Dates are sweet tropical fruits of the date palm treeConsumed and all over the world, dates have an exotic air that makes every recipe a bit more special. What's so mysterious and special about a fruit found in every pantry, you may ask. Well, most good things are usually right under your nose. 

It might interest you to know that dates are considered to be the oldest among the cultivated tree fruits and there are speculations that say it is the fabled 'Tree of life' mentioned in the bible. You know something is special when Gods themselves have called them so.

Growing in clusters on the date palm tree, dates are one of the most versatile fruits that aid the digestive process in a natural way. It hosts a variety of nutrients and minerals, which not only help in building health but also keeping diseases at bay. In fact, the date fruit has become quite popular in recent years because of its health benefits.

Date trees usually grow up to 21–23 metres (69–75 ft) in height. Date fruit contains about 75 per cent sugar when dried. There are 3 main categories of dates - soft dates, semi-soft dates and dry dates. Some common types of dates include Barhi dates, Deglet Noor dates, Halawi dates, Khadrawy dates, Thoory dates, Zahidi dates etc.  Depending on the variety, dates could range from bright red to bright yellow to white and black in colour. 

Dates have been an important traditional crop in Iraq, Arabia, North Africa, Morocco. The largest producer of dates in the world is Egypt, followed by Iran and Saudi Arabia. The major dates producing states in India include Rajasthan and Gujarat in the west and Tamil Nadu and Kerala in the south. India is the largest importer of dates in the world.

Some basic facts about Dates:

  • Botanical name: Phoenix dactylifera
  • Family: Palm family, Arecaceae
  • Common name: Date palm,  Khajur
  • Sanskrit name: Kharjura
  • Parts used: Fruits, clusters, leaves, seeds and sap.
  • Native region and geographical distribution: Dates originated from the fertile regions between Egypt and Mesopotamia. They are mainly cultivated across Northern Africa, South Asia and the Middle East  
  • Interesting facts: Camel milk and date fruits is an unbeatable combination. Camel milk is full of fat and vitamin C. Dates is full of vitamin A, vitamin B, and vitamin D. So a mixture of these two provides rich nutritional benefits.
  1. Dates nutrition facts
  2. Dates health benefits
  3. Dates side effects
  4. Takeaway

According to USDA, dates are a good source of fibre, vitamins, energy, sugar and various minerals such as iron, sodium, potassium, zinc, calcium etc.

As per the USDA Nutrient Database, 100 g of dates contain the following nutrients:

Nutrients Value per 100 g
Water 21.32 g
Energy 277 kcal
Protein 1.81 g
Fat 0.15 g
Carbohydrate 74.97 g
Fibre 6.7 g
Sugars 66.47 g
Minerals  
Calcium 64 mg
Iron 0.9 mg
Magnesium 54 mg
Phosphorus 62 mg
Potassium 696 mg
Sodium 1 mg
Zinc 0.44 mg
Vitamins  
Vitamin A 7 µg
Vitamin B1 0.05 mg
Vitamin B2 0.06 mg
Vitamin B3 1.61 mg
Vitamin B6 0.249 mg
Folate 15 µg
Vitamin K 2.7 µg

Dates have several benefits for your health and well being. Let us explore some of the scientific studies confirming the well known and some not so known benefits of dates:

  • For energy: Dates are loaded with natural sugars like fructose and glucose, which makes it an instant burst of energy when eaten midday or after a day of fasting.
  • For weight gain: The high-calorie content of this fruit makes it an excellent, healthy and natural food supplement.
  • For bones: Regular consumption of dates may help in preventing osteoporosis and weak bones.
  • Against night blindness: Topical application of dates is used as a traditional remedy for prevention night blindness.
  • For anaemia: Dates are a rich source of iron, and thus are helpful in the prevention of anaemia. They also make for an excellent dietary supplement in those having anaemia.
  • For mouth and stomach: Dates may help in the prevention of dental caries and gum disorders. It also helps in improving the digestion and absorption of nutrients by the body.
  • For the brain: Dates may help in the prevention of disorders like Alzheimer’s and dementia and it inhibits loss of memory and cognition.
  • For the skin: Inclusion of dates in the diet may not only improve skin health but also reduce early signs of ageing.
  • During pregnancy: Consuming dates during pregnancy may help in relieving constipation and assist the induction of labour.

Dates benefits for bones

Did you know, regular consumption of dates may improve your bone health and help prevent osteoporosis? Dates are rich in various minerals such as phosphorus, potassium, and calcium, which form an important part of bone mineral density.

As we age, our bones start to lose their minerals and become more prone to fractures and pain. Though supplements may help you avoid this, they are usually not recommended. And let's face it, the sweet flavour of dates is much better than taking supplement pills.

Older people are not the only ones prone to weak bones, it is also common in people who follow an unhealthy lifestyle. Additionally, women lose calcium faster with age. This is because, in the deficiency of calcium, our body starts to leach it off from the bones. Since dates are mineral-rich, they may help younger people attain their recommended daily allowance. 

Going shopping for dates yet?

