt or adding a couple to your juice or smoothie recipe.
And why would you want to do this? Well, apart from the delightful flavor, they are incredibly healthy and confer a huge amount of health benefits on your body. They are a rich source of healthy fiber, minerals and vitamins and can help relieve painful constipation, diarrhea and other intestinal complaints.
Dates have also been traditionally eaten to help promote muscle development, weight gain and even sexual dysfunction. This article will take a more detailed look at the many benefits that you can look forward to by adding this simple food to your diet.
Dates are not only a rich source of healthy fiber but a great source of the essential minerals and vitamins that our bodies need in order to maintain good health. Dates contain riboflavin, niacin, thiamine, folic acid and vitamins A and K.
Eating dates will also enrich your body with minerals like phosphorus, zinc, magnesium, calcium, potassium and iron. It should also be noted that dates have a very high sugar content and even if your sugar is coming from a fruit source, you should be careful not to overdo it.
Health Benefits of Dates
As well as being a delicious and versatile fruit, there are plenty of good health reasons for adding dates to your daily diet.
Whenever you are looking into a natural remedy for constipation, dates will be high on the list of ways to ease the complaint. Dates have a very well-known laxative ability because they are a very good source of soluble fiber.
Their laxative effect can be maximized by soaking them overnight in water. If you want to see the best improvements, you should eat the dates the morning after they have soaked into a syrupy texture.
2. Other Digestive Issues
As well as their role in easing constipation, dates can help promote digestive health in general. Fiber is an essential part of our diets and ensures that we have regular bowel movement and clean out our gastrointestinal systems.
Dates can help reduce the risk of a number of colonic complaints like colitis and can even help to treat hemorrhoids. Eating dates on a regular basis can also promote the growth of good bacteria in the stomach and stimulate far more effective digestion.
3. Bone health
As we age, so our bones gradually weaken and certain people will develop bone loss diseases like osteoporosis. Dates are full of the essential minerals and vitamins that can help you fight this issue and keep your bones healthy and strong.
Eating dates will provide you with a plentiful supply of iron which can be especially beneficial to people suffering from anemia. This boost of iron promotes strength and greater energy while reducing the feeling of fatigue associated with anemia.
5. Pregnancy and Delivery
In certain cultures, dates have been traditionally recommended to pregnant women to ensure a healthy pregnancy and easier delivery. Recent scientific studies have confirmed that these traditional uses may well have some scientific basis.
One study published in 2011 confirmed that eating dates in the weeks leading up to labor significantly decreased the need for induction while also proving beneficial to the delivery outcome. (1) The researchers concluded that the results were promising enough to recommend further research.
6. Energy Boost
If you are prone to periods of fatigue or genuine sluggishness and let’s face it most of us are, then a handful of dates might be able to give you a bit of an energy boost. While consuming too much sugar is never recommended, dates are high in sugars like fructose and sucrose and might be just what the doctor…or boss ordered when you are feeling a little out of puff.
This is perhaps a slightly surprising health benefit but there is ample anecdotal evidence as well as some scientific research that suggest that dates might be able to help relieve the miserable symptoms of seasonal allergies.
In the US alone, some 20 million plus people are affected by seasonal allergic rhinitis and one study published in 2002 noted that organic sulfur compounds, found in very few natural products but present in dates, could help alleviate allergic reactions. (2)
8. Heart health
Dates are a rich source of dietary fiber which is essential for reducing LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol levels. Dates are also a rich source of potassium which is linked to a reduction in heart disease and stroke. Adding dates to your weekly diet can promote a healthy heart and reduce your risk of very common heart related diseases.
9. Weight Gain
With so many people looking to trim down and shake off those unwanted pounds, there is far less space devoted to those who want to actually gain weight. Dates are high in calories; a kilo of the fruit gives you some 3,000 calories and while we would never recommend getting your daily calorific allowance from the fruit alone, dates are a healthy supplement for anybody looking to put on some weight or to prevent losing too much too fast.
10. Sexual dysfunction
Whenever I see claims related to the aphrodisiac qualities of food, I am naturally skeptical. Traditional claims that dates increase sexual appetite might be based in some truth and there is very little to lose by giving it a go.
As well as increasing sexual appetite, dates are also said to promote sterility by increasing sperm count and sperm motility. While many of these claims owe their roots to tradition, some formal research was conducted in 2006. This research concluded that the flavonoid and estradiol compounds present in dates were responsible for increasing sterility levels. (3)
I will admit to trying plenty of these in my time and with a varying degree of success. I stopped drinking some time ago so there is no personal guarantee that this one will work but apparently dates are commonly used as a remedy for alcoholic excess. If you are suffering a hangover, you could do worse than giving them a go.
Research tells me that they should be soaked overnight for best results so if you are planning a bit of a night out be prepared. If you are looking for quick relief, then dates are also said to help so grab a few before bed and drink them with a liter of water, the combination of water and dates should help prevent that nasty next morning feeling. (4)
The soluble fiber contained in the fruit helps to absorb fluid and provide bulk to loose stools. They are also a rich source of potassium which is known to remedy diarrhea.
Antioxidant and Antibacterial Properties of Dates
Dates contain high levels of natural antioxidants. A rough measure of the level of antioxidants in food is their Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity or ORAC. Deglet Noor dates, which can be found in most stores have a USDA Total ORAC value of 3895—similar to Cherries (5).
Dates are also high in anthocyanins—natural flavonoids in vegetables and fruits that make them blue and red. Anthocyanins are 9X more bio-available than other flavonoids (6). Meaning gram for gram you are getting more usable flavonoid benefits from dates.
Dates also contain antibacterial properties. Different species have different antibacterial properties. The Ajwa date from Saudi Arabia, a dark dry date—was found to be antibacterial against Staphylococcus aureus (“Staph”), Serratia marcescens, Bacillus cereus, and Escherichia coli (E. Coli). (7)
Studies also found that chilling the dates for long periods of times (5 and 8 weeks) increased Anthrocyan and Phenolic content.
The next time you want a sweet snack–reach for a date instead of some processed food. In addition to satisfying your craving you will get some healthy benefits as well!