10 Health Benefits of Dates (+ The Nutritional Breakdown)
Dates belong to the fruit family referred to as the ‘dactylifera’, which means ‘finger’ in Greek. It was given the name because of its shape and size. Dates are produced by date palms scientifically named ‘Phoenix dactylifera’. Growing around the area of modern Iraq, date palms are dioecious, which means that they have individual male and female plants. Only the female plants are fruit-bearing, while male palms are mainly used for pollination.
Date fruits have an oval-cylindrical shape and measure about 3 to 7 cm in length and 2 to 3 cm in diameter. When ripe, they range in color from bright yellow to bright red. Dates contain one stone of approximately 2-2.5 cm long and 6-8 mm thick.
There are three main cultivar groups: soft (including ‘Barhee’, ‘Halawy’, ‘Khadrawy’, and ‘Medjool’ species), semi-dry (including ‘Dayri’, ‘Deglet Noor’, and ‘Zahdi’ species), and dry (‘Thoory’ species). Fruit categorization takes into consideration the glucose, fructose and sucrose content. (1,2)
- Fiber – 6.7g – 27% RDA;
- Potassium – 696mg – 20% RDA;
- Copper – 0.4mg – 18% RDA;
- Manganese – 0.3mg – 15% RDA;
- Magnesium – 54mg – 14% RDA;
- Vitamin B6 – 0.2mg – 12% RDA.
Other compounds: iron, calcium, phosphorus, sodium, zinc, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, sulfur, folate, vitamin A, vitamin K, vitamin C, vitamin D. (3, 4) Dates are also high in sugar – 66.5g per 100g serving, unlike other fruits lower in sugar such as berries or kiwis. (5)
10 Health Benefits of Dates
1. Dates May Prevent Constipation and Promote Regularity
Dates are known to have a laxative effect when consumed in large amounts. In moderate amounts, they can promote regular bowel movements.
For optimal results, it is best to soak them in water over night and eat them the next morning. The fiber in dates is water-soluble, which is what makes these fruits so effective in supporting bowel movement. It is an effective means of facilitating smooth passage of food through the intestines and relieving one from constipation or blockage. (6)
2. Dates May Promote Bone Health and Strength
Due to their rich mineral content, dates are a true superfood for their ability to strengthen bone tissue in addition to combating painful and debilitating ailments that affect bone strength, such as osteoporosis.
Specifically, the selenium, manganese, copper and magnesium compounds in dates are responsible for its benefits to healthy bone development and tissue strengthening. Bone strength decreases with age, which is why it’s important to consume foods that not only support bone health, but those that mitigate losses in bone density as well. (7)
3. Dates May Offer Relief for Intestinal Disorders
In addition to its fiber content, dates are also commonly used to treat intestinal disorders due to its nicotine content. The nicotine found in these fruits is a potent natural remedy for intestinal tract disorders. Regular consumption of dates was found to help curb overgrowth of ‘bad’ bacteria and microorganisms in the intestines.
The amino acids in dates also support and promote digestion, making it more efficient, thereby helping the body absorb more nutrients from food. (8)
4. Dates May Help Fight Anemia
Due to the mineral high content, dates are highly effective against anemia. The iron content in dates can increase levels of iron in the blood, which benefits anemic patients who suffer from the symptoms of low iron such as fatigue, loss of strength, and lethargy. (9)
5. Dates Aid in Weight Management
Dates contain a variety of vitamins and minerals. They also contain soluble fiber, which helps slow down the rate of digestion. Fiber-rich foods are an important component of weight loss diets because it promotes satiety and delayed gastric emptying, which can help the dieter reduce his/her caloric intake. When consumed alongside other fiber-rich foods, dates can aid in weight loss and even health weight gain. (10)
6. Dates May Promote Healthy Skin
Vitamins C and D found in dates have a natural anti-aging effect on the epidermal tissue, increasing its suppleness and elasticity. Over time, sun exposure and free radical damage can cause the skin to look flat and dull. Combined with adequate water intake, a healthy diet composed of whole foods including fruits such as dates, you can improve skin complexion and elasticity without resorting to harsh chemicals. (11)
Dates may be consumed orally, or used as a natural skin mask. Simply put your dates in a food processor and blend until smooth. Add raw, organic oatmeal and lemon juice to the mix until it forms a smooth paste. Apply the paste to the face and let sit for 30 minutes. Rinse off the mask.
7. Dates May Help Balance Cholesterol levels and Promote Cardiovascular Health
Because of the potassium compound found in them, dates can help maintain heart health. They are commonly soaked in water over night, crushed the next morning and served, but are also effective consumed whole. Dates have been shown to improve the cardiac function by lowering ‘bad’ cholesterol (LDL) levels in the blood, thereby reducing the risk of heart attack, cardiovascular diseases and stroke. (12)
8. Dates May Improve Sexual Performance
Studies indicate that dates may improve sexual stamina. Combined with goat milk, honey and cardamom powder, they significantly contribute not only to increasing sexual endurance, but are also able to combat sterility. For optimal results, soak the dates in goat milk over night, grind them in the same milk and add honey and cardamom powder. (13)
In a 2006 study, resulted showed that the flavonoid components and the high levels of estradiol found in these fruits improve sperm counts and enhance motility. These compounds also increase testes size and weight, making dates a natural aphrodisiac.
9. Dates May Alleviate Night Blindness Symptoms
The health boosting and curative effects of dates extend over prevention and treatment of different conditions that affect the ear, nose and throat.
When applied topically, a paste made from crushed date palm leaves rubbed around the eyes, or date fruits ingested orally were found to reduce frequency of night blindness. This treatment is commonly used in the rural areas, where dates are widely grown as an alternative medicine. (14)
10. Dates Help Protect Against Abdominal Cancer
Scientific evidence suggests that dates have an incredible potential to reduce abdominal cancer risk because it contains seleniu, a powerful mineral that protects cells against cancer. (15)
Due to the high sugar content, dates have a very sticky surface and are likely to attract all sorts of impurities from the environment. Therefore, it is recommended to carefully wash them prior to consumption. Ideally, consume dates that are packaged and processed properly.
Rich in nutrients, dates can be an immune system booster. A healthy and balanced diet should include dates for added taste and increased immunity. Due to their fiber-rich content and cholesterol-reducing properties, dates offer many health benefits and are considered safe and effective.