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March 23, 2014 by KAREN FOSTER
What You May Be Missing Out On If You're Not Eating Dates


Dates are the energy-dense fruit of the date palm -- an enormous, ancient tree and one of the oldest in the world. Whereas most fruits are high in vitamin C and get the majority of their weight from water, dates provide little or no vitamin C and as much as 70 percent of their weight comes from carbohydrates. But they're not your average sweet carbohydrate. The benefits of dates include relief from constipation, intestinal disorders, heart problems, anemia, sexual dysfunction, diarrhea, abdominal cancer, and many other conditions.

Primary Nutrients

Medjools contain significant amounts of essential nutrients. Per 3.5-ounce serving, the fruit provides 15 percent, 13.5 percent and 12 percent of the daily values for manganese, magnesium and vitamin B-6, respectively. The same serving also supplies 8 percent each of the daily values for niacin and pantothenic acid, 6 percent each of the daily values for calcium and phosphorus and 5 percent of the daily value for iron. Dates also provide lesser amounts of folate, zinc, thiamine, riboflavin and vitamin K. A 2009 study published in the “Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry” found Medjool dates to be high in antioxidant phenols. According to the study, these compounds may help reduce high blood triglyceride levels.

Studies Done on Dates

Cadmium, a well-known testicular toxicant, was tested against date palm pollen extract for therapeutic potential and ability to avert reproductive damage. The results supported scientists' hypothesis that not only are the testicles vulnerable to cadmium toxins, but that date palm pollen extract treatment can also amend its deleterious effects, probably by activating testicular endocrine and antioxidant systems.

Another study reported the most prominent health benefits of dates: there are at least 15 minerals in dates, including selenium, an element believed to help prevent cancer and important in immune function, protein, containing 23 types of amino acids, some of which are not present in the most popular fruits, such as oranges, apples, and bananas. Unsaturated fatty acids include palmitoleic, oleic, linoleic, and linolenic acids. The study concluded that dates could be considered a nearly ideal food, with a wide range of essential nutrients and potential health benefits.

Dietary Fiber

With about 1.6 grams per date, Medjools are an excellent source of dietary fiber. A 3.5-ounce serving of the fruit provides 6.7 grams of fiber, or 27 percent of the daily value. All dates are especially high in soluble fiber, the type that promotes and helps maintain healthy blood glucose and cholesterol levels. Dates contain a particularly beneficial type of soluble fiber known as beta-D-glucan. In addition to its usual function as a soluble fiber, beta-D-glucan can also absorb and hold water, giving it the ability to add bulk and softness to stools -- a quality predominantly associated with insoluble fiber.

Magnesium


Magnesium aids protein synthesis, blood glucose control and muscle and nerve function in your body, and it helps regulate blood pressure. Men aged 19 to 30 require 400 milligrams per day, while males 31 and above require an additional 20 milligrams daily. Women of the same age groups require 310 milligrams and 320 milligrams, respectively. Pregnant mothers need more magnesium, and they should consult a doctor to determine their body needs at different stages of pregnancy. Consuming a cup of chopped dates provides your body with 63 milligrams of magnesium.

Potassium

Medjool dates are rich in potassium, a mineral essential to a range of basic physiological processes. According to “The Real Vitamin and Mineral Book,” body cells contain more potassium than any other mineral. It helps regulate blood pH, is required to maintain intracellular fluid balance and is used to convert glucose into usable energy. Potassium also maintains intracellular fluid balance and is involved in hormone secretion, muscle contraction and nerve transmission. Low potassium levels are linked to high blood pressure. Medjool dates are higher in potassium than oranges, bananas and spinach, providing 20 percent of the nutrient’s daily value per 3.5-ounce serving.

