While dates often go unnoticed in the fruit aisles of our supermarkets, the term "bread of the desert" indicates that the fruit is held in high esteem. Dates are the fruit of the date palms, which originated in the Persian Gulf. Date palms have been cultivated in the Orient for thousands of years, today even in the area from North Africa to Pakistan - especially in Egypt, Iran and Saudi Arabia.
Dates are often referred to as 'fat food' because of their sugar content. But in this article we will show you that they are not 'boring' dried fruits either and that they should be given much more importance due to the fact that they are incredibly healthy. Here we will answer all your open questions and explain why dates are healthy.
the essentials in brief
- Dates have a very high sugar content of 55g per 100g. Therefore, although they are a good source of energy, they should not be consumed in large quantities.
- Due to their richness in vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants, they are very valuable for human health. They can help prevent certain diseases or get rid of health problems.
- Dates are very versatile and can be integrated into any diet. You can combine them with both sweet and savory components from breakfast to dinner. The sweet fruits are also ideal as a small snack between meals.
This is why dates are so healthy: What you should know
Dates appear extremely rarely in the European menu - in contrast to oriental cuisine. This superfood is sometimes even said to have the reputation of being a 'fat maker'.
However, they also bear the name 'bread of the desert'. They have been coveted as provisions by the Bedouins for thousands of years due to their high sugar content.(1)
How do dates taste?
The fruits of the date palm have a unique taste. They taste like caramel or honey. However, the taste also depends on the variety and degree of ripeness. The Medjool variety is considered the queen of dates. It tastes especially like caramel and honey and has an extremely tender flesh, which you have to pay more for, however.
Dates are the fruit of the date palm. They are harvested between September and January, which is why you can only buy fresh fruit from us at Christmas time. (Image Source: Simon / pixabay)
Due to their extreme sweetness, they are wonderfully suited as a natural sweetener, which is why you can also use them for people who eat a sugar-free diet . However, the sugars in dates are glucose and fructose, which are not unhealthy, unlike isolated sugars, which are found in large amounts in processed foods. Consumed in smaller amounts, regular date consumption alone does not lead to weight gain. (2)
Fresh or dried dates?
You can buy and eat dates both fresh and dried. In our supermarkets, however, you will mainly find dried fruits. That's because the fresh fruit is in season between September and January, so you're more likely to find it around Christmas time. Fresh dates need to be kept refrigerated to prevent mold due to the moisture content. If you freeze the fruit, they will only freeze halfway, but they will last longer.
For processing into dried fruit, the dates are only harvested half-ripe. Their natural, high sugar content preserves them so well that they can be kept for at least two years from the time of harvest.
In the following section we will introduce you to the nutrients of fresh and dried dates, which differ in a few points.
What are the nutritional values of dates?
In the following table (3) we present the nutrients of fresh and dried dates, which differ in some respects.
|Nutritional values (per 100 g)||fresh dates||dried dates|
You can see that fresh and dried dates differ greatly in their number of calories . After all, the dried date has almost 100 kcal more. However, the dried dates also have a higher fiber content. With regard to carbohydrates, fat and protein, however, there are only minor differences. You should therefore note that you are welcome to eat more of the fresh fruit.
The sugar content consists of about half each of fructose and glucose, which is why dates do not directly mean more weight on the scale - in contrast to conventional sweets made of isolated sugar. (2)
What diseases can dates prevent?
Dates are rich in antioxidants. Three of them deserve special mention, the effects of which have been proven to reduce the risk of certain diseases.
Dates can reduce the risk of cancer, among other things.
Flavonoids may help reduce the risk of Alzheimer's, diabetes and certain types of cancer. They can also reduce inflammation. (4,5) Carotenoids promote heart health, but may also reduce the risk of developing eye disease. (6) Polyphenols have also been shown to reduce inflammation and reduce the risk of certain types of cancer and heart disease. (4.7)
A high-fiber diet, supported by regular consumption of dates, reduces the risk of developing diabetes. The blood sugar level rises only very slowly, as a result of which less insulin is released. (6)
What do the nutrients in dates help with?
Dates also have other very valuable nutrients. They are high in fiber, antioxidants , and minerals like potassium, calcium, magnesium, and B vitamins. In addition, the amino acid tryptophan and carotenoids can be detected in them. We would like to explain to you here what these nutrients are good for.
- Tryptophan forms melatonin, which calms the nerves and is of great importance for the sleep-wake cycle. That’s why dates can help with minor sleep problems. (5)
- Antioxidants protect against free radicals, which can prevent the risk of many diseases (6)
- Dietary fiber is very good for the stomach and intestines. They allow the intestinal contents to be transported more quickly and can thus prevent constipation. (8) They are also great for losing weight because fiber fills you up quickly and for a long time. In addition, dietary fibers control cholesterol levels.
- Carotenoids such as 'lutein' and 'zeaxanthin' support the regeneration of the retina and enable your eyes to filter UV rays better. Beta carotene is responsible for cell growth and controls the immune system. (6)
- Magnesium, calcium and phosphorus are also found in dates and are responsible for building your bones and teeth.