(Read more: Calcium-rich Indian food)

Dates prevent night blindness

Night blindness is mainly caused by vitamin A deficiency. Research suggests that vitamin A present in dates not only helps in preventing night blindness but it also keeps your eyes healthy.

According to a traditional belief, date fruit and the leaves of the date palm plant help in preventing night blindness. People in rural areas grind dates as a paste and apply them around their eyes to reduce the severity of night blindness.

(Read more: How to improve eyesight)

Dates for weight gain

Dates are an excellent food to help you put on some extra kilos. This calorie-dense fruit is a repository of nutrients such as sugars, proteins, and essential vitamins, which together, make it easier to gain weight. Also, dates are low in fat and high in fibre. This means that the extra pounds you would gain are healthy and not just excess fat deposits.

To gain maximum benefit from this fruit, you can take it with milk and banana. When taken with cucumber paste, it can help keep your body stay fit.

(Read more: Diet chart for weight gain)

Dates benefits for pregnant women

Prolonged duration of labour is a major issue, which may cause stillbirths and fetal defects. It also poses a threat to maternal mortality. Studies indicate that consuming dates in the last 4 weeks before delivery reduces the need for induction and augmentation of labour.

(Read more: Normal delivery)

This is because dates act like oxytocin and increase cervical dilation, thereby facilitating childbirth.

Being rich in fibre, they may also help you keep off constipation in the later stages of pregnancy and the nutrient content would provide you with energy and strength.

However, it is advisable to talk to your gynaecologist before consuming dates, especially if you are in the early stages of pregnancy.

(Read more: Foods to eat and avoid during pregnancy)

Dates benefits for brain

As we age, our brain tends to become sluggish. Consequently, it becomes more important to take a healthier diet and stay fit. Potassium is one of the prime ingredients responsible for promoting a healthy and responsive nervous system. It relays signals and oxygen to the brain, which helps improves the speed and alertness of the brain activity. As a good source of potassium, dates are excellent food for your brain, especially for aged people who want to keep their mind sharp.

(Read more: Home remedies to improve memory)

Additionally, dates are a good source of vitamin B6, which is associated with improved brain performance. It is important in the formation of certain neurotransmitters including the pleasure hormones dopamine and serotonin and a deficiency of vitamin B6 is associated with loss of cognition and dementia.

Not only this, but the antioxidants present in dates have also been found to be helpful in preventing Alzheimer's by preventing the formation of amyloid plaques in the brain.

(Read more: How to increase brain power)

Dates boost energy

Traditionally, dates and water are consumed to break long fasts. This is because dates are natural energy boosters. They provide a high calorific value and have adequate sugars such as glucose and fructose, which impart an immediate burst of energy. Eating natural fat-free dates as a quick afternoon snack will help reduce the lethargic and sluggish feeling after a heavy lunch. Additionally, consuming dates can also reduce appetite, thus, avoiding overeating. This is especially beneficial for fasting people. 

Dates benefits for stomach

Dates have numerous benefits for the gastrointestinal system:

  • Having dates regularly can help the digestive tract to absorb the nutrients.
  • Dates help to stimulate the growth of the friendly bacteria in the intestines.
  • Dates prevent colon cancer and help improve the function of the intestine
  • The insoluble and soluble fiber found in dates help clean out the gastrointestinal system.
  • Amino acids present in dates can help stimulate the digestion of food and make the body more efficient.

Dates for anemia

Anaemia and low haemoglobin are one of the most common conditions in developing countries. While age, sex and lifestyle may have an effect on its cause, iron deficiency is majorly responsible for this condition. It is usually associated with fatigue, weakness and drowsiness and may pose a threat of miscarriage in pregnant women. As a natural source of iron, dates make a perfect dietary supplement for people suffering from anaemia

The high level of iron in dates balances out the inherent lack of this mineral in anaemic patients. Also, regular consumption of dates increases energy and strength while decreasing feelings of fatigue and sluggishness.

(Read more: How to increase haemoglobin)

Dates for tooth decay

Dates are naturally sweet, which makes one think if it is bad for teeth. Well, the good news is, this fruit may do wonders for your teeth. Dates are rich in calcium, phosphorus and fluoride, all of which prevent tooth decay and aid in keeping your teeth healthy. According to the American Dental Association, fluoride binds with calcium and phosphorus on your teeth and makes a protective layer, which is effective in reducing plaque formation and keeping your tooth enamel from being eroded.

Additionally, calcium strengthens your jawbones and help keep your teeth in place. 

So, you can replace some extra sugar in your sweet dishes with a few dates and get the added bonus of this natural sweetener.

(Read more: Teeth plaque causes)

Dates reduce blood pressure

Clinical studies indicate that dates can help reduce blood pressure in hypertensive individuals. This is because it contains two of the most important minerals, that is potassium and magnesium, which are responsible for keeping blood pressure levels under check.

While magnesium reduced elevated blood pressure by dilating blood vessels, potassium aid in blood pressure reduction by neutralising the harmful effects of sodium in the body.

Additionally, dates also contain natural antioxidants, which may have some hypotensive action. 

(Read more: High blood pressure treatment)

Dates benefits for skin

Dates contain an array of nutrients and active compounds just for your skin. 

