As they grow in arid areas like the desert and around oases, dates are popular in the Middle East, especially when Muslims are breaking their fast during Ramadan. These ancient cultivated fruits, which have thrived for thousands of years in the region, aren’t just delicious; they’re chock-full of tremendous health gains. Whether you love them on their own, in dessert recipes, shakes or savoury dishes, here are some reasons to eat the sweet, wrinkled brown treasures throughout the year as well. What’s more, just eating three a day can go a long way.
A Lot of Fibre-Packed Goodness
Dates are just packed with fibre, in fact according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, one pitted date contains 1.6 grams (that’s six percent of the recommended daily intake). The indigestible parts of plant food is essential for keeping your colon healthy, what’s more, the insoluble and soluble fibres found in dates help the colon to work optimally. A healthy colon means you are less likely to suffer from colitis and colon cancer.
More fibre also helps aid digestion by softening and increasing the weight and size of your stool, making it easier to pass and preventing constipation and haemorrhoids. Additionally, dietary fibre is known to decrease cholesterol levels, especially the “bad” type of cholesterol, LDL, and fight and prevent obesity. In "Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition" it was reported that since the fibre in dates is primarily insoluble, it binds to fat and cholesterol and carries it out of the body.
Helps You Have a Healthy Heart
Eating dates is one of the best ways to help keep your heart ticking like a clock. They are a rich source of potassium, which is believed to reduce the risk of stroke and other heart-related diseases, according to some studies. And we’ve already mentioned this sweet brown fruit is a healthy (and tasty) way to reduce levels of LDL cholesterol, which seriously influences heart issues, including heart disease and stroke. Apparently, to get the most out of your dates, you should soak them overnight, then crush them before you eat them first thing the next morning.
Increases Your Intake of Essential Minerals and Vitamins
A 2003 study in the “International Journal of Food, Sciences and Nutrition” called dates “an almost ideal food, providing a wide range of essential nutrients and potential health benefits.” The study concluded dates have at least 15 minerals, numerous amino acids and fairly good unsaturated fatty acids They also have a host of vitamins and are considered a superfood for strengthening bones, enabling us to fight off diseases like osteoporosis when we’re older, and keeping blood strong and healthy. Here’s how some of the major minerals, nutrients and vitamins found in the age-old fruits can help you.
Potassium: We’ve already touched on how potassium is excellent for your heart, but it also builds muscle, controls fluid balance and regulates blood pressure.
Copper: This trace mineral is crucial for our overall health. It’s important for the production of haemoglobin and red blood cells, increases the absorption of iron and boosts energy. It also helps maintain a healthy metabolism and prevents premature ageing.
Magnesium: Known for its anti-inflammatory benefits, this mineral has several functions within the body. It reduces blood pressure, the risk of cardiovascular disease, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease and other health problems related to inflammation.
Selenium: Researchers have proved selenium is a powerful anti-cancer agent. It is great for boosting immunity.
Iron: As they’re an excellent source of iron, dates are excellent for people with anaemia. Iron is important for making red blood cells and helping them carry oxygen to the cells of your body.
Vitamin B6: A study in JAMA Internal Medicine found getting enough B6 is associated with improved brain performance and better test scores. It is also used to build muscle and grow hair and nails.
Niacin: This is an important vitamin your body uses to help break down food into energy and to assist with nerve function.
Vitamin A: Vitamin A is needed for protecting the eyes, skin and mucous membranes.
A Quick and Safe Energy Booster
Dates are high in natural sugars like glucose, fructose and sucrose, making them the perfect snack for an immediate burst of energy. What’s more, without any refined, added sugar they’re safe as well as effective. If you’re going through a mid-afternoon slump that is making you feel lethargic, munch on a couple of dates and see how the ball starts rolling. Whether you want to concentrate on your work, go to the gym or run around after the children, dates work better than an energy drink or sugary snack as the dietary fibre in them keeps you energised for longer and you don’t have to go through that awful “sugar crash.” So while they are slightly high in calories, they will always be the better alternative when you have a craving for something sweet.