Copper

Medjool dates supply 18 percent of the daily value for copper in a 3.5-ounce serving. Copper is an essential trace mineral that helps your body both absorb and use iron to form red blood cells. It’s needed to maintain healthy nerves and is also an important component of several of the enzymes that facilitate the production of energy. Copper is used to form collagen, a fundamental component of skin, bone, cartilage and connective tissue. It’s also a critical element of an important antioxidant known as superoxide dismutase, which is manufactured by the body to prevent damage to cells caused by free radicals.

HEALTH BENEFITS OF DATES


Constipation:
Dates are often categorized as a laxative food. This is why dates are so frequently eaten by people suffering from constipation. In order to achieve the desired laxative effect of dates, you should soak them in water over night. Then, eat the soaked dates in the morning like syrup to get the most optimal results. Dates have high levels of soluble fiber, which is essential in promoting healthy bowel movements and the comfortable passage of food through the intestinal tract, which can relieve symptoms of constipation.

Bone Health and Strength: The significant amounts of minerals found in dates make it a super food for strengthening bones and fighting off painful and debilitating diseases like osteoporosis. Dates contain selenium, manganese, copper, and magnesium, all of which are integral to healthy bone development and strength, particularly as people begin to age and their bones gradually weaken. So, eat your dates and give a boost to your bones!

Intestinal Disorders: The nicotine content in dates is thought to be beneficial for curing many kinds of intestinal disorders. Continuous intake of dates helps to inhibit growth of the pathological organisms and thus, they help stimulate the growth of friendly bacteria in the intestines. In terms of digestive issues, dates contain those insoluble and soluble fibers, as well as many beneficial amino acids which can stimulate the digestion of food and make it more efficient, meaning that more nutrients will be absorbed by the digestive tract and enter your body for proper usage.

Anemia: Dates have a high mineral content, which is beneficial for many different health conditions, but their impressive levels of iron make them a perfect dietary supplement for people suffering from anemia. The high level of iron balances out the inherent lack of iron in anemic patients, increasing energy and strength, while decreasing feelings of fatigue and sluggishness.

Allergies: One of the most interesting facets of dates is the presence of organic sulfur in them. This is not a very common element to find in foods, but it does have a worthwhile amount of health benefits, including the reduction of allergic reactions and seasonal allergies. According to a study done in 2002, organic sulfur compounds can have a positive impact on the amount of suffering people experience from SAR (Seasonal Allergic Rhinitis), which affects approximately 23 million people in the United States alone. Dates are a great way to somewhat stem the effects of those seasonal allergies through its contributions of sulfur to the diet.

Energy Booster: Dates are high in natural sugars like glucose, fructose, and sucrose. Therefore, they are the perfect snack for an immediate burst of energy. Many people around the world use dates for a quick afternoon snack when they are feeling lethargic or sluggish.

Nervous System Health: The vitamins present in dates make it an ideal boost to nervous system health and functionality. Potassium is one of the prime ingredients in promoting a healthy and responsive nervous system, and it also improves the speed and alertness of brain activity. Therefore, dates are a wonderful food source for people as they begin to age and their nervous system becomes sluggish or unsupported, as well as for people who want to keep their mind sharp.

Healthy Heart: Dates are quite helpful in keeping your heart healthy. When they are soaked for the night, crushed in the morning and then consumed, they have been shown to have a positive effect on weak hearts. Dates are also a rich source of potassium, which studies have shown to reduce the risk of stroke and other heart related diseases. Furthermore, they are suggested as a healthy and delicious way to reduce the levels of LDL cholesterol in the body.

Sexual Weakness: Studies have shown that dates are even beneficial for increasing sexual stamina. Soak a handful of dates in fresh goat’s milk over night, then grind them in the same milk with a mixture of cardamom powder and honey. This mixture becomes a very useful tonic for increasing sexual endurance and reducing sterility caused by various sexual disorders. The science behind this phenomenon is largely due to traditional usage which stimulated formal research. In 2006, Bahmanpour studied the effects of date palms and their oil on sexual functioning and found that the high levels of estradiol and flavonoid components of dates are what increase sperm count and motility, as well as promoting increased testes size and weight. So, if you are looking for a masculine boost, eat some dates, because they are a great natural aphrodisiac!

