The sweet delectable date is a nutritional powerhouse. They are the fruit of the date palm, Phoenix dactylifera, whose benefits mankind has been reaping for thousands of years.
It is one of the oldest staple crops, whose cultivation dates back to the earliest civilizations which sprung from the Middle East’s Fertile Crescent. The majority of the world’s dates grow in North Africa and the across the Middle East, where the hot weather allows the fruit to ripen to an optimal sweetness. The golden fruit is usually dried before being packaged, however, there are some varieties of dates which are sold fresh.
Types of Dates
There are several different cultivars of dates.
Here are a few of the most well-known varieties you’ll see at the supermarket.
- Medjool date – the soft, caramel-like Medjool date hails from Morocco and is one of the larger date varieties. It’s also grown throughout the Middle East.
- Deglet Nour date – also known as the “queen of all dates.” the Deglet Nour comes from northern Africa, around Tunisia and Algeria. This soft, honeyed date is one of the most widely exported varieties.
- Barhee date – with a soft texture and intense, sweet flavor, the Barhee is one date you can enjoy fresh or dried.
- Thoory date – popular for baking, the Thoory has a harder texture and rich, nutty flavor.
- Zahidi date – a rare type of date, the Zahidi comes from Iran and is prized for its slightly nutty, sweet taste.
The Health Benefits of Dates
Dates are high in sugar which may give some pause, but they’re also packed with a host of essential nutrients. This means that when enjoyed in moderation, dates can be a valuable addition to a well-balanced, healthy diet. The vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals in dates range far and wide. Essentials like vitamin B, iron, magnesium and manganese, and potassium all contribute to dates’ overall status as a fantastic but healthy treat.
You’ll find that the fruit contains plenty of fiber as well. This fiber makes dates a good natural aid for constipation and a promoter of a healthy gut. But the fiber in dates holds beneficial properties beyond a healthy digestive tract. It can also help you lose weight.
The Benefits of Dates for Weight Loss
If you’re wondering whether or not dates are fattening, we have good news for you. When enjoyed in moderation, eating dates won’t pack on the pounds. This is in part thanks to the fiber found in dates, which helps keep you fuller longer and helps prevent spikes in blood sugar. Dates can also serve as a stellar substitute for sugar. Think of dates as a nutritious natural sweetener and use it in lieu of traditional sweeteners in certain recipes.
So how many dates should you eat in a day? Stick to a portion of around 4 dates (3.5 ounces or 100 grams). This tasty fruit is relatively high in calories, containing around 270 calories per serving. As long as you don’t go overboard and eat them as part of a balanced lifestyle, you can still incorporate them into your diet and reach your weight loss goals.
Why You Should Consider Eating Dates During Pregnancy
Pregnant women will be interested to know that a 2011 study indicated that eating dates during the final four weeks of pregnancy may help with cervical dilation, reduce the need for labor-inducing hormones, and shorten the duration of the first stage of labor.
Another plus is that dates contain a bit of iron (around 5% of the recommended daily intake). Getting the correct levels of iron during your pregnancy is important to avoid complications from anemia, which is caused by low iron levels. When enjoyed in conjunction with a healthy, balanced diet, dates act as a delicious source of iron, in addition to the other nutrients we outlined above. Be sure to ask your doctor if you have any questions or concerns.
Dates For Diabetes: What You Should Know
Despite the fact that dates are high in sugar, researchers have suggested that dates may help in the management of diabetes. The high fiber in dates may help people living with diabetes control blood glucose levels. The natural sweetness of dates can also satisfy cravings for sugary treats while allowing you to steer clear of foods that can spike blood sugar levels.
7 Tasty Ideas Using Dates
Ready to get more dates in your diet? Here are some simple yet delicious ways to eat more dates.
- Starting the day off with oatmeal? Add a small handful of chopped dates to your bowl instead of sugar or agave nectar.
- Use dates to make granola bars at home. Combine them with your favorite nuts and seeds and a sprinkling of cacao powder.
- Chop dates into a salad for a little extra protein and fiber with your greens.
- Throw some dates into a smoothie. This way you can sweeten your smoothie and get a nutritional boost courtesy of a few dates.
- For home bakers on a strict plant-based diet, dates offer a great way to emulate the flavor of caramel without dipping into dairy products. Thanks to their texture, dates are perfect for binding together other ingredients.
- If you’re in the mood for a healthy pick-me-up, try stuffing dates with nuts (almonds and pistachios are great choices) and snack on a few between meals.
- Bake dates into a healthy honey whole grain quick bread or morning muffins to enjoy at breakfast or as a filling snack.
So whether you’re looking for a healthier option to satisfy your sweet tooth, trying to up your fiber intake, or are wanting to replace your current snacks with a filling, nutrient-packed treat, you should seriously consider putting a bag of dates in your shopping basket on your next grocery run.
Of course, if making meals at home doesn’t fit in with your busy schedule, never fear. Several of Fresh N Lean’s organic pre-made meals feature dates as an ingredient so you can benefit from all the nutritional value of this gorgeous fruit without any of the hassle.