When most think of dates, we aren’t thinking of the fresh fruit. Dates, though, may be some of the most nourishing foods on the planet. The fruit of the date palm tree, dates have been a staple food in the Middle East for thousands of years and are considered sacred by many cultures. Why are dates so special? Besides boosting energy, they are incredibly nutritious and have a variety of health giving properties.
With over 25 different varieties, dates are a calorie rich fruit and are the ideal food for hiking and camping as they store and pack easily, providing dense calories from carbohydrates which are quick to burn when active. Higher in antioxidants than figs or plums, dates contain many important nutrients such as magnesium, potassium, copper, manganese, vitamin B6, iron, zinc and more. Packing a nutritional punch, they are high in fiber and despite their sweetness, they do not have a high glycemic index yet they make a perfect additive to naturally sweeten food and beverages. Containing fructose rather than glucose, dates may help regulate blood sugar and may be beneficial to help manage diabetes. Their fiber is naturally good for digestion. Due to the high antioxidants in dates which helps combat inflammation and oxidative stress, dates show promise as a therapeutic aide to protect brain health or even against Alzheimer’s. Other evidence shows that dates may promote bone, brain and heart health, preserve vision health and even help promote easy natural labor and containing oxytocin, the love hormone, may even help with sexual dysfunction Dates are also reputed to be very good for aiding the liver to detoxify and perhaps most surprising is that eating dates on an empty stomach can kill intestinal parasites and worms. Even the seed of the date is revered for its healthy properties by both ancient and modern civilizations from antiviral properties, to strengthening the liver and kidneys, to improving skin, hair and more.
Many dates are grown organically, however some are subjected to lengthy processes to preserve the look of the date, giving it a plump or glazed shiny look. It is best to buy from a small sustainable pesticide free farm. If grown responsibly, the condition of the skin will indicate freshness. The smoother the skin, likely the fresher it is. The more wrinkled the skin, likely the date has been dried or is old. Keep in mind that a fresh date can last weeks without the need for any preservatives. Read the label. Dates that are dried too long on the tree are often rehydrated or steamed to improve appearance. Most small farms practice sustainably and the dates can be trusted to be fresh and full of nourishment. Be aware of larger commercial farmers who are often more interested in profits than quality, neglecting the benefits of fresh dates and delivering a final product that may be lacking in anything other than appearance.
I love the versatility of dates. I add them to my smoothies and to many recipes. They are especially good to sweeten seed or nut milks. They are popular in sesame balls or bars. I especially enjoy them as a snack when I hike. I love them as a paste in my celery much like one might use a nut butter. Blended with water, bananas and celery, makes for a refreshing beverage to replenish electrolytes when active. Not only delicious, dates are extremely nutritious. Next time you have a sweet tooth, I hope you will choose dates. Want a date? I do.
Sources and Resources:
Elliot, Brianna. Healthline: Nutrition: 8 Proven Benefits of Dates 21 March 2018 https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/benefits-of-dates
Health Benefit Times Date Seed Uses and Benefits https://www.healthbenefitstimes.com/date-seed/#:~:text=Date%20Seed%20Quick%20Facts%20%20%20%20Name%3A,treating%20b%20…%20%201%20more%20rows%20
Lawhead, Nathalie Research Blog 27 Spetmeber 2010. http://www.nathalielawhead.com/candybox/the-great-date-fruit-post-conclusions-of-my-date-research
Nagdeve, Meenakshi Organic Facts: 12 Proven Health Benefits of Dates 26 May 2021 https://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/fruit/health-benefits-of-dates.html
Saas, Cynthia. Health: 7 Health Benefits of Dates According to a Nutritionist 9 September 2020 https://www.health.com/nutrition/groceries/health-benefits-dates
These statements have not been evaluated by the U.S. FDA. Foods are not drugs and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Before starting any new regime, please consult with a licensed medical physician.