- B vitamins are found in high amounts in dates. They are responsible for your metabolism and boost it.
- Potassium takes care of the water balance in your body and the function of muscles and nerves. Potassium also has a vasodilating effect and regulates blood pressure.
There is also a study by the Jordanian University of Science and Technology that shows that consuming dates in the last few weeks of pregnancy has a positive effect on the birth circumstances. Participants who ate dates daily from 36 weeks of gestation found that the cervix was more dilated, contractions were less spontaneous, and less okytocin was needed to support labor. (9.10)
Are dates alkaline or acidic?
Since our diet consists partly of many industrially processed or manufactured products, our bodies are predominantly acidic - the body is overly acidic. With alkaline foods you can create a balance.
Dates are one of the very alkaline foods. The lower the value, the more basic a product is. Dates are particularly healthy because of their value of -12.
How to use dates
Dates are delicious on their own, both fresh and dried. But you can also recycle them wonderfully. We would like to give you a few ideas at this point:
- peppered with nuts, you can upgrade your snack quickly and easily
- as a sugar substitute in smoothies, your muesli or yoghurt, they provide natural sweetness without any industrial sugar
- You can buy date syrup ready-made and use it in the same way as maple syrup, agave syrup or honey
- as Energy Balls with nuts and coconut flakes, they provide an extra energy boost as a small snack
- they also taste sweet, juicy and fruity in cakes or fruit bread
- Dates wrapped in bacon or filled with cream cheese are very suitable as a starter
So you can see that dates are not only very healthy, but can also be used in a variety of ways in your kitchen.
Date-based Energy Balls are the perfect, healthy snack between meals. They are easy to prepare, portion and add variety. (Image source: Monfocus / pixabay)
Can dates also be unhealthy?
Of course, there is also too much of a good thing. Excessive consumption of dates can very quickly turn from being a superfood into a hazard. You should not exceed a daily ration of three to five fruits a day, otherwise the high fiber content can have a laxative effect.
Eat no more than five dates a day.
In addition, the sweet dates have a high calorie content, which is why excessive consumption can also become a trap here. In the worst case, the dried fruits are still coated with industrial sugar or glucose syrup. Both are absolutely superfluous, since the dates are already extremely sweet by nature.
However, it is not only the sugar and fiber that pose potential hazards. The dates are often treated with pesticides in the country of origin, which is particularly harmful to health. You should definitely take this problem seriously and buy either certified organic dates or fruits from controlled cultivation.
What alternatives are there to dates?
If you don't like dates or are even allergic, we would like to introduce you to great alternatives to dried dates
|Nutritional values (per 100 g)||dried dates||dried figs||raisins||dried apricots|
Dates have the highest percentage of antioxidants compared to their alternatives, which as you already know can have numerous positive effects on your health. (11)
Dates are incredibly versatile and have even more versatile effects. They trump with valuable micro and macronutrients and can thus prevent or even overcome complaints and diseases. While fresh fruit is lower in calories, it also contains less important fiber. Also, you can only buy them between September and January. Because they are among the most alkaline foods, they can help balance out the acidic environment in our body created by industrial products.
However, you should not eat more than three to five dates a day because they have a very high calorie and sugar content and can have a laxative effect. When buying dates, you should also make sure that the fruits are not coated with sugar or glucose syrup, as they are naturally sweet enough. In addition, dates from organic or at least controlled cultivation are always recommended, since the sprays used in conventional cultivation can be harmful to health.
- Dates: Sweets from the desert Source
- Al-Farsi MA, Lee CY. Nutritional and functional properties of dates: a review. Source
- Calories in Dates Source
- Rahmani AH, Aly SM, Ali H, Babiker AY, Srikar S, Khan AA. Therapeutic effects of date fruits (Phoenix dactylifera) in the prevention of diseases via modulation of anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant and anti-tumour activity. Source
- Essa MM, Akbar M, Khan MA. Beneficial effects of date palm fruits on neurodegenerative diseases. Source
- Lattimer JM, Haub MD. Effects of dietary fiber and its components on metabolic health. Source
- Shahdadi F, Mirzaei HO, Daraei Garmakhany A. Study of phenolic compound and antioxidant activity of date fruit as a function of ripening stages and drying process. Source
- Yang J, Wang HP, Zhou L, Xu CF. Effect of dietary fiber on constipation: a meta analysis. Source
- Kordi M, Meybodi FA, Tara F, Fakari FR, Nemati M, Shakeri M. Effect of Dates in Late Pregnancy on the Duration of Labor in Nulliparous Women. Source
- Al-Kuran O, Al-Mehaisen L, Bawadi H, Beitawi S, Amarin Z. The effect of late pregnancy consumption of date fruit on labor and delivery. Source
- Vinson JA, Zubik L, Bose P, Samman N, Proch J. Dried fruits: excellent in vitro and in vivo antioxidants. Source