Dates are tasty and sugary fruits rich in antioxidants, they are beneficial for human health. Here are the properties of dates and some tips for use.
Dates are a sweet fruit rich in beneficial properties coming from the date palm, a plant typical of North Africa and Southwest Asia and which around the 18th century was also exported to the American continent.
The fruits of the date palm, which for centuries have been part of the common diet of the peoples of the Middle East, are recognized to be rich in benefits for human health. The cultivation of this tree is very intense in Asia and Africa, but also in other places such as the United States.
The fruit has an oval shape, with a typical length of about 3 cm and a diameter of about 2 cm. There are numerous varieties and it is estimated that today about 400 are grown. The fresh date, before being consumed, is generally dried in the sun : the increase in the concentration of sugars allows a better conservation of the same, as well as giving it a pleasant taste and sweet.
Variety of dates
There are several varieties of dates, each with different characteristics. Let’s see below which are the most common.
- Medjoul dates: it is the best known variety of dates, at least in our country. These are large fruits (if compared with those of other varieties) with a typical amber color and a very sweet taste, reminiscent of that of caramel;
- Negelet noor dates: Another readily available variety of dates is negelet noor. These are fruits with a lighter color than the first mentioned with once again amber reflections. They are typical fruits of the north of the African continent. Their size is slightly smaller and the consistency is more compact. Precisely this characteristic makes this variety of dates suitable for cooking and preparing typical North African dishes such as meat with almonds and dates. The combination with dried fruit is in fact spot on;
- Hlawi dates: among the sweetest varieties of all we find the halawi dates, which recall the flavor of caramel and honey. The term halawi in fact means “sweet”. They are typical of the territories of the former Mesopotamia and have all the characteristics to replace the most common sweets or candies for children. Their color is also reminiscent of the aforementioned varieties;
- Sukari rotab dates: Another variety of dates typical of Saudi Arabia is called sukari Rotab. These are small, dark-colored dates. They have a very soft consistency and sweet taste and for this reason they are suitable for different preparations: they can in fact be inserted in smoothies or porridges;
- Barhi dates: finally we mention the barhi dates, which are distinguished by their color: they are yellow fruits that take their name from a city in Iraq, from which they derive. They are among the smallest dates and if eaten when they are still yellow they recall the taste of an apple, as well as sugar.
In addition to these, there are many other varieties of dates, more difficult to find in our country. There is no variety to prefer: all of them contain fiber and mineral salts in abundance. Let yourself be guided by your taste and you will discover that different varieties adapt to different preparations!
Dates: calories and nutritional values
The fresh date is a fruit containing a high quantity of sugars: the database of the European Oncological Institute reports a quantity of more than 30 grams of sugars per 100 grams of product and, again 100 grams of fresh dates, provide 128 calories . You can therefore imagine that the date is not really a so-called “dietetic” fruit!
Conversely, the quantities of proteins and fats are decidedly low. The most represented amino acids in particular are: valine, serine, lysine, alanine, glutamic and aspartic acid. It is therefore good to pay attention to the consumption of this fruit, especially if our doctor or our trusted nutritionist has recommended us to avoid simple sugars. Conversely, it represents a good and healthy source of energy for the sportsman, pre or post workout.
The situation is further amplified in the case of dry dates: 100 grams of dehydrated dates, in fact, provide more than double the calories of fresh dates (279 kcal) and a practically doubled quantity of simple sugars (more than 66 grams!). We therefore wish to emphasize once again the attention to be paid to this fruit, which is absolutely healthy, but not suitable for feasting. A portion of dates corresponds to about 4 fruits.
Nutritional values per 100g of fresh dates:
- Kcalories: 128 kcal
- Waterfall: 60.7 gr
- Proteins: 1.5 gr
- Fat: 0.1 gr
- Carbohydrates: 31.3 gr
- Of which simple sugars: 31.3 gr
- Fiber: 1.8 gr
- Glycemic index: 55
- C vitamin: 14 mgr
- Thiamine: 0.06 mgr
- Riboflavin: 0.07 mgr
- Pantothenic acid: 0.21 mgr
- Vitamin B6: 0.12 mgr
- Vitamin K: 5.60 ugr
- Soccer: 24 mgr
- Phosphorus: 28 mgr
- Magnesium: 24 mgr
- Sodium: 7 mgr
- Potassium: 410 mgr
- Iron: 0.3 mgr
Dates: nutritional properties
As you can see from the table just last, the date contains several vitamins and minerals useful for our health. In particular, vitamins of group B appear fairly represented in this fruit: 100 g of dates contains about 5% of the daily requirement of thiamine, a fundamental vitamin for metabolism and cellular energy production; we also find just over 4% of the daily requirement of riboflavin and pantothenic acid, other B vitamins essential for our metabolism. However, the vitamins most represented are undoubtedly the following:
- Vitamin C: 100 grams of dates contain 14 mgr of vitamin C while the estimated daily requirement for an adult man is 105 mgr of vitamin C and for a woman of 85 mgr. This vitamin, essential for our well-being, is very important for the correct functioning of our immune system and for the synthesis of collagen;
- Potassium: we find more than 400 mg of potassium in a portion of dates, that is more than 10% of the daily potassium requirement of an adult man. Potassium is a fundamental mineral for our health, it is involved in many cellular reactions and its deficiency is associated with cardiovascular problems, water retention, cramps and muscle fatigue;
- Magnesium: also with regard to Mg we find about 10% of the daily requirement of an adult in 100 grams of dates. This mineral is very abundant inside our bones, while the small part present at the cellular and plasma level is essential for the correct functioning of the muscles, the brain and metabolism in general.
