5 Promising health benefits of dates and their nutrition facts (recipes included)
07/29/2020 / By Joanne Washburn / Comments
5 Promising health benefits of dates and their nutrition facts (recipes included)

Dates are delightful little treats from Nature. Their high sugar content might make a lot of health enthusiasts doubt their health benefits, but don’t fret. These fruits offer a host of beneficial micronutrients and lots of fiber to balance out those sugars.

Date nutrition facts

The date palm (Phoenix dactylifera) has been around for millennia. Its small reddish fruits — reminiscent of prunes — may not be the prettiest fruits out there, but their incredible nutrition profile more than makes up for their not-so-pleasant appearance.

In fact, dates boast a host of macro- and micronutrients that are essential for optimal health. Here is a quick run-through of some of the essential nutrients and phytonutrients they contain:

  1. Sugar – Each date is made up of about 70 percent digestible sugars, such as glucose, fructose and sucrose, that offer an instant mood boost and energizing effect.
  2. Fiber – Dates’ high sugar content might deter some people from eating them, but make no mistake: Dates are chock-full of fiber that inhibits the absorption of too much glucose in the intestine. This helps protect against blood sugar spikes and other health complications related to high sugar intake.
  3. Essential amino acids – In total, there are 23 amino acids in a single date fruit and 17 in the lone pit at its center. The pit itself holds all nine essential amino acids that are crucial for protein synthesis, tissue repair and nutrient absorption.
  4. Iron – Snacking on dates is great for maintaining healthy levels of iron in the blood. Iron is an essential component of red blood cell production and blood circulation.
  5. Calcium – Dates are one of a handful of plant-based sources of calcium, along with nuts and legumes. In fact, just four pieces of dates can provide you with 64 milligrams (mg) of calcium. Eat double this amount and you’ll get just as much calcium as half a cup of milk.
  6. Magnesium – You can get about 54 mg of magnesium from just four dates. This important mineral supports a number of cellular processes in our bodies, including calcium absorption, bone formation and blood sugar regulation.
  7. Potassium – Step aside, bananas. Just four small dates offer more than double the amount of potassium in a single banana. Besides regulating blood pressure, potassium also helps protect against muscle cramps and irregular heartbeat.
  8. Palmitoleic and oleic acids – Palmitoleic and oleic acids are the predominant fatty acids in healthy oils like olive oil. Together, these fatty acids help reduce the amount of bad cholesterol in the blood that can lead to cardiometabolic problems.
  9. Carotenoids – Like most healthful fruits and other plant-based foods, dates are rich in plant nutrients called carotenoids. These compounds help protect cells in our bodies from free radicals and other harmful agents.
  10. Beta-glucans – These soluble fibers also help reduce the amount of bad cholesterol in the bloodstream, thus minimizing the risk of cardiometabolic conditions and supporting heart health.

Other reported health benefits

On top of having an incredible nutrient profile, recent studies have also found that dates offer promising health benefits. Here are some of the most notable ones, according to the American Botanical Council:

  1. Fights inflammation – Plant compounds in dates, such as carotenoids and beta-glucans, can help protect against inflammation linked to chronic conditions like cancer, diabetes and heart disease.
  2. Promotes digestion – Bloating, constipation and other gastrointestinal conditions are signs of poor gut health. But dietary fiber feeds the good bacteria in the intestines, allowing them to flourish, support digestion and maintain optimal gut health.
  3. Boosts immune functions – Frequent chills, headaches, fatigue and the like are markers of poor immune health. Start eating more dates to boost you immune system.
  4. Supports diabetes management – Diabetics stand to benefit from the blood sugar-lowering effects of the fiber in dates. Plus, despite their high sugar content, studies show that dates do not have a negative effect on glucose levels and insulin production.
  5. Regulates hormone production – This last one still requires a bit of research, but existing animal studies on dates suggest that the fruits are capable of increasing sperm count and serum testosterone in male mice, and estrogen and progesterone in female mice.

Date recipes

The high sugar content of dates may be a bit much for some, but incorporating dates into recipes or transforming them into healthful snacks should do the trick for those who aren’t big fans of sugar-rich foods.

On that note, here are some quick and simple date recipes, featuring a smoothie, granola and flatbread:

Date smoothie

Yes, it’s a smoothie. No, it doesn’t use milk. This breakfast drink is perfect for lactose-intolerant health enthusiasts or those on a vegetarian diet. Just blend together a teaspoon of chia seeds, a tablespoon of blanched almonds, pitted dates, a banana and a teaspoon of coconut oil. It doesn’t get easier than that!

Date, macadamia and maple granola

This healthful granola is a great substitute for refined cereals or instant oatmeal in the morning. Cook them the night before and store them in an airtight container to eliminate the hassle of making breakfast first thing in the morning.

To make this granola, mix together 50 grams (g) of unsalted butter, 150 milliliters of organic maple syrup, one teaspoon of vanilla extract and a pinch of salt in a saucepan. Cook until the butter has melted. Set aside, then preheat the oven to 300 F.

Next, chop 125 g of macadamia nuts – the more uneven, the better. Toss the chopped nuts into a large mixing bowl and add in 300 g of oats and some orange zest. Pour in the melted butter mixture from earlier and mix until all the nuts and oats are coated.

Spread the mixture on a greased baking pan and bake for 30 minutes. Take it out after a couple of minutes to break up the granola pieces, then add 200 g of pitted and chopped dates. Bake the granola for another 10 minutes and it should be done.

Date, coconut and chili flatbreads

Flatbreads are great for mopping up soup or meat juices, but that doesn’t mean the bread itself has to be flavorless. If made using dates, organic desiccated coconut and green chilies, your flatbreads will surely come alive with exciting flavors.

To make the dough, just combine flour, yeast, sugar, salt and oil. Knead for 10 minutes or until smooth and elastic, then let it rise for about an hour.

To make the filling, fry one finely chopped onion until soft and golden. Toss in a clove of chopped garlic and green chilies, and continue cooking for about a minute.

Next, add the organic desiccated coconut and stir to coat all the chopped pieces of onions and chili. Turn off the heat and stir in the dates. Let it cool.

Once the dough has risen, knead to get rid of the air inside, then divide it into eight equal pieces. Roll each one into a circle then add in enough filling in the center of each circle. Close the edges, then cook it over medium-high heat in a large pan until large air bubbles appear. Don’t use more than a drop of oil.

Dates are delicious and nutritious superfoods that ought to be part of a balanced diet. To enjoy their versatility, toss them into the blender for a quick breakfast smoothie, stir them into homemade dough and cake batter or just use them to sweeten recipes instead of sugar.




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