Night Blindness: The benefits of dates are extensive, and are commonly employed to fight off various conditions affecting the ear, nose, and throat. When the leaves of the date palm are ground into a paste and rubbed on and around the eyes, or when dates are ingested orally, it has been shown to reduce the frequency of night blindness, and this solution is commonly used in rural areas where dates grow as an alternative medicine.

Intoxication: Dates are commonly used as a remedy for alcoholic intoxication. Dates provide quick relief and have a sobering effect in case you feel as though have consumed an uncomfortable amount of alcohol. They can also be used the following morning to prevent severe hangovers. Again, they should be rubbed and soaked overnight for the best results.

Diarrhea: Ripe dates contain potassium, which is known as an effective way of controlling diarrhea. They are also easy to digest, which further helps alleviate the unpredictable nature of chronic diarrhea. The soluble fiber in dates can also help relieve diarrhea, by providing bulk to the bowel movements and promoting normal, healthy functioning of the excretory system.

Abdominal Cancer: Research has pointed towards dates being a legitimate way to reduce the risk and impact of abdominal cancer. They work as a useful tonic for all age groups, and in some cases, they work better than traditional medicines, and are natural, so they don’t have any negative side effects on the human body. They can be quickly and easily digested for a quick boost of energy.

Although dates carry tremendous nutritional values, great care should be taken in their selection because their surface is very sticky, which often attracts various impurities. Therefore, you should only consume dates that are processed and packaged properly. Also, make sure to wash them thoroughly before you eat them, as this will help remove the impurities present on the surface.

DATE VARIETIES

"Semi-dry" dates have firmer flesh and a relatively lower moisture content than "soft" varieties. The Deglet Noor ("Date of Light"), a medium-large, oblong and amber-coloured date and the Zahidi ("Nobility"), a smaller, more egg-shaped and golden-coloured date, are the most popular semi-dry varieties.

Although the total sugars in the semi-dry dates are approximately equal to those in the softer dates, the sugars have not fully inverted. Rather, the semi-dry dates contain about 50% inverted sugars and 50% sucrose. Since they are firmer, semi-dry dates can be harvested mechanically, can be processed successfully and can be held in moisture-proof packaging with little deterioration.

Dates are generally sun dried, if good organic dates are purchased. Many "conventional" dates can be dried and then steamed to make them look "plump" and moist.

Deglet Noor
Called the "Date of Light," a semi-dry date, possesses a delicate flavour and is long and firm-textured in appearance, with a colour range from light red to amber. Makes up 90% of California's crop.

Medjool
The connoisseur's date: large, firm but moist, with a rich mahogany colour, Medjools are a must for gift tray arrangements.

Barhi
Named for the hot Arabic winds called "Barh," this is a late-ripening date with a medium-thin skin which can be easily split. Small and round, Barhis are soft, syrupy-tasting dates with tender, firm flesh. Since they are so very fragile and to minimize handling, Barhis can be purchased in a pre-packed 5-lb box as well as in full case lots of 12 lbs. Barhis must be kept refrigerated.

Khadrawy
A soft date with many desirable qualities. They ripen to amber, then are cured to a reddish brown, with a caramel-like texture and a sweet flavour.

Halawy
A soft date with thick flesh, caramelly ands sweet, somewhat wrinkled in appearance, with a yellow colour ripening to a light amber and then to a golden brown.

RAW RECIPES INCORPORATING DATES
Half Minute Recipe: Raw Coconut Butter Stuffed Dates

Raw Cinnamon-Date Caramel Ice Cream

Making Your Own Raw Organic Larabars

Raw Easter Cookies

Sources:
self.com
sfgate.com
organicfacts.net
datesaregreat.com
realrawfood.com

Karen Foster is a holistic nutritionist, avid blogger, with five kids and an active lifestyle that keeps her in pursuit of the healthiest path towards a life of balance.

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