Finally, dates also contain a fair amount of carotenoids with an antioxidant action, in particular lutein and beta-carotene.
Dates: health benefits
The properties of dates are numerous because it is a very nutrient-rich and very nutritious food. The cultivation of this fruit has increased exponentially in recent decades and consequently also the studies carried out to verify the real benefits of dates. Let’s now explore this aspect and see what are the main beneficial effects of these fruits.
✓ Antioxidant property
As already mentioned in the previous paragraph, dates contain, like all plant species, a fair amount of carotenoids. These molecules, to be considered as the precursors of vitamin A, have an antioxidant activity capable of inactivating the free radicals present at the cellular level. However, we must underline that the amount of carotenoids in dehydrated dates is not very high.
✓ Anti-inflammatory properties
Dates also exert an anti-inflammatory property and their consumption is associated with a lower production of pro-inflammatory molecules such as COX-2. The anti-inflammatory properties of dates seem to be expressed above all in the respiratory system.
✓ Cardiovascular health
As we have seen, dates contain a very high amount of potassium and for this reason they are useful for our cardiovascular health. In fact, potassium, together with sodium, controls the heart rhythm, blood pressure and the hydroelectric balance in our body.
✓ Improved vision
The same carotenoids just mentioned can bring an additional benefit to our health: that of improving our sight. Lutein, in fact, is also present inside our eye and carries out a protective action against the damage of light rays.
✓ Remedy for constipation
The benefits of dates also extend to the digestive system. As we have mentioned, fresh dates are foods containing a fair amount of fiber, which can improve intestinal regularity in the presence of constipation.
✓ Useful in case of male infertility
Male infertility is often associated with a highly oxidized cellular environment and a high presence of heavy metals within the human body. According to recent studies and a systematic review dated December 2015, polyphenols naturally present in dates would be able to chelate heavy metals and consequently improve the cellular environment. A man’s consumption of dates can therefore improve the motility of his spermatozoa, states the review just cited.
✓ Cancer prevention
According to some studies, dates may have an interesting anti-tumor property. In fact, it was found that the consumption of dates was able to reduce the incidence of breast cancer. Likewise, their consumption also exerts an anti-proliferative effect against colon cancer cells. Finally, we want to underline how dates can be useful against chemotherapy-induced toxicity.
✓ Energizing properties
These fruits, as we have seen, are rich in readily available simple sugars. This characteristic gives dates useful properties for those seeking weight gain or for those who carry out physical activities of moderate intensity. In this regard, it could be useful to consume some dates before the start of the activity itself or, when of prolonged duration (as for example in the case of cycling races), during the activity.
How many dates to eat per day
Dates should be considered as dehydrated fruit and the recommended portion is 30-40 g per day. On average this portion corresponds to 2-3 dates, depending on the size. They can also be eaten every day, but our advice is to try to vary your diet as much as possible. Therefore, if possible, alternate them with other dehydrated fruit and fresh fruit.
Dates: some usage tips
As we have already mentioned, the date can be eaten fresh or dehydrated. In general, it is advisable to choose fruits with a peel that is not bruised or damaged, but uniform. The fresh date is not present in all seasons and is therefore more difficult to find, however it is less sugary and less caloric. Furthermore, it is preferable to choose untreated and organically sourced fruits.
Dates lend themselves to many uses. From the creation of jams to natural drinks, fruit juices, or smoothies in the preparation of desserts to replace sugar. They are also an excellent ingredient for breakfast or as a snack to eat in the middle of the morning to have more energy and concentration. But not only! They can also be used as “containers” as in the case of dates stuffed with mascarpone and walnuts, typical appetizing sweets that are prepared around the Christmas holidays.
Dates: contraindications and potential negative effects
No particular contraindications to the consumption of dates, except those already mentioned. We repeat them once again: dates are very caloric (especially if dehydrated) and sugary fruits. So be careful if you are overweight or if you suffer from diabetes or insulin resistance. In any case, only one rule applies: never overdo it!
In particular, according to USDA recommendations, up to 4 or 5 dates can be consumed per day. In the diabetic patient it is advisable to further limit the intake and include dates, rich in sugars, within a more complete meal rich in fiber and healthy fats.
The date was used since the ancient Egyptians and fermented to create drinks similar to our wine. Even today in Africa date palms are commonly used to obtain this alcoholic drink.