Dates: A Sweet Truth

I am constantly fielding this question: If someone is on a diet plan, would they always be deprived of something sweet? Well it’s a big fat NO… I have got something that’s sweet, healthy, with extremely low, almost zero amounts of fat and no cholesterol. Isn’t it great?!

A staple food of Middle Eastern countries, Dates have been cultivated since ancient times, probably as early as 6000 B.C. The Date Palm (scientific name: Phoenix dactylifera) produces bunches of oval drupes that are at least 3 cm long and 2 cm in diameter. These drupes, called dates, are incorporated in many Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisines and are often eaten whole.

There are many varieties of date-palm cultivated and some important varieties that are popular for their high quality are Amir Hajj, Saidy, Khadrawy and Medjool. There are many health benefits of eating dates, as they are free of cholesterol and are very low in fat.

1. Dates are a very good source of dietary fiber and protein, and are rich in vitamin C, vitamin B1, B2, B3 and B5 and vitamin A1. There are, in dates, 20 different kinds of amino acids which ease the digestive process. Dates are rich in soluble and insoluble fiber. According to the American Cancer Society, consuming 20-35 grams of dietary fiber every day is healthy for your body.

2. Glucose is a type of simple sugar, and fructose sugars are found in most fruits. Both sugars are not harmful to health because of they can be naturally processed by the body, and fructose is easily digested and processed in the body to produce energy. Dates are considered to be one of the best energy boosting snacks as they are power-packed with 29 grams of natural sugars such as glucose, fructose and sucrose. They also contain 31 grams of carbohydrate and 3 grams of dietary fiber.

3. Dates have a very low calorie count: around 23 calories for a single date fruit. That is why it is also suitable for health conscious people.

4. Potassium helps and activates muscle contraction and helps regulate blood pressure; one of the key health benefits of dates is its ability to regulate a healthy nervous system, thanks to its rich potassium content. Thiamine in date fruit helps release energy from carbohydrates and is also important for nerve cells, while niacin maintains normal nerve function.

5. Another key health benefit of dates is its ability to lower undesirable LDL cholesterol. Consuming 100 grams of date fruit can lower blood cholesterol levels by inhibiting the absorption of fat or cholesterol in the large intestine so that blood cholesterol levels decrease.

6. Dates contain many health-benefiting phytonutrients flavonoid polyphenolic antioxidants known as tannins. Tannins are known to have anti-infective, anti-inflammatory and anti-hemorrhagic properties.
The Potuchin in date fruit makes contractions in blood vessels in the uterus and muscles of the uterus, thus preventing bleeding (women who have recently given birth are advised to consume dates). High tannin content of dates works as cleaning agents in the body.

7. Salicylate in date fruit serves to reduce and relieve pain due to its anti-inflammatory and pain relieving properties.

8. Zeaxanthin is an important dietary carotenoid selectively absorbed into the retinal macula lutea where it is thought to provide antioxidant and protective light-filtering functions; thus it offers protection against age related muscular degeneration in elderly individuals.

9. Dates are an excellent source of iron, containing 0.90 mg/100 g of fruit (about 11% of RDI). Iron, being a component of hemoglobin inside the red blood cells, determines the oxygen carrying capacity of the blood.

10. The date fruit is rich in B-complex group of vitamins as well as vitamin K. It contains very good amounts of pyridoxine (vitamin B-6), niacin, pantothenic acid, and riboflavin. These vitamins, acting as co factors, help the body metabolize carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Vitamin K is essential for many coagulant factors in the blood as well as in bone metabolism. Other important mineral salts include copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, and phosphorous. They also have a dense concentration of phenol antioxidants and other nutrients.

Research has recommended that higher intake of potassium (about 400 mg) can cut the risk of stroke by 40 percent and this is very good for helping people with hypertension. A single pitted date has close to 150mg of Potassium making this fruit the rightful candidate for people with hypertension. Bodybuilders, Athletes, Sports people: try this pre workout/pre exercise drink. Add seedless dates in milk or your protein supplement in a blender and consume it cold (my preferred choice). Its also guaranteed to be a very nutritious snack for both kids and the elderly.

* Fresh dates are much lower in calories than dried dates. For example, 4 oz fresh dates contain 100 calories while 4 oz dried dates contain 250 calories.
* Dates are an effective remedy for a weak heart. Dates soaked overnight in water and crushed in the same water in the morning after removing the seeds should be taken at least twice a week for this condition. It will strengthen the heart.
* 1 pitted date (25gms approx.) has 5gm of water.
* Dates are a natural and excellent weight gainer.