Dates are one of the oldest fruits on the planet. Botanically known as Phoenix dactylifera, these gifts of the date palm tree have been growing in what is today known as the Persian Gulf region since about 6000 BCE. For thousands of years people have enjoyed their syrupy sweet taste — a natural sort of sweetness, unlike the sickening sugar overload contained in many processed sweet foods.
It’s not just the pungent, delicious flavor of dates that deserves to be celebrated. These fruits have a wealth of nutritional benefits as well. The following are eight noteworthy ones:
Banish belly fat
It may seem counterintuitive that such a sweet food could aid in weight loss, and even lead you to lose some of that pesky belly fat. Dates, if eaten in moderation, can do just that.
Dates contain a great deal of fiber, both soluble and insoluble, which helps flush toxins out of your body and keeps you feeling satiated. If you snack on a few dates, you’ll likely feel full for a long time afterward. This may banish your cravings for other less healthy, snacks. Since they are sweet, they can also satisfy a sweet tooth without the refined sugar.
If you eat less sugar, you’ll be less likely to accumulate belly fat. Here’s why: sugar is one big trigger of inflammation, and chronic inflammation can lead to belly fat. Speaking of inflammation, dates are full of antioxidants, such as tannins and other polyphenols, which help to fight free radicals throughout your body.
Boost your energy level
Since dates contain a significant amount of natural sugars, they are great for giving you a boost when you are feeling fatigued. Because they also contain fiber, you won’t experience the sugar crash like you do from other sweet foods.
To start your morning off with delicious energy, try throwing a few dates into a breakfast smoothie, or chop and add to a bowl of gluten-free oatmeal.
Along with aiding in satiation and weight loss, the soluble and insoluble fiber found in dates can help to keep your digestion regular. Dates also contain a wide array of amino acids, which help to support optimal digestion in the body.
If you are constipated, dates may be able to help. One traditional remedy is to soak dates in water overnight, and then eat them in the morning to get things moving. These fruits may also help with diarrhea because of their high potassium content.
Support cardiovascular health
Speaking of potassium, this electrolyte is also vital to cardiovascular health, as it aids in controlling heart rate and maintaining a stable blood pressure. A diet rich in potassium may also help to reduce the risk of stroke and other cardiovascular incidents.
On top of that, eating dates may help to lower your body’s level of LDL “bad” cholesterol, another boon for your ticker.
Strengthen your bones
Dates contain a wide array of minerals that help support bone health and keep your bones strong and resilient. These include copper, magnesium, manganese and selenium. Maintaining bone strength and integrity by eating mineral-rich foods — like dates — is especially important for older individuals, as it may help to prevent osteoporosis and other bone disorders.
Keep your eyes healthy
Among the antioxidant profile of dates are vitamin A, along with the carotenoids zeaxanthin and lutein. These are all integral for maintaining optimal eye health. Consuming an ample amount of these antioxidants may also help to prevent age-related macular degeneration, and may help you to see better at night.
Relieve allergy symptoms
Dates contain organic sulfur. These compounds may have the notable benefit of relieving allergy symptoms, namely from seasonal allergic rhinitis (SAR). If you find yourself sniffling and sneezing when the seasons change, try adding dates to your diet. You may find that your allergy symptoms improve over time.
Included on the long list of minerals found in dates is iron. For anemic individuals, these fruits may be perfect for restoring iron levels. They are also great for anyone looking to get their daily iron intake in a delicious way. If you aren’t getting an ample supply of iron in your diet, you may feel fatigued and zapped of energy. Dates are a great way to correct this.
Dates are highly versatile. They can be eaten as-is for a wonderful snack, and also used in many recipes that require a little sweetness. Some popular uses include date butter, date jam, chutneys and sauces. As far as savory applications, dates go great with roasted meats and poultry. They are also a great accent to curry dishes, and they amplify carrot salads.
What’s your favorite date recipe?
— Tanya Rakhmilevich