Dates refer to the fruits of the date palm tree. These are probably one of the oldest cultivated fruits and have been a part of the staple diet in the Middle Eastern countries. They are believed to have originated somewhere around the Persian Gulf. A typical date fruit is a drupe where the outer fleshy part surrounds a shell of hardened endocarp consisting of a seed inside. These fruits are oval to cylindrical in shape and about 3 to 7 cm long. Unripe fruits are bright yellow or red in color. On ripening, they become brown and shriveled, resembling a prune. There are several varieties of dates which can be categorized into three groups on the basis of their sugar content- soft, semi-dry and dried dates. All varieties of dates are same in all respects except slight differences in taste and size.
Dates can be consumed in both fresh and dried forms. They are sweet with a rich deep flavor and a slightly chewy texture. Though most of the varieties have seeds, pitted dates (dates with seeds removed) are also available. They can be chopped, candied, stuffed and added to various recipes. They are used in several recipes in the Middle East such as stuffed dates, date nut bread, ma’amoul etc. Besides their rich taste, they are a powerhouse of nutrition that can greatly boost your energy. Muslims break their fast with dates in the holy month of Ramadan. They make a great combination of taste and health.
Health Benefits of Date Fruit:
The rich nutritional content of dates makes them beneficial for your health in several ways. The various health benefits of date fruits are as follows:
1. Cures Anaemia:
Anaemia is characterized by unusually low quantity of red blood cells in the human body and is caused by the deficiency of iron. Dates contain an impressive level of iron which makes them the perfect home remedy for treating iron deficiency. Consumption of dates on a regular basis can greatly boost the amount of iron in the blood. The high level of iron not only balances out the inherent lack of iron in anaemic patients but also increases strength and vitality.
2. Treatment of Constipation:
Dates are a wonderful laxative food. This makes them beneficial for those suffering from constipation. They are rich in soluble fibre, which plays an important role in promoting healthy bowel movements and comfortable passage of food through the intestinal tract. All you need to do is soak the dates in water overnight. Eat these soaked dates next morning like syrup to get the best results.
3. Treatment of Diarrhoea:
Passing of 4 or more loose, watery stools in a day is called Diarrhoea.This nasty health problem is caused due to several factors, which may or may not be contagious. Ripe dates are effective in treating diarrhoea as they contain potassium which helps in managing looseness of the bowels. They are also easily digestible which helps in alleviating chronic diarrhoea. The soluble fibre in dates also provides bulk to the bowel movements and promotes healthy functioning of the excretory system.
4. Bone Health:
Packed with significant amounts of minerals, dates are useful in strengthening bones and curing painful diseases like osteoporosis. Minerals such as selenium, manganese, copper and magnesium found in dates greatly contribute to healthy bone development and strength, particularly with the progression of age when bones gradually weaken.
5. Prevents Abdominal Cancer:
Abdominal cancer includes stomach cancer, renal cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, pancreatic cancer, liver cancer and bowel or colorectal cancer. Research has shown that dates work to reduce the risk and impact of abdominal cancer. Additionally, they can be easily ingested and utilized for providing surplus energy.
6. Treatment Of Intestinal Disorders:
The presence of nicotine in dates can inhibit the growth of harmful pathological organisms and promote the growth of friendly bacteria in the intestines. Besides, they contain soluble and insoluble fibres, as well as beneficial amino acids, which ensure proper digestion of food. This results in full absorption of the nutrients by the digestive tract and their proper usage in the body.
7. Maintains Healthy Nervous System:
The nervous system includes both the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system. Dates are a good source of vitamins which boost the health and functionality of the human nervous system. The abundant potassium content of dates also works to increase the speed and alertness of the brain. Potassium, which is a vital element of cells and body fluids, also control the heart rate and blood pressure level of the body, thus preventing coronary heart disease and heart stroke.
8. Good for Heart:
Soaking dates at night and eating them crushed in the morning is beneficial for a weak heart. When consumed twice a week, these tiny storehouses of health help in building up the heart. Besides, they are a rich source of potassium which has been shown to reduce the risk of stroke and other heart diseases. They prevent heart disease, heart attack and stroke by reducing the levels of LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) in the body.
9. Treatment of Allergies:
Dates contain organic sulphur, which is rarely found in other foods. Organic sulphur has several health benefits, which include reduction of allergic reactions and seasonal allergies. Organic sulphur compounds are beneficial for people suffering from Seasonal Allergic Rhinitis (SAR). Dates are a great option to add sulphur to the diet and prevent allergies.
10. Treatment of Night Blindness:
Daily consumption of dates helps in keeping the eyes healthy and also prevents diseases like night blindness. A paste of date leaves can be rubbed on and around the eyes or dates can be ingested orally to reduce night blindness.
11. Promotes Weight Gain:
If you are underweight, dates are probably just the thing for you! They are a great source of sugar, proteins and many essential vitamins. Consuming dates with cucumber paste helps to maintain normal healthy weight without causing malnourishment. If you are thin and slim, you can eat dates to increase your weight and build muscles.