They contain vitamin B, which prevents skin irritation and improves various skin conditions.

Vitamin C present in dates helps keep the skin healthy by improving its immune response and the growth of skin fibroblasts. This means, applying dates on your face may aid you in getting rid of ageing signs such as wrinkles.

Studies suggest that face creams that contain dates are effective in maintaining skin health due to the antioxidants present in date fruit.

Clinical studies indicate that date palm kernel contains phytohormones (plant-based hormones), which could improve the appearance of your skin and smooth away wrinkles. In fact, It has been speculated that dates hold great promise as an anti-ageing remedy.

(Read more: Anti-ageing treatments)

The following are some side effects of dates that you should know:

  • Dates possess fructose, which gives a natural sweetness to it. A few people may experience fructose intolerance and find it difficult to digest dates.
  • Having dates may cause hypoglycemia. When sugar is not digested completely, it leads to abdominal pain and gas.
  • A fully ripe date approximately contain up to 80% sugar. It is not a bad thing by itself and it actually makes the fruit a good energy provider. But for people having inactive lifestyles, consuming such high-calorie food may lead to unwanted weight gain. It adds extra calories to the body. So people who are already overweight must avoid having too many dates.
  • Dates possess a large amount of fibre in them. If you consume a whole lot of dates, you may get various stomach related problems.
  • Some people are naturally allergic to dates. (Read more: Food allergy symptoms)

Dates have a whole lot of health benefits and make a high source of energy. Nearly 10 minerals are said to be present in dates. They are natural sweeteners and used in various dishes in place of white sugar. However, some people are allergic to this fruit. Side effects of dates will impact you only when you take them in excess.


Medicines / Products that contain Date palm

References

  1. United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service. Basic Report: 09421, Dates, medjool. National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Legacy Release [Internet]
  2. Ibrahim A. Alhaider et al. Date Palm (Phoenix dactylifera) Fruits as a Potential Cardioprotective Agent: The Role of Circulating Progenitor Cells. Front Pharmacol. 2017; 8: 592. PMID: 28928656
  3. Abdellaziz Souli et al. Effects of Dates Pulp Extract and Palm Sap (Phoenix dactylifera L.) on Gastrointestinal Transit Activity in Healthy Rats. J Med Food. 2014 Jul 1; 17(7): 782–786. PMID: 24611963
  4. H.A. Hajar Al Binali. Night Blindness and Ancient Remedy. Heart Views. 2014 Oct-Dec; 15(4): 136–139. PMID: 25774260
  5. Masoumeh Kordi. Effect of Dates in Late Pregnancy on the Duration of Labor in Nulliparous Women. Iran J Nurs Midwifery Res. 2017 Sep-Oct; 22(5): 383–387. PMID: 29033994
  6. Al-Kuran O et al. The effect of late pregnancy consumption of date fruit on labour and delivery. J Obstet Gynaecol. 2011;31(1):29-31. PMID: 21280989
  7. Selvaraju Subash et al. Diet rich in date palm fruits improves memory, learning and reduces beta amyloid in transgenic mouse model of Alzheimer's disease. J Ayurveda Integr Med. 2015 Apr-Jun; 6(2): 111–120. PMID: 26167001
  8. Noura Eid et al. The impact of date palm fruits and their component polyphenols, on gut microbial ecology, bacterial metabolites and colon cancer cell proliferation. J Nutr Sci. 2014; 3: e46. PMID: 26101614
  9. Eid N et al. Impact of palm date consumption on microbiota growth and large intestinal health: a randomised, controlled, cross-over, human intervention study. Br J Nutr. 2015 Oct 28;114(8):1226-36. PMID: 26428278
  10. Vayalil PK. Date fruits (Phoenix dactylifera Linn): an emerging medicinal food. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2012;52(3):249-71. PMID: 22214443
  11. Al-Farsi MA, Lee CY. Nutritional and functional properties of dates: a review. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2008 Nov;48(10):877-87. PMID: 18949591
  12. Taleb H et al. Chemical characterisation and the anti-inflammatory, anti-angiogenic and antibacterial properties of date fruit (Phoenix dactylifera L.). J Ethnopharmacol. 2016 Dec 24;194:457-468. PMID: 27729284
  13. Reem A. Al-Alawi et al. Date Palm Tree (Phoenix dactylifera L.): Natural Products and Therapeutic Options. Front Plant Sci. 2017; 8: 845. PMID: 28588600
  14. Al-Shahib W, Marshall RJ. The fruit of the date palm: its possible use as the best food for the future? Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2003 Jul;54(4):247-59. PMID: 12850886
  15. Mohammed I. Yasawy The unexpected truth about dates and hypoglycemia. J Family Community Med. 2016 May-Aug; 23(2): 115–118. PMID: 27186159
  16. David O. Kennedy. B Vitamins and the Brain: Mechanisms, Dose and Efficacy—A Review. Nutrients. 2016 Feb; 8(2): 68. PMID: 26828517
  17. World Health Organization [Internet]. Geneva (SUI): World Health Organization; Anaemia.
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