12. Treatment of Sexual Weakness:
Dates are a natural aphrodisiac.Certain studies have shown that dates are beneficial in increasing sexual stamina. A handful of dates can be soaked in goat’s milk overnight and then ground within the same milk along with cardamom powder and honey. This acts as an effective tonic for increasing sexual endurance and reducing sterility.Dates contain high levels of estradiol and flavonoid, which can increase sperm count and motility.
13. Dental Health:
Dates contain fluorine, an important chemical element that inhibits tooth decay by removing plaque as well as strengthening the tooth enamel. Tooth enamel is made up of hydroxypatites which becomes resistant against tooth decay when it comes in contact with fluorine.
14. Beneficial for Pregnant Women:
Dates also offer several benefits during pregnancy. Being rich in iron, dates prevent anaemia in the would-be-mother as well as the foetus. They also cause an improvement in the uterus muscles, allowing it to enlarge in a smooth manner. Dates also improve the mother’s milk by providing adequate nutrition to it. They prevent haemorrhage soon after childbirth.
15. Treatment of Intoxication:
Alcoholism is a problem that devastates not only the drinker but also his family. Dates are a great treatment for alcoholic intoxication, offering quick comfort. They can be rubbed as well as drenched overnight to obtain maximum benefits.
Skin Benefits of Date Fruit:
The rich nutritional value of dates makes them beneficial for your skin too. Some of the amazing skin care benefits of date palm fruits are given below.
16. Maintenance of Healthy Skin:
Red dates are loaded with vitamin C and flavonoids, which can improve the elasticity of your skin and enrich the subcutaneous tissues, thus making your skin tender and smooth. Dates also contain vitamin B5 which helps in preventing skin problems like stretch marks.
17. Anti-ageing Benefits:
Dates are a rich source of antioxidants, which can effectively counter the harmful free radicals in the body, thus preventing premature ageing of skin. Vitamin C, in particular, helps to decrease the occurrence of wrinkles by resisting oxidation and preventing the accumulation of melanin inside the human body.
Hair Benefits of Dates:
Hair follicles also require adequate nutrition for their proper growth and maintenance. Regular consumption of dates can be beneficial for your hair.
18. Healthy Hair:
Dates are abundant in vitamins, particularly vitamin B5, which is vital for the maintenance of healthy hair. Deficiency of this vitamin can cause hair problems like hair loss, brittle hair and split ends. Consumption of dates can help minimize these problems.
Nutritional Value of Dates:
Dates are a powerhouse of nutrition comprising of vitamins, minerals and dietary fibre but no sodium at all. The chart given below shows that dates are nutrient dense as well.
- Calories: Dates are high in calories with 100 grams of date flesh providing up to 314 calories.
- Proteins and Fat: Dates are low in proteins and fat but high in sugars, which mainly comprise of fructose and glucose. Date seeds have a higher content of fat (9 grams/100 grams) and protein (5.1 grams/ 100 grams) in comparison to the flesh.
- Vitamins: Dates are moderate sources of vitamin A with 100 grams serving providing 149 International Units (IU) of this vitamin. They also contain adequate levels of B complex vitamins such as pyridoxine (vitamin B6), niacin, pantothenic acid and riboflavin as well as vitamin K.
- Minerals: Dates are a rich source of minerals like selenium, copper, potassium, magnesium, manganese, calcium and iron. They contain abundant amounts of potassium with 100 grams serving providing 696 mg or 16% of the daily recommended levels of this electrolyte. They are also an excellent source of iron, providing 0.90 mg in 100 grams serving which is 11% of the recommended daily intake.
Types of Dates:
There are several varieties of dates depending upon the cultivars. Some of the popular varieties of dates include the following:
1. Medjool: This variety has its origin in Morocco. These are large and extremely delicious with a rich toffee-like flavor.
2. Barhi: This variety is native to Basra in Iraq. These are round and mild amber to darkish brown in color (on ripening). They are gentle with thicker flesh and luxurious taste.
3. Halawy: This variety is native to Iraq. These areincredibly sweet and small to moderate in size.
4. Dayri: Also known as the Monastery Date, these dates are lengthy, slim, black in color and gentle.
5. Deglet Noor: This is one of the best varieties available in Algeria and Tunisia. These are semi dry and not so sweet. They are mostly used in cooking.
6. Saidy: These are extremely popular in Libya and extremely sweet. They are mostly grown in hot weather conditions.
7. Maktoom: This variety is huge, thick skinned and reddish brown in color. They are gentle and moderately sweet.
8. Hayani: They are substantially grown in Egypt. These are gentle and dark red to black in color.
9. Migraf: Also known as Mejraf, they are popular in Southern Yemen because of their excellent quality. These are large and golden amber in color.
10. Iteema: This variety is native to Algeria and is extremely sweet. These are big, oblong in shape and mild amber in color.
Don’t just go by the size of the fruit. Dates are tiny powerhouses when it comes to health benefits. Make this delicious fruit a part of your daily diet and nourish your health